Yesterday we honored and remembered Michael Scordino in a beautiful service at Christ Lutheran Church. He’d have loved the stories that were shared, the line for communion to the back of the church and the laughter between the tears. At his dad’s request, Nicholas D’Amico wrote a beautiful eulogy in honor of the man who raised and influenced all the best parts of him. His words are as follows:
Thank you all for coming today. You know, it’s a strange thing to be asked to share the eulogy at someone’s funeral. It’s like a part of a foreign conversation that you don’t want to be having. But, when Pop asked me to write and share the eulogy a his funeral, I immediately agreed. Partially because I knew our family, and thought about other people who might be able to do this instead, and quickly realized (with all the emotional spirits we are) that I’d most likely be the only choice. I also admittedly, didn’t really ever believe that I’d have to actually do this – because for so many years that I’ve seen Pop’s health be in the balance and we thought we’d lost him – he’d rally back with all the love and vitality that he was known for. We’ve always known from the first time he came into our lives that he had a history of heart problems – I remember my mom trying to explain it to me, when she felt I wasn’t understanding the severity of the countless situations we’ve been through – by saying “honey, he’s got a weak heart”. I didn’t understand it. Because, knowing what I know now, anyone know who knew and loved Pop, only knew him for having such a full heart. Full of laughter, wisdom, spirit, and above all else love. So, I’m honored today to be able to share with you all the greatest love story I’ve ever known – about the most important man in my life.
Pop was known for many things: an adventurer, a veteran, a husband, a role model, a teacher, a chef, a father, a friend, the list goes on. But, there’s a saying I feel could surmise the man we all loved and that’s the quote he unknowingly lived by: “those who tell the stories, rule the world”. (Let me just say, if this quote were actually true, Pop would be King). Yes, he was also a story teller. Telling stories was his craft – and like any craft, he loved practicing and perfecting it – (apparently so because he’d tell the same story over and over again). Truthfully, the stories never got old – because he wasn’t just great at telling them – but because of the insight you’d get from the words he’d share. And you all have heard the saying that any good story was worth retelling, well, they we’re all good stories.
There’s so many stories and memories I have – and I’m sure many I didn’t get a chance to know. Some of my favorites though would be the times he would recount his childhood and life growing up in the rich Italian culture of Brooklyn – (Pop would often remind us of this and say: “yeah, what do I know- I’m just a stupid kid from Brooklyn?”). Truthfully, Pop was one of the wisest people I knew. (Often because anytime I’d be questioning something – could be as little of a thing as a new recipe or as big as an event as getting married – my mom would always remind me to “ask Pop, he’d want to tell you”. Even if I knew the answer, she’d still want me to ask him just so he could enjoying sharing it with me. This is just one of the millions of ways she loved him… and me – by continuing to keep us connected.
See, truthfully, I’ve always considered myself a “mama’s boy”. I think most of you would agree. My mom had always been by my side, every step of the way growing up – even when we owned the Pizzeria (where my Mom and Pop met), I would spend my afternoons and evenings there or home with her. It wasn’t until she sold the Pizza place and had to find another way to help support the family, that she began working weekends waiting tables at a local restaurant. Unknowingly at the time, these weekends would become sacred for Pop and I and one of the periods of my life that I’m most thankful for. Because until then I really didn’t know the type of love and bond a father and son could have. This is when all that changed for me – now was the time I learned what it meant to be a man. No, not the kind of man who carries a wrench and fixes stuff – but the kind of man who loved cooking good food, finding romance in life, and doing right by others – all the lessons I learned from him during those many weekends of him and I home together. We’d make breakfast and sit on the back porch swapping stories (well, mainly I’d be listening) but, that was okay – because I loved hearing what he had to say. The foundation for our relationship was being built – one ingredient at a time. The foundation was made of frittata and love.
Even though it was just two of us together these days, we’d usually make a frittata big enough to feed the neighborhood – Pop didn’t know how to cook for less than 10 people. Ever. (Can you imagine trying to flip a 16 inch frittata? Well, it wasn’t easy!). But, he loved having a house full. Especially on Sundays. I remember waking up to the smell of garlic and onion throughout the house.. just as anticipation for was what to come. Plus, there was no moment Pop was happier than when he’d prepare a meal with his family (teaching us to cook along the way) and have us all sit down together, pray, break bread, and he say “manga – bon apetit’o” and the event would ensue. Food was a part of everything in our world and he set the tone for our family by bringing the Italian culture to life. We loved being Italian, (my mom especially – she quickly filled our house with anything that read “made in Italy on it”.)
