As I mentioned earlier in my blog this has been a very rough week for my family and especially my aunt and cousins. You see this past Tuesday my first cousin Frank Cutrona passed away, and at 58 that’s way too young. And to make life really suck for the kids, their mom Marilyn also passed away this year after a ten-year battle with cancer. A real double play of hardship in one year for these kids, nothing anyone would want let me tell you.
Now Frankie was born in Brooklyn, and from what my aunt Beatrice told me he was born at Sister Elizabeth Maternity Hospital on 51st street in Sunset Park. The hospital has long been closed down but the building is still there. A small three story structure with this real high smokestack, and I’d assume from the design that it was indeed the hospital where he was born.
Frankie spent the first eight years of his life in Brooklyn, living on 18th street between Fourth and Fifth Avenue. An area that was very Polish according to my mom, in fact the “White Eagle” is still there if my mind serves me right. My mom grew up there as well, the whole family living in a few apartments inside this “Fortress” of a building which still stands in the same spot.
But at eight years old Frank and his family left Brooklyn for the greener pastures of Queens Village, New York. A big house and a backyard, along with some childhood friendships that would last forever. All in a house where you could hear the roar of the crowd over at the Belmont Race Track sometimes, not far from the border of Long Island.
Yes, I remember their house in Queens Village, and we all had such good times there as well.
Now you have to remember that Frankie was almost six years older than me, so when you’re twelve and your first cousin is eighteen, well, it always makes sense to check out his magazine collection. And if you were lucky like me, you found a Playboy once and a while, and then proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon in the bathroom, telling your mom your stomach hurt or something like that.
And Frankie always had the coolest record collection over at Queens Village. While I was listening to the “Monkees” on am radio, Frankie was listening to the Doors, Rolling Stones and the Beatles on his stereo.
Yes, I learned a lot about music over at my cousin’s house and even more about the grout between the tiles of their bathroom on the second floor.
And because the timing was right Frankie did the coolest things that people nowadays wish they could have done. He traveled to Europe bumming around with his rock band and also spent three glorious days in Bethel, New York back in August of 1969. You may have heard of a concert called “Woodstock”, and yes Frankie was there.
But time rolls on for everyone including my cousin Frankie. Part time jobs turn into full time jobs as well as girlfriends that turn into fiancée’s, and then your wife.
I remember the first time I met Marilyn, she was just so beautiful and lovely and made me think twice about all the hockey I was playing instead of dating women.
And then one day we all heard the big news, Frankie was getting married and Marilyn would be his wife. Yes a wonderful woman that certainly helped my cousin Frank keep himself on the “Straight and Narrow”. Frankie and Marilyn also had three wonderful girls, Laura, Heather and Sarah not long after they were married.
Let me tell you my cousin Frank worked real hard too, from a local Liquor salesman working the streets of Brooklyn and Queens and living in an apartment house near Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights. Frank worked his way up to National Sales Manager of Brown Foreman and moved to Laguna Hills California.
Yes, hard work paid off for my cousin Frank, and he did it all on his own. Well, almost, because I’m sure Marilyn was behind him every step of the way.
And the years rolled on and we all got older, then one day there was a call about Marilyn having cancer. I remember that day very well. It was a total shock to us all here on the East coast including my aunt Beatrice, Frankie’s mother.
My cousin Marilyn fought a courageous ten-year battle, all along with the most positive attitude a person could have. But then there was another phone call last April, and Marilyn had died.
I don’t know all the details about what was going on during the weeks or months before Marilyn died. But from what I understand it wasn’t very good. And from what I heard my cousin Frank may not have made the best of decisions. And maybe that’s what took him down so quickly in the months following his wife’s death. Who knows?
Yesterday I made a phone call to one of my cousin Frankie’s childhood friends who happens to live right here in Windsor Terrace. His name is Thomas Bura, and it was one of the hardest calls I have ever made. You see Frankie knew Tom since he was eight years old, and from what Tom told me they remained friends ever since. I just had the hardest time telling him because I know what it's like having all your childhood friends as well, and losing one always hurts.
But still the roughest part is what the three daughters along with Frankie's mom lost this past year. Both their parents for the girls and a son and daughter in law for my aunt Beatrice. A loss no one should ever have to go through, and life should never deal such a hard hand.