It’s Halloween, probably my least favorite holiday of the year. It’s not because there’s no festive dinner to enjoy wine with, or because I despise candy corn, or because I don’t care much for wearing a costume. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Sometimes, if we’re very lucky, we meet people who change our lives - truly special people. I was lucky to meet someone unique, in that considering his young age, he was very much loved and valued by so many people and touched a great many lives, on account of his being kind, considerate, fun, generous, and sincere, but to a degree unlike anyone else I know. It’s near impossible to describe a person like him, simply because they’re so rare, and interestingly enough, he didn’t perceive himself as someone so different, because he was only doing what came naturally to him. I was so fortunate to call him my friend for years, and when I finally began to set aside some of the fears and concerns as well as bad habits I’d picked up in the past, I was able to see him differently - something very different from an ordinary friendship. It was something I had looked for in a guy for a long time, something indescribable that somehow made me feel very valued, very special - even though I was afraid to admit it - and that failure to really act on it is something I’ll probably regret forever.
Move ahead to Halloween morning, 2009 - I learn that this very special guy, someone I cared for immensely, was killed in an accident during the night, at age 27. No more nights together, we’d never eat together, watch a game together, and laugh for hours, ever again.
It isn’t so much the holiday of Halloween that bothers me - it’s just that I’m not ready to celebrate that holiday yet. Two years may seem like a long time, but when recounting that experience, it feels like only yesterday.
An open minded guy, he knew I loved wine and while he didn’t have a lot of knowledge of the topic, he still enjoyed it. He liked going to the wineries out east here on Long Island, and he liked his Italian reds, which would be a perfect pairing with his excellent Italian cooking. One day, years back on a special day for me, he brought a bottle of Ruffino Modus to the house (among other gifts). It was before Modus got very popular and when I drink it now, instead of thinking of color, aromas, flavors, structure, and finish, I think of him.
And just a few weeks after he passed away, his mother took me into his apartment. We touched his clothing, his bed, the things he used just hours before he died. While she searched through the apartment to find things to give to me that were his, we came across a bottle of Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which my dad had just given him that week. The bottle was only half finished. And I was only half finished showing him just how special I knew he was, and how much I cared for him. An angel on earth had been called home, and I do believe that angel still watches over me and over all those whose lives he touched.
Riposa in pace, Emilio. Sempre tu rimani nel mio cuore.