My gift is my song…

It’s 20 years out, and the first two weeks of August are still a giant emotional roller coaster. Mom and Dad’s Anniversary. Papa Visco’s birthday. Mom’s birthday. Dad’s birthday. Dad’s death and then mom’s 2 weeks later. It’s always a wild ride – of reflection, growth, happiness, tears, anger, and sadness. Below is the joint eulogy I did for my mom and dad back in late August 2002.

From Moulin Rouge:

 If you could choose the perfect life, would you choose the life you have?

My parents never had the perfect life.  They never had all that they wanted, never did all that they dreamed.  Never really sought their deepest desires.

But they lived in their own unique ways, bickering through the bustling of a morning was just one of their ways of saying “I love you.”  But there was also plenty of laughter, mixed tapes/cds, lots of movies, countless concerts, crazy collections and trips together to Maine.

My parents did not choose the perfect life – but they did make their choices – a life filled with the love of music, the celebration of words, busting with color.  It was a life filled with comfort, with art.

And they were alive and in love in ways I am only beginning to understand.

My parents were certainly opinionated, and, sometimes, not so quiet about it.  I will always treasure the image of my father at a Sinead O’Connor concert fighting for her right not to have the national anthem played…followed by the image of Sinead thanking the man who defended her from up on the stage — she had been in the crowd wearing a wig and hat!

They never had the perfect life — suffering with diabetes, with high blood pressure, with weight.  They never had the perfect life – sometimes tempers flared and words became weapons.  But they lived and they loved.

They loved their concerts, getting out to a good restaurant, goofing with the local DJs.  I count it as a testament to them that there are DJs from Champ, KOOL, WIZN and the Point here.  They were suppliers of trivia for contests, morning jokes, and moral support to all of these people.  It takes a rare bird to appreciate all of these.

They loved singing.  Rides in the car were more like an audition for a local stage show or American Idol.  Someone was always belting it out – whether it was doo-wop, folk, or AC/DC.  There was always a song to express whatever feeling was going on.  It was a passion we all shared – the Visco family sing-a-long.

They loved the comforts of dining – over Frutti di Mare at Loretta’s, a Latte from the Expresso Drive Thru, tea from the Duchess Tea Room, prime rib on Friday’s from JP’s.  It didn’t have to be as grand as all that though – it could have been and joke and a smile over a sundae at Friendly’s.

They never lived the perfect life, but they lived a life of rarity.  They chose to find and see laughter in the small things, the quirky, the odd, sometimes the just plain strange.  I will always hold dear the obit for a man that mom carried for years about the man walking through the world saying “Jello” to everyone he met.  I hope she’s met him up there in heaven and that he knows how much joy he brought to our life.  I hope that she has found Freddie Mercury and had one helluva a party!  I hope she found Dad in that 57 Olds and that they are tooling around together singing.

They chose a life of giving, of supporting – supporting me through college, supporting the Flynn, the Baird Center, the Lincoln Library, Saratoga Performing Arts Center and countless other people, friends and groups.

They lived an inner life that many did not get to see or know – but every person in t

his room knows of what I speak – there was a frustrating, loving, gentle, maddening quality about them.  They were who they were – and either you accepted that or you didn’t.  All of you did.  And for that I am grateful.  I see the color, the richness, the diversity, the passion, the connections that they so treasured here together in one room.

The Visco family sing-alongs in the car may be over.  But the song remains…


#ybbastrong, canes and me…

They say that the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. Indeed, for many it does. But for some, that single step is too painful to take on their own – whether physically or spiritually. And for others, that step is no longer, or never was, physically possible.

Since I was a kid I have battled with ankle and fallen | no arch issues in my feet. Somedays, the orthotics work wonders, others I still feel like I’m walking on shards of broken glass and that my ankle will roll under at any moment. This past year, I have fought it more so than I have in the past. Part of that was becoming overactive after not being active – taking class 2-3 times in a week, working with my trainer, Lloyd, just doing more. It was a welcome distraction from the chaos that was my life. But in doing so, I injured it more than I have ever before, requiring a walking boot for many weeks, and physical therapy. It took a long time to heal. It may never be permanently strong and stable.

Being in a boot made me actually have to slow down and take care of me and put my health first. Even though, paradoxically, that meant not working out as much as I had started to. It meant admitting that there was a problem, that there was something needing strengthening, accepting help when offered.

As I look at my journey in taekwondo, it has been a journey moving forwards and backwards, starting and stopping, stepping to the side and jumping into the center of the ring. It has been long, involved a complete restart, and never run in a straight line. While I know that the standard weapon of choice wumbrella5ithin United TKD is the Bo staff, I am set to learn the cane once now that I am a blue belt. For a variety of reasons, starting with the realization that none of us gets younger with the passage of time, I feel that the cane would be an apt choice for me.

As we grow older, whether through age or injury, there is a likelihood that at some point in time, we will all need to use a cane. In my own instance, because of the weakness in both ankles, marked by the tendency to completely roll under one ankle, it’s more than just a likelihood. It is a probability. Yes, continued weight loss will aid in the repair and recovery, but it’s also quite possible that given the length of injury and repetitive nature of it, that it will never be fully healed. A cane, more traditionally, is a device for support in cases like this. As a mobility device, a cane cannot be legally taken from you, even on airplanes. Sure there are restrictions – you can’t carry on a cane sword, nor can it be made of metal in many instances. It is a weapon that hides in plain sight, and most do not view it as such.

Additionally – as I approach the rank I previously held, I find myself wanting more of a previous weapon back in my life. The pen. Then pen, being mightier than the sword, is tool that I am quite at home with. I know I’ve spoken at times about writing. It’s part of who I am and what I do. I’m gearing back up. I’m finally feeling that I will make it to a black belt (maybe not in the next 2 years…but will make it there.) One of the things I want to do is get writing and researching again. I’ve spent a long time building up my library of books on TKD, on martial arts in general, martial arts teaching, hapkido, etc. It’s getting to be quite sizable. I want to feed this side of me again as well. I know full well this is not the focus of training for everyone in the martial arts. But I think that having this focus will help keep me going as I get stuck in the quagmire of injury.

As I think of learning cane and cane defense, I think back to the Zumba classes I led for  breast cancer survivors, people with mobility issues, and seniors etc. They were so joyous, gritty, and appreciative. I would one day love to do something again with a focus of both fun and safety when I make it to black belt. Not to run a school, not to train students. But to offer both the joy of movement and self-protection. As much as I gave them, they gave to me. The day the lady who relied on a cane for everything told me that she was going to climb Mount Philo and felt she could do it in part because of class – it gave my heart wings. I couldn’t then, and likely couldn’t now, climb Mount Philo. But she did it. I think that the gifts I’ve been granted in TKD both in training and the people who have become my chosen family deserve to be reflected back to others.

I’ve broken 4 boards, rappelled down a 9 story building, volunteered at summer camp for 5 years now, made it out of my house when feeling complete depression, panic and borderline suicidal – in large part because of what I have found at YBBA. Unconditional support, love, and respect. My heart, my soul, and a sense of self. And if that doesn’t help you to rise above, damn it, nothing will. #ybbastrong