I’ve never feared the Ides of March, even if my first and last name carried the same initials as Julius Caesar.
Shakespeare immortalized the words “Beware the Ides of March” in his play about the Roman emperor who was assassinated by 60 Roman senators in 44 B.C. The famous English bard wrote the play in 1601, attributing the quote to a soothsayer who warned Caesar on the day he was to meet with the Senate.
Brutus, Caesar’s best friend, led the betrayal and the rest is history.
A wise politician once told me, “Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate.” Certainly that was true in Caesar’s case.
But I come today to praise March 15, not to bury it.
That’s because Dorothy May Fuscellaro Campanini, my dear mother, was born on Saturday, March 15, 1919, in Providence, R.I.
On Friday, she turns 94.
I’ll be taking the day off from work and taking mom to lunch with my twin brother John and my oldest sister Angela. It’s mom’s day and she insists on going to a local chain restaurant for clam cakes and chowder because it’s Lent. I told her that I know a holy man who can give her special dispensation to eat meat. I suggested going to Camille’s Roman Garden on Federal Hill for the sumptuous pasta Bolognese, but she declined. It’s Friday during Lent, she said, and Catholics don’t eat meat.
Last year we went to Legal Seafoods near the airport in Warwick and had a great time. My other sister, Pamela, came in from Indiana for the feast. But Ma says she wants to stay closer to home this year. She says she’s slowing down. The metal walker she must rely on to get around is a testament to her condition. Yet two weeks ago when I arrived for a visit, I found her in the kitchen over the stove making sausage, peppers and onions and baking her own bread. The meal was marvelous.
Ma says every day is a gift and, believe me, she means it. She calls me, her youngest child, nearly every day to tell me to be good to others and to my wife, the Wine Goddess. Then she calls my brother, who is two minutes older than me, and reminds him to be good to his family and not to forget his baby brother. We’re now both 60 and I’m still the baby of the family to mom.
Dorothy Campanini has lived a remarkable life raising four children with her late husband of 65 years, John T. Campanini Sr. They lived a Katherine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy life minus the celebrity and fame until he died nine years ago. They married during the Hurricane of ’38, which caused a delay in their honeymoon trip for 20 years.
Dorothy was raised by an immigrant Dad who arrived in the United States through Ellis Island in 1910, married an American in 1918, but came home one day to find the house empty, except for his 6-year-old daughter sitting in a chair. Young motherless Dorothy could have grown up to become a sad and angry woman yet the thought never entered her soul. In fact, at the age of 33, when her blessed father died, she tracked down the woman who gave her birth, embraced her, and took her into our home for awhile to get her back on her feet.
Nothing was ever said of the past life of the mother-grandmother who was lost but now was found. We accepted Grandma Latham as family, without question, right up until the day she died nearly three decades later.
And that, among all the wondrous memories of growing up with Mom and Dad, is the one that sticks out most in my mind. Dorothy May Fuscellaro Campanini’s greatest gift to her children — and the world in which she’s lived — has been teaching us how to love, without conditions, even when there’s been so much pain.