Consider this man. Bob Amadore died this past week at age 91. He was my godfather and my mother’s cousin. There were many personal characteristics of his that I admired: his ability to listen in a conversation, the order and cleanliness of his home, his curious mind covering subjects as dense and diverse as domestic politics and model airplanes. In remembering him, I trace this taut thread that runs through them all.
Bob spent his early days in Amboy, New York. It was a small rural village near the city of Syracuse. Though Bob and his two sisters grew up in the country, the working farms with animals, haylofts, and apple orchards were owned by their neighbors. First names. No fences. Living things everywhere to please or pester. In the summertime, my mother would join them for long stretches, visiting from her family’s home in the city.
My mother describes these times, the Depression years, actually, as idyllic. Wild blueberries collected in a white enameled bowl. A backyard creek with small plentiful fish. Rope swings. Fireflies. Poison ivy soothed with calamine. Stars unimpeded by harsh ground light.
The Amadores were happy there all year round, and I would imagine had every intention of remaining. But the Solvay Process Plant, which had been producing soda ash on the banks of Onondaga Lake since 1880, required remote open acreage to dump their by-product. The residue they’d accumulated was plentiful. It was also toxic. And even in the early years of the 20th Century, there was a recognition that nature could not flourish with it in close proximity.
As nature was still deemed to include human beings, a legal settlement was reached for the purchase of the land and the displacement of the home. The Amadores were deeded a small lot in Syracuse. The family built a sturdy brick house. No backyard creek. No neighboring farms. Instead, a winding lane meandered past their new address. Being the suburbs, it was given a name that at least referenced nature: Boulder Road.
Bob Amadore would live in that house for the rest of his life. He kept a vegetable garden. I don’t think he minded the annual intrusions of deer and raccoon. He actually seemed to take quiet delight in complaining about it.
I mentioned that Bob had a curious mind and was a good listener. These are commonly the marks of someone who bears fair witness and is willing to act upon it when called.
So when Bob was called this past week, he had already expressed a clear intention based on what he’d seen and heard in life. Ashes to ashes – directing with his last wishes that a portion of who he was be sprinkled up in Amboy.
Like the toxic waste of the Solvay Process, Bob will remain in the soil there. Both will endure together. The forces of good and evil, archangel and devil, pure and sullied. Let them battle it out for all eternity. Bob holds the advantage of having lived on this earth. It will be summer again this year. I’m confident the healing has begun.