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GOING THE DISTANCE
JOYCE & ORAZIO "CHICK" CICCHINELLI
IN THE EARLY 1960s
It's been a rough and emotional week. Patty and I just returned from Patty's mother's funeral in Lake Worth, Florida. Her name was Joyce. She passed away after a protracted illness that began in February.
Joyce was a wonderful woman who is missed terribly by all of us, especially by her husband. Joyce and my father-in-law were true soulmates.
She and my father-in-law, Orazio "Chick" Cicchinelli, had been married for 59 years. That was a long stretch that produced six children, including my Patty. You can see from the picture of my in-laws, where Patty gets her good looks from---her mom. Here's some historical perspective about my in-laws. Chick met Joyce in Pittsburgh when Joyce was a soda jerk who served him at her counter. He was 18 and she was 20, at the time. Joyce was a cougar way ahead of her time!
To hear my father-in-law tell it, Joyce found him irresistably handsome (this is just like Chick), and then proceeded to sweep him off his young feet.
It must've been love at first sight, because they got married three weeks later. There was resistance from both Joyce's and Chick's families, based on ethnic differences. This was a bigger deal in the late 1940s (can you imagine how they felt when I came along?).
Chick was Italian and Joyce was Irish-English. Also, Chick's parents weren't crazy about Joyce already having a one year old daughter, Shelley, by another man. It didn't matter to Chick and Joyce. They were lovebirds crazy in love, and nothing could deter their union and future. The loss of this life-long union has left Chick in extreme grief. Chick's a tough guy, but this loss has left him feeling vulnerable and despondent.
Chick is a biker. That's all you need to know to understand why he and I get along so well. He's owned all manner of motorcycles all his life besides Harleys, although his most recent bike was an FLT that he had to sell to finance a move to another state. For a while, Chick even owned my old '68 Sportster ("Sally The Bitch") until he sold her to a California bike shop. Some of you might remember that this XLCH ended up in England somehow.
Chick was born in America, although his parents brought him back to Italy with his two sisters to live for a short period when he was 5 years old. Chick's two sisters stayed in Italy after marrying Italian men.
Chick still has some slight hints regarding his time spent in Italy in his speech patterns. For example, when enunciating the word "state" Chick will add an extra vowel at the end, pronouncing the words "state-uh." I'll be honest. I really dig that. I first met Chick in 1982, shortly after Patty and I hooked up. He made chicken cacciatore for us for dinner, that day.
Chick said to Patty, "So, this is your boyfriend..." She said, Yes Dad. I had to laugh when he said to me with a big smile on his mug.....
"So, what are ya, Hawaiian or what?"
I never get tired of telling that story, because that question he asked is so representative of Chick's mirthful and mischievous side. Chick's really just a a big playful imp, always trying to get your goat.
He's such an interesting character. If I had to summarize Chick, I'd say think of "Paulie Walnuts" from "The Sopranos" but with a gruffer, more gravelly voice. Chick has a great sense of humor. When he expresses this unusual sense of humor (which I admit to sharing) using his direct and deadpan manner, it makes people who don't know him either delighted or bewildered.
It was a hot week in Lake Worth, Florida. For whatever reason, 92 degrees in Florida doesn't feel like 92 degrees in New York City, if that makes any sense. It will make sense to any who've spent time under the scorching Florida sun.
It feels ten degrees hotter in Florida than it does in New York at the same temperature, as if the sun is hundreds of miles closer to you when you're in Florida. It was oppressively hot, which added to the depressing atmosphere surrounding Joyce's funeral. My father-in-law lives in Waycross, Georgia, which meant that he had to drive 6 hours each way when he visited Joyce in rehab in Florida. He did this several times a week for four months. This was extremely stressful for Chick, and shows how dedicated he was to the love of his life, the faithful and beauteous Joyce. It's hard to believe that Joyce, once so vibrant and life-loving, is so suddenly gone. One moving aspect of the service, was a continuous loop DVD showing Joyce posing on various motorcycles that Cicchinellis owned through the years, real cheese-cakey. It was cool. The background music was Patsy Cline singing.
There's not much consolation one can offer to someone who's lost a life-long partner. All we can tell Chick is, that, yes, we miss Joyce too. Later.