But, it was at the table that we always came together as a family, Pop at the head, mom seated to his right. Amber, myself, and whoever else was lucky enough to be brought into the fold would fill in the empty seats (normally there wasn’t one left). One of the lessons I learned from him was that no matter what else was going on in life – meals were sacred (meaning Amber or I arguing over trivial stuff had to wait for later). We’d all sit down and connect as a family and everyone’s voice was heard – especially Pops. This was his stage where afterward we’d know more about who he was, and why we’ve become the family we were, through him.
Pop was into all kinds of “adventures” as a child. He learned his love of wine at the young age of four or five, where his grandpa would take him down to the basement to sample the “homemade wine” (which could probably pass for moonshine in some states). It doesn’t take too much wine for a 4 of 5 year old to reach his limit. But once him and Grandpa had their fill Pop would woozily stumble back upstairs trying to avoid the disapproving looks of his mother.
Pop wasn’t just a curious boy he also wanted nothing more than to be one of the guys. He said, when he was little he hated his name. He thought (Michael) was such as “sissy name”. His friends all had names like Rocky, Frank, or Joey… but I loved hearing him do his impersonation of Grandpa Albano when he’d call him “Michael’e”.
One of the times was when Grandpa Albano caught him trying to smoke one of his cigars. Not just any cigar, this was a “garsha vega” – the king of all nasty cigars. Pop described it as a rope soaked in tar. But he tried it – not even inhaling mind you – when his Grandpa walked up on him. Pop was anticipating a beating, but, instead got treated with another kind of punishment. Grandpa said, “Oh, Michael’e, you lika to smoke, eh?” You wanna be a man? Pop said “no, Grandpa, I’m sorry”.. Grandpa said ” Oh yeah, lets smoke, like a man”. Then he pursued to force Michael to smoke the whole thing (inhaling it this time mind you). Until he was sick. Unfortunately this lesson didn’t stick with him long enough, because when he was 12 he spent the summer on Brighton Beach working in his Aunt Gloria’s luncheonette where he tried every type of cigarette they had on display until he found one he liked.
See, Pop was the type of person who wanted to do the right thing – just sometimes didn’t know what the right thing was. In the hot summer of New York, he would be tasked with the oh so important task of getting the family Gelato from a Gelateria 6 blocks away (although it was most likely just one block). But he’d take an order from everyone in the house and go on the errand. There was one rule with Gelato – don’t let it melt! So, on his trip back he’s carrying this Gelato and Uncle Al (who loves to talk) is sitting out on the block. “Oh Michael’e – how you are? The conversation would ensue, so Pop – trying to do the right thing, tried to cut is short with Uncle Al and get the ice cream home intact. Just to later get a scolding from Grandpa Albano for being disrespectful and not talking to Uncle Al. He couldn’t win! But, no matter what, he always wanted to be everything to everybody.
I remember him telling stories of his beloved mother, Rose, who passed, way too young, when Pop was just an 11 year old boy. Pop would tell the story, where she was walking up a hill and just fell down suddenly and died in his arms. Rose had the same heart condition Pop did. Undiagnosed at the time. He not only looked like his mom, but, he used to say he got her heart as well (referring to how wonderful her heart was). Now, Rose has become such an important name sake for our family passed down to his granddaughters Liana Rosalia and Emma Rose – ensuring her legacy is carried on for generations to come.
After his mom passed, however, he moved in with Uncle Sal and Aunt Fay. He said time and time again how if it weren’t for the love of the two of them – he wouldn’t have made it in life. They brought him in and raised him as one of their sons. I like to think the time that him and Uncle Sal spent together was what shaped the time he and I had together those many years ago.
