Strawberry Fields Forever – An Ode to Kenny

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Kenneth P. Carosa
11/2/1961 – 6/18/2017

This is the first of four parts of an older brother’s eulogy to a beloved younger brother.

I remember a bright summer day in late June. The sweet smell of acres upon acres of Queen Anne’s Lace, daisies, and the occasional black-eyed Susan surrounded us as we ventured into the bountiful fields of wild strawberries. The broad undeveloped lots just to the south of Highland Parkway rolled as far as the eye could see.

And with the weed trees then mere young saplings, the eye could see pretty far. We often tested our vision on clear August days. Me, Kenny, Angelo and Markie would hike deep into these virgin woods, being careful to remain within sight of civilization as we knew it. We walked just far enough so we could see the Hamburg Fair’s Double Ferris Wheel spin silently just on the edge of the horizon.

But while those late summer days were for friends, the first days of summer meant the strawberries were ripening. No one cared more about this abundant fruit except for my mother, me, and Kenny… and perhaps a few small animals. Each summer my mother would round up her two little boys and several translucent Tupperware containers. The trio would march from our backyard on Abbott Parkway through the adjacent backyard on Highland Parkway. We never worried about the owner of that backyard questioning our trespass. You see, the owner was my grandfather, my father’s father.

We’d walk down my grandfather’s driveway, turned right on Highland Parkway, then walk the short distance past several houses. There, when we came upon the vacant lot, we’d step off the pavement and into those strawberry fields. The medley of wildflower aromas quickly bathed us. It was as if our one small step had launched us on a giant leap into another world.

For hours we’d pick wild strawberries under the warmth of the summer sun, filling our plastic bins to the brim. To be honest, Kenny rarely really filled his. Most of the strawberries he picked somehow managed to avoid falling into the Tupperware. They were diverted, the ring of red strawberry juice circling Kenny’s mouth offering the only evidence of their ultimate destiny.

An Eden of sorts, it was a perfect place for two young brothers comforted by the presence of their caring mother collecting a delicious delicacy to surprise their hard-working father with his favorite dessert. We did this every summer. We wished it could have lasted forever.

*                *               *               *               *

And it does and it will. I can simply close my eyes and free my mind. Then, like a diamond-tipped needle gently lowering on the rotating grooves of a spinning vinyl disk, the multi-sensory memories start softly flowing in a continuum barely above consciousness. There is, of course, a sound track. It’s the Beatles. Specifically, the early Beatles. From the (US) albums Introducing The Beatles, The Beatles, Meet the Beatles!, The Beatles’ Second Album, and Something New, as well as the movies Hard Days’ Night, and Help. Songs like “Love Me Do,” “Please Please Me,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “All My Loving.”

These are the records my Aunt Sally (who is neither long nor tall, but did marry Uncle John) played for us during the countless times my mother called on her to play the role of baby sitter. It marked an era of innocence, joy, and, if it’s not obvious from the song titles, love. And from this love so deep the mere mention of it would ruin its magic, sprang something far greater – a transcendent loyalty that grew roots deeper still.

In truth, Kenny’s loyalty knew no bounds. It was there when he ceded creative control over to his then young daughter Teresa. It was there when he expressed his endless confidence in his son Pat. Most recently, it was there when, despite his growing illness, he faithfully drove untold miles to make sure his son Sam had the opportunity to complete every single Boy Scout merit badge.

It wasn’t just his family and friends, it was to the people he helped. The entire family was impressed, but not surprised, to see one of his mortgage clients came to pay his final respects. He told us how Kenny worked hard for two years to make sure the man could buy the house he dreamed of. George Bailey may be a fictional character we visit every Christmas, but Kenny was the real flesh-and-blood version.

Finally, nothing showed his loyalty more than his devotion for the Buffalo Bills. Though he and I (as well as my Uncle Sammy) have had season tickets together for years, it was his dedication that wavered the least. Rarely was this effort rewarded outside the family. But one memorable time it was, and deservedly so.

You may recall the Greatest Comeback in NFL history, a playoff game between Buffalo and Houston. With the Bills down 35-3, unlike many, Kenny never thought of leaving. He and his friend Alan stayed until the victorious end. After the game, they went to a local establishment to wind down before the long drive home. When the patrons asked if they had just come from the game, they said “yes” and were treated like royalty.

*                *               *               *               *

Beyond loyalty, we’ll remember Kenny for the many ways he touched our lives. We’ll remember him every time we need creative inspiration to nudge us to the next level of achievement. We’ll remember him every time we need a comforting boost during those moments when things just don’t seem to be going our way. Finally, and this will be especially important to him, we’ll remember him every time we eat a delicious meal.

In Greek and Roman times, the Elysian Fields represented the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous. Kenny was certainly heroic and virtuous. I’m sure Kenny’s heavenly fields will be forever filled with fine strawberries. I may remember him putting five strawberries in his mouth for every one he put in his Tupperware container, but you and I will remember him for much more.

Part I: Strawberry Fields Forever |
Part II: Twins Never Part |
Part III: Kenny Discovers the Birds and the Bees… and the Mice (Content for Friends and Family Only) |
Part IV: Breadcrumbs of Unfinished Symphonies |

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