Saturday, April 26, 2014

Requiem: Vincent Astolfi

My father-in-law, Vince, passed away last Thursday morning. His death wasn't unexpected, but my experience is that doesn't often matter a whole lot.

He was in the grip of Alzheimer's, and this particular flavor of it shut off his body quicker than most. Toward the end he was only good for a few words before his battery would wear down. For example our last exchange, this past Christmas, consisted of him saying "Hey, Gary," with perfect clarity. When I answered him, he was unable to say - or to remember - what he wanted to say.

It was very sad to watch. And I knew that I would not be seeing him again when we left.

Vince was a good man, like so many of his generation. He loved his children beyond reason, and sometimes worked two jobs to provide for them. He actually loved all the children of his family, every niece, nephew, and cousin. We remarked after looking through hundreds of pictures just how many were of him holding babies, teasing toddlers, dancing at weddings. He raised his grandson, my nephew, like his own son. If you were a member of his family, you got his unconditional love and support, and that extended to his in-laws.

He was a musician, and a good one. His band made a few radio appearances, even appeared on TV once. I asked him once what he could play, and he told me "I can play anything, as long as it's in A," which is pretty funny if you're a musician.  He had a beautiful 1956 Gibson SJ, in tobacco sunburst with mother-of-pearl inlay on the fretboard. He must have known the value of his guitar, being around other musicians for decades. But when the time came that his teenage son expressed an interest, he unhesitatingly handed it over for his use.  It is still in great condition, and once again in Joey's possession, this time permanently.

I have a picture of him playing it (playing an A chord, of course). It's very cool.

He was a man of very few words, but always the right ones. He would never, and I mean NEVER, use five words when he could use four. But for being so taciturn he wasn't reticent about his love for his family. He would end every interaction with his family, in person or on the phone, with "I love you."

As the disease took him, and he was able to say and do less and less, those near him report that he would sometimes say absolutely nothing during an entire visit, but when it was time to leave he would always say "I love you."

Especially towards the last few months of his life, we weren't 100% sure what he still knew. But he knew he loved his family, by god. Nothing could take that away from him.

Vincent J. Astolfi was 82, and my wife and I will both miss him.

Country Boy Vince