Pop loved all his family, and my brother’s Michael and Jeffry were no different. Pop was a salesman at heart. He was great at it. Because you combine the fact he’s never met a stranger and that he loved food – Bari Italian Foods was home for him. Though, when he’d tell the story, the company should have been called “Scordino Italian Foods”. But, Pop told me a story once about when him and Jeffry were making a delivery for Bari and ended up wrecking one of the trucks. They had to call his boss Lisa and report it (which he hated having to do). But, then, it gets better – they continue their delivery with a second truck, and end up getting it stuck by driving under and overpass that was too short for the truck to fit. I can only imagine what that mischief was like. But, just a couple days ago Mike told me that all his success in sales he got from his Dad. I don’t think anyone could argue that we all have a part of Pop in us – some more than others – but, all wonderful stuff.
My favorite household memories of our family were simple ones. They were simply filled with so much laughter and love. My Mom and Pop were like children, just so full of life and vitality that there wasn’t a time that Amber and I wouldn’t hear some commotion going on in their bedroom down the hall that would warrant investigating. Inevitably, one of us would go to their room to find out what all the ruckus was about just to open the door and see Mom and Pop laughing so hard in bed they’re crying. We’ll even though FOMO (Fear of missing out) didn’t exist then, it was still happening. Whichever one of us (Amber or myself) wasn’t the first one there we’d inevitably join in on the fun shortly after. We’d all pile in (all four of us) in their bed and mom and pop would retell what had them laughing so hard to begin with for us relive.
I remember one time specifically, at 3am, I was woken up by a different kind of racket – I heard my mom yelling “he’s over here! I’ve got him pinned!” Then pop yelled, “hold him down”. Mom followed with “hit him before he gets away!” My sister and I jumped out of bed (clearly down the other end of the hall mind you) thinking my parents were getting burglarized and were defending themselves, to come into their room and see Pop in his boxers running across the room holding a newspaper and my mom in the corner flustered trying to help. All of this – to kill a palmetto bug. Well, after the war of the palmetto ended, we all laughed about it for hours. At this point its 4am and Amber and I were exactly where we loved to be. In between the two of them. This is now where my parent’s bed became safe for anyone to be in. We had so many wonderful memories there, just the four of us, together. Later this tradition continued when Julie and Emmy came along and I think we even got Martin in their bed at one point.
I learned what romance is from my mom and pop’s relationship. They had one of the greatest love stories I’ve ever had the privilege to know. I didn’t know that soul mates existed, until I saw my mom and pop together – they found theirs almost 21 years ago when they found each other. Pop used to tell me, and not just me, but everyone – how lucky he was to have my mom in his life. He always put her on a pedestal and told everyone he knew, even unknowingly to mom at the time, about their love story. During the final days with Pop, the wonderful hospice nurses were frequent visitors at our house and one of them during her conversation with mom told her how much she loved hearing about their love story. She recounted a memory that Pop told her where he said “I love me wife so much. Do you know we danced under a bridge together?” He shared the story of the two of them, during one of their romantic nights out, walking under a bridge in Helen, Ga where they danced to the music of their hearts. My mom didn’t know he shared that story with anyone. It was the first time I heard it as well. But he loved her so much, and she him.
I wanted to close with sharing a letter that exemplifies the way Pop lived and loved – with such a full heart. My mom found during her last day on earth with him. She was lying in bed next to him hearing him breathe in his sleep when she opened my grandmother’s Bible to find some comfort of God and read to my Dad. When she opened the Bible, another letter fell out. God works in such a wonderful way. Here’s the words, from Pop, to his dear wife, that he had written her at 10:15am November 17th, 1999 from the Sleep Inn in Nashville, TN. It was addressed to her and written on the note paper from the hotel’s nightstand..
“My Dearest Love,
I have a few minutes before I begin my day and thought, how nice to put a
few words on paper for my sweetest of sweet hearts. Boy, that was a long
I’m sitting here missing you terribly and wish we were together. I wish I
knew what I could do to make a living and also be home next to you every
night. I’ll pray to God every day for his answers. You are the “Sunshine”
of my life. I can not imagine how empty and cold my life would be without
you. I called your office a moment ago and my heart lightened up just
hearing your voice.
My darling, you are so very precious to me. I thank God for him giving you
to me. I have such great hopes and a strong belief that our lives together
will only get better and better. It’s such a pity that we can’t be together
every moment of every day-but you are always with me, in my heart and in my mind.
So, I’ll go for now and this will have to do until I get home on
Friday. Keep my love and adoration with you always, for I love you so very
much. I hope this note lifts you up a bit. Who knows, maybe today you needed it.
I love you,