Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Requiem for a Heavyweight

It's been a while since my last post and I apologize for that.  Given the fact that this blog is called Running for Max it seem like I should actually be running before I start posting again.  Yeah...wellll....since the marathon I haven't ran a single step.  Now in my defense life around here has not exactly been a barrel of laughs.  We lost a man that has left a huge hole in our lives.  My father-in law died on May 2nd after a relatively short illness.  It has been every bit as bad as I had always imagined it would be and my heart breaks every day seeing the people that I love in pain and knowing there is nothing that I can do about it. 

While it would be easy to focus on his death and how sad it has been and how much we all miss him, instead I am going to celebrate the man's life from my perspective.  I think that everybody should know about Larry and how he affected my life and how I saw him affect the lives of other people around him.

My life with Larry started in the summer of 1992.  I had started seeing a beautiful young girl from Natick and one day I was invited to her house. The reason why is lost in my memory but it really isn't relevant.  I was introduced to her father who greeted me with a smile and a warm handshake.  Luckily for me my handshake was firm because Larry always said that the way a person shook your hand would tell you a lot about them.  A weak, limp wristed handshake indicated a weak, self concious person while a strong handshake spoke of a self assured and strong person.  I passed test #1.  How do I know that I passed this first test?  Well before I said my goodbyes that day, Larry presented me with a coupon.  What store do you suppose that coupon was for???  That's right, a coupon to Condom World.  This is the father of the girls I was dating!  Not only that but, although I didn't know it at the time, Kristen was his baby...his little girl...I had no idea at the time how close a relationship that they had.

As time went on and Kristen and I became more serious, I was welcomed into the Maletta family with open arms.  I kind of think that this had more to do with the guy I was replacing more than anything special that I had done.  It was kind of like getting a new job and everybody praises you for how great you are doing but the fact of the matter is that the last guy who had the job was such a complete f*** up that anyone else would be a genious by comparison. 

From day one Larry treated me like a son.  He offered help whenever he thought it was needed.  He offered advice (even when it wasn't asked for ) and he offered support even though it was sometimes turned down.  And all of these things were done with love and without strings attached.  He wanted nothing in return except for me to be a good father and a good husband.  I was, after all, responsible for his daughter and his grandchildren.  I didn't always meet the expectations that I had for myself but as long as I was out there trying, he never made me feel like I was inadequate or that I wasn't good enough.

Larry was not without his quirks, however.  You see, he had such a big heart and such a big sense of responsibility that he wanted to fix everything.  When he couldn't, he would often times assign blame first.  One of my favorite quintissential Larry stories had to do with my sister-in-law Beth who was carrying my niece Jenny through Larry's yard in Natick when she tripped over a drain pipe and laned in the driveway.  Both her and Jenny were hurt and Jenny was crying pretty loudly.  When they made it in the house did Larry rush to see if everyone was ok?  No.  He said to Beth "What are you doing walking in the driveway?!?"  As if walking in the driveway was the most dangerous and irresponsible thing she could have been doing.  Of course, once the shock wore off, he would help to bandage the wounds and offer comfort.

His generosity was beyond question.  I have had some of the best times of my life because he was there to pay.  He took his whole family to Ogunquit, Maine and put us all up in a hotel for HIS anniversary.  That was the year that we sat outside in a jacuzzi while it was snowing out.  It was also the year that some of us embarrassed ourselves singing karaoke at the Ogunquit Bar and Grill.  Larry wasn't with us at the bar that night but if it wasn't for him none of us would have been and we wouldn't have that memory.

I look back with a smile on my face and think about going to Red Sox games with Larry and my brother-in-law Jim.  I would get the tickets from a contact at work and I would invite Larry.  He would more often than not refuse to go because he had always had a bad back and the thought of spending 4 or so hours in one of those seats at Fenway would make anyones back hurt.  He would, however, accept once in a while and it was around this time that Jim and I came up with the "Three Refusal Rule".  You see, Larry wanted to pay for EVERYTHING.  Parking, food, souveniers...whatever.  If it cost money he wanted it to be his money.  While Jim and I always appreciated his generosity, we didn't think it was fair for Larry to pay all the time.  However, as anyone who knew him could attest, Larry was a VERY stubborn man and when he dug his heels in you really had no shot.  So Jim and I came up with this rule that we would refuse Larry's money three time and then ultimately accept it.  When Larry wanted to pay for parking a typical conversation would go like this:

Larry: "Here...Let me get the parking"

Me (or Jim):  "No, Larry I got this"

Larry: "No... Here...Take this."   **he holds out the money**

Me (or Jim): "No No No I got this. It's OK"

Larry : **still holding out the money**  "You drove...Please let me pay for the parking"

Me (or Jim) : "Really, Larry...I already planned on paying for this.  Put your money away"

Larry : **now beginning to get a little angry** "I am paying for this so take it"

Me (or Jim):  "Ok fine" **and we take his money**

Now keep in mind neither Jim nor I would ever make any kind of effort to pull out our own wallets during this exchange.  We refused him 3 times and then, because we knew he would never give up, we would let him pay.  The funny thing about this is that Larry knew what we were doing and he LOVED it.  He liked spending time with us and we loved spending time with him.  He was a father figure to both of us but he was also a friend.  How many people can say that about their father-in-law?

I know that he loved his immediate family more than he loved anything else.  I saw evidence of that everyday.  He couldn't help looking out for his kids even though they were adults and could make their own decisions.  He worried about them like every father does but Larry always took it just a little  bit farther.  When a big snowstorm was coming you could always count on an e-mail coming that reminded you to make sure that you had gas in your snowblower.  When daylight savings time rolled around there was another e-mail that reminded you to change your clocks.  Oh...and while you are at it, you better change the batteries in your smoke detector too.  He loved me but it was my wife that was his baby.  You couldn't be in the room with the two of them for more than a few minutes without seeing the bond that they shared.  It was often times annoying but in the end I was jealous.  I wasn't jealous that she loved him as much as she did but because, although I loved my own father very much, we never had the kind of bond that they did.  I'm not sure that I have ever met anyone that did.

Whether he was hosting the Fourth of July party or cooking lobsters at Lobsterfest, Larry was bigger than life.  He was a force in any room that he was in.  He wasn't loud or self serving.  He bore his own demons quietly and without complaint.  He was a patriot, a husband, a brother, an uncle, a grandfather and to more than just his own kids, a father.  He held all of these titles with pride.  I know that I am a better man for having known him and I will miss him everyday.

Rest in peace Larry.  I will try to make you proud.



  1. very touching - you are a good man charlie brown

  2. Hi,I am founding your blog very inspiring.I hope you will not mind that I ask you few questions about your work.I saw that you put your Cv on this website and that you used to work on IMSP system,I just started to work on that system as well.I have to say that I have some troubles with that,do you know if there are any tutorial available?if you can help me send me an e-mail please,I will really appreciate that,this is my e-mail address:

    thanks so much