Vince Mercuri: Boyhood home’s foundations live on
With the victory of World War II fresh in their minds, the “Greatest Generation” marched into life with confidence, purpose and a mindset that with determination, hard work and selfless dedication, anything could be accomplished. The typical struggles, failures and hardships of life were no doubt present, yet they had standards formed and grounded in Judeo-Christian traditions and customs. At the core of these principles was the importance and formation of the family unit.
Almost 70 years ago, my parents, like most in that era, purchased their one and only dwelling. Their structure in Ellwood City was so much more than a house. It reflected the values and standards that built our country. The pillars of these foundations were not spoken of as much as they were displayed on a daily basis. This consistent, selfless role-modeling of dedication to family, the importance of faith, a task-focused work ethic and our Italian heritage was the bedrock of our home.
Long before protective factors and risk factors entered our vocabulary as a culture, these baby-boomer parents recognized the importance of reverence for and respect of authority, a value for community and extended family, quality time and financial restraint. These tenets became ingrained in our daily living.
I have fond memories of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings canvassing the fields picking the latest fruit so that the dedicated homemakers could work together canning the harvest, which provided delicious snacks and desserts for all to enjoy throughout the year. We learned the value of working together, and these life lessons taught us all how to celebrate, play, grieve, pray and pass the baton to the following generations.
The many imperfections that were present were addressed with diligence, perseverance and a belief that honesty, togetherness and selfless work would win the day.
Our father’s quiet, strong and secure presence is long departed but deeply stitched in each of his five children. Our mother’s energy, positive attitude and influential presence continues as she adjusts to her current living environment.
Recently sold, the house has been passed on, awaiting new hopes and dreams with its new inhabitants. Upon final inspection, some minor foundation repairs were required. My brother-in-law, embodying the spirit of the Greatest Generation, worked tirelessly to fix the issue so that the structure was once again sound.
My final reflections as I departed my boyhood home for the last time included a moment in the driveway pounding a basketball as I visualized a jump shot at a hoop no longer present. My sadness was comforted by knowing that, although the firm cement that once held this structure upright may have been loosened over time, the pillars so molded and alive with hope, loyalty and promise lived on in each of us as we try to continue to leave a legacy that reflects the norms, values and customs of a generation gone by.
Vince Mercuri, executive director of the Open Door Alcohol/Drug Treatment Center and Crisis Intervention Program in Indiana, Pa., is a member of the Valley News Dispatch Editorial Board.