- Published on Friday, 25 September 2015 14:53
A few years ago, I began a self-destructive journey into rogue “journalism.” The adventure began after a series of life-altering events and triggered my obsessive nature. While I spent countless hours researching, investigating and attending public meetings, my health, mental and physical, suffered.
Along about the fourth year, I attended one of the many City of Albany events that I obsessively attended. And it was at this event, the Delaware Avenue Street Festival, that my path toward self-destruction was altered.
I walked up the Avenue checking out the street fare when some of my friends at the fire department lured to their Health Check table. They, along with Chief Forezzi, egged me on to let them “test” me…and I sat at the urge of The Chief.
The fire fighters pricked my finger, they cuffed my blood pressure, they took my pulse…and then they did it again. I was, apparently, rather successful in my self-destruction.
The fire fighters urged me to seek medical attention for my blood pressure – I laughed it off. They advised that they could call an ambulance…I told them I’d think about seeking medical assistance. They looked worried – I moseyed on over to that pricey ice cream place and spent more than I intended on a healthy smoothie – believing completely that this one healthy drink would fix my health issues.
I cringed with the healthy tartness of the very expensive “medication.” On my journey back toward the KFC for a tastier treat, the Chief motioned me to his bench – there he gave me that serious Chief look – that only Forezzi could pull off with sincerity. And, there on that bench, he scared the shit out of me with ominous warnings about the “silent killer.”
I went home and, glass of wine in hand, I whined to my friend over the phone – I couldn’t afford a doc – I couldn’t afford the meds. The Chief’s warnings worked into my dreams and I remembered how I’ve worked through other dire situations…one step at a time.
That Sunday I went to mass…Historic St. Mary’s. I sat close to the back as I felt somewhat of an intruder after abandoning my faith decades earlier. Soon Chief Forezzi surprised me with his arrival to sit in the row in front of me. He seemed as surprised to see me as I was him.
Week after week I communed behind the Chief. Ya know, sometimes it just takes on or two people noticing your changes to keep you progressing. The Chief, even though he didn’t know it, was that person for me.
The Chief always volunteered to pass the plate at mass – and, no matter how tough times were for me, I always saved a dollar or to toss in it. I remembered, as he would make the rounds, the time that the Chief rappelled “Over the Edge” of the Hilton to help raise money for charity…I admired his dedication as he fielded emergency calls from his pew…but I also teased him about taking calls in mass.
One Sunday, Forezzi was called from our little corner in the rear of the church to bring aid to an ailing Catholic close to the front of the church. The priest never missed a beat as the Chief monitored the reclining member and the EMTs arrived and transported the ailing worshiper on a stretcher down the aisle that Forezzi’s casket would be lifted months later.
I was soon able to find work – plenty of it. I got insurance and took care of my health issues. The Chief and I would chat at Alive at Five – where I’d tease him for leaving mass before the priest. (A no-no!!) The Chief always blamed that early departure on his mother. I always blamed it on his illegal parking outside the church.
The Chief’s eyes would twinkle with my every political speculation. He could have won an Academy Award as he’d hang on my every world – and, while I was sure he knew I was feeling better, not once did he remind me of that health screening discussion.
Who knows, maybe he forgot about it – I never will.
I’ll never forget when The Mayor directed me to see “Bobby” about something…”who’s Bobby?” I asked. The Mayor always got a kick out of our relationship…I never thought about the Chief having a first name….he was just the Chief to me.
I was truly shaken with the passing of The Chief, my heart broke as my fire friends posted their pain and memories of this great man, this “man among men” on Facebook. In the short time I knew the Chief, he impacted my life beyond measure, I can only imagine the loss suffered by his family and life-long friends.
It would be easy to just say that Albany has another angel in heaven – our loss with the Chief’s passing cannot be measured in earthly terms. This great man left us much too soon…his work here was not done.
I stood in the back of St. Mary’s as the Chief’s grandson worked through his pain by telling tales as the attendees shuffled in response. I wiped my eyes and thought how The Chief would be teasing me for my weakness.
Through my tears, I noticed with a smile that, while Commisso Senior had seated himself in my weekly pew – no one was seated in The Chief’s. And I thought…no one can ever take his place.