A couple of years ago I reconnected with a childhood friend on Facebook. I hadn’t seen or heard from him in about 40 years, so it was really great when we connected.
We had never been really close, as there were 6 years and a whole gender gap between us, but we were both from “Bell Hill,” and we lived in the same “3 decker” for about 15 years, so there was (and still is) a strong bond and friendship. I love that he and I share some of the same childhood memories!
I had always had a soft spot in my heart for him and his 3 brothers. They were all a bit younger than me so (of course) I mothered them and tried to boss them around a lot, as we ran “free range” through the neighbourhoods of Bell Hill, Green Hill Park and Bell Pond.
My friend’s father, I recall, was an all around “nice guy.” He and I had a unique bond as I believe I was the daughter he never had and he was like this really nice Uncle, who lived on the 3rd floor and was always happy, smiling and upbeat (unlike my own Dad!) He was also eager to help anybody with pretty much anything.
(I just remembered that he always called me “Liss.” Never Melissa, always Liss. I can still hear him say “Hi Liss,” with a big smile on his face, whenever we’d meet in the hall or side yard.)
If he was ever angry or downhearted, I didn’t see it. If he ever got mad or yelled at the boys, either I wasn’t around, or I have blocked it out as it would have been so out of character for him. I simply remember him as a warm, loving, kind, “happy go lucky,” nice guy.
So it shocked me when I learned that the man being consoled, in the photo above, is none other than my friend’s Dad, a friend of my family; our neighbour for the first 21 years of my life: Jimmy Nozzolillo!
I guess it’s because I was just a stupid kid, that I never realised or thought about the fact that Jimmy, had had a whole life before marrying Esther, becoming our neighbour and having the four boys! Little did I know, he had been a soldier, in a war on the other side of the wold. .. and he had felt loss, pain, loneliness and despair.
The photograph speaks for itself. It’s strong and moving and I’m mesmerised by it for many different reasons.
To me it conveys the hardship and horror that must exist in all wars. I see the anguish and pain of a man who is perhaps at his lowest, absolute breaking point. He is in hell and he’s hit rock bottom. He is overcome by loss and sorrow.
More than that however, I see unlimited compassion; true friendship; a whole lot of empathy and the most beautiful and basic human emotion of all, absolute, unquestionable love.
The reason for my rant today is that I believe I’m being called on to publicly acknowledge and honour this lovely man from my past. I think I’m suppose to share this photograph with the people in my circles. You see, oddly, this photo keeps presenting itself to me again and again in the most wonderful ways and unusual sources.
It has unexpectedly popped up at least 5-6 times over the past few years. I see it on various websites, Facebook Pages, Blogs and in newspaper articles that I am reading or researching. Whenever I least expect it, I’m blessed with this beautiful and moving image, of a man who I had the distinct pleasure of knowing; and who’s son I have been lucky to reconnect with, after many years.
Every time I’m gifted with this photograph, I send the source to my friend just to let him know that someone else, somewhere in this world, has been moved by this timeless and very poignant photo of his Dad.
So today my rant is a tribute… a tribute to a truly lovely man (who is unfortunately no longer with us) but has left behind this very touching image, reminding us all that we are but human; yes we all have our own fears, frailties and faults… but we also a capacity to endure, conquer and carry on.
God bless you Jimmy… tell my Dad I love him.