By Charlie Sacchetti
On June 26, I celebrated my 73rd birthday. They seem to roll around a lot quicker after 40, but I guess there’s really not much you can do about that but just enjoy them as best you can. Since 1979, my birthdays have all been special because I get to share them with my daughter, Rosanne, who was born that same day. But this year’s birthday was different for a couple of reasons.
About 15 years ago, I reconnected with an old Temple University baseball teammate, Ted Frett. That reunion has grown in to a wonderful, close and enduring friendship. One of the outgrowths of this has been my honor to meet and become friends with his uncle Fred. Fred passed away recently at age 105 and still young at heart. He maintained his sharp mind and love of God until the very end. Fred was a highly regarded baseball and football coach for many years in the Camden, N.J., area and touched many lives. How cool was it to have a buddy I could talk baseball with, at my age, who was more than 30 years my senior!
At 10 a.m. on my birthday, we took Uncle Fred to his final resting place. Only about 15 or so were in attendance, that number limited by the cemetery’s restrictions due to the coronavirus. Ted, his wife, daughter and his two brothers eulogized Uncle Fred in a loving way. I was honored to both be invited and to serve as a pallbearer. We all went our separate ways after the brief service.
The remainder of our birthday celebration was more in the tradition to which Rosie and I have become accustomed. It featured two things that we have in common: the love of baseball and the love of food.
In the food department, since we were severely limited in what we could do and where we could go to do it, we decided to bring the bounty back to the house. So, about 1 p.m. we took a ride to a great Italian deli in Turnersville, N.J. We were happy to load up on a few items that the family could enjoy together, including homemade tomato pie, Stromboli, fried long hot peppers, fresh Italian rolls and lemon biscotti. My wife, Luann, generously allows me and my daughter to do stuff on our own on this special day each year. It is a magnanimous gesture that also gives her some free time away from me! No doubt after 45 years of marriage, that’s a welcome perk!
When dinner time rolled around, about 6 p.m. we decided to patronize one of our favorite Italian restaurants. A simple phone call to the owner assures one a wonderful dining experience. We decided to enjoy the meal at home. After I placed the order, it was ready in about 45 minutes. It wasn’t long before our table was graced with antipasto, Zucchini sticks, chicken Parmigiano, gnocchi Sorrentino, penne with vodka sauce, house salad and fresh-baked bread. The food was just delicious and the three of us had a ball. Of course, the meal was topped off with a piece of chocolate birthday cake that read, “Happy Birthday, Dad and Rosanne.”
In the interest of full disclosure and feeling completely guilt-free, I have to mention one other thing. Around noon we stopped by a terrific ice cream stand in Maple Shade. Rosie enjoyed her pineapple water ice and I savored a black and white milkshake, a “calories be damned” luxury I allow myself once a year. That pretty much took care of the “love of food” department.
To cap the day off and satisfy our craving to watch big league baseball again, we had the distinct pleasure of viewing the final game of the 2008 World Series. It was game 5 and it was the one that clinched the title for the Phillies. I had recorded it earlier for just this occasion. For a lot of reasons, I doubt if I’ll ever see the Phillies win another one but that’s another story.
As I think of that last remark I realize it’s just the type of thing I’d discuss with Uncle Fred, when I’d go to visit. I’ll miss those chats. So, I guess I can say that this will be a birthday to remember, sad and reflective but also happy while being spent with people I love.
Charlie Sacchetti is the author of two books, “It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change,” and “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org