Last night was the first annual dinner for my cousin Paul’s foundation. Paul died in a freak accident while in his 20s, shortly after his brother died, leaving his parents with the loss of both of their sons. I can’t even imagine….and in this extremely close, large, Italian-American family of mine, we are there for each other.
So I went with my mother (who, remember, spent most of last year getting chemo and is now in remission), my brother and his fiancee Deb to attend a beefsteak dinner and fundraiser planned by Paul’s friends. It was terrific to be with all of my cousins, including so many we had no idea would be there, hold my cousin Renee’s new baby Aiden (what a sweetie! happiest baby ever!) and chow down on sausage-sauced pasta, waffle fries and amazingly great beefsteak on toast points.
Across the room, I see him. Phil Simms. Former quarterback for the New York Giants. Now, my family is a Giants family. We have season tickets to the games, our seats are last row under the scoreboard, and so many of our best family memories are of being at the games, or tailgating with our family and friends. We have a thirty year relationship with the people whose seats are around ours. So to see Phil Simms in the room brought us all back to those days, to the smell of the tailgating in the parking lot, throwing perfect spirals, waiting outside the stadium to get player autographs when we were little kids (I told Joe Danelo we called him ‘Golden Toe,’ which you can only pull off when you’re five years old. It doesn’t work at 36.)
So I went up to Phil Simms and asked if I could borrow him for a second. He looks at me with a smile and says “For what?” While I wanted to say, “I want to go outside and throw the football around with you a little bit,” I told him about my mother being in remission and how much he and the Giants have meant to my family for so many years. He asked where our table was in the crowd of over 300 attendees and that he’d be right over. And a little bit later, I was amazed to see Phil Simms, QB of the Giants, SuperBowl MVP, walking through the crowd and coming over to my mother. She was so overwhelmed and had a moment talking to him. He was terrific, and his speech at the end of the dinner was a riot! As a lifelong Giants fan, it’s phenomenal to hear the inside stories from on the field, what he was really thinking, how he mentioned players whose names I once wrote on my cheek with eyeliner as a pre-teen fan.
It was a terrific night, a huge success for Paul’s foundation, and the guys who planned this should be very proud of themselves. They will all surely be blessed, as will my terrific relatives who helped put the evening together….