Will he knock

This afternoon, I heard a knock on our apartment door. Charlie, dead asleep upon his return from Crete, certainly wasn’t going to answer it, so I did. Our neighbor-cleaner’s boyfriend Federico was at the door with a big, heavy package. He looked at my surprised and asked, “Were you expecting a delivery?”

No, of course now. Who even knows my physical address (ok, it’s at the bottom of most of my emails). But who even knows how to mail something to someone in Italy?

I went to get a knife to open it, my mind racing, wondering. And then I knew.

It took me back 11 years. My father Rocky — formally Fiore Salvatore DeLapa — had died after a rich 89 years of life and I was organizing a celebration of his life at our home in Monterey. I sent out invitations to a couple hundred of our closest friends, primarily friends of mine from college, graduate school, Monterey, and Palo Alto who had known Rocky, eaten his food, watched him dance, played cards with him, or stayed with him on a trip through Santa Barbara. Friends from all over the place came – friends I hadn’t seen in years. But many friends also couldn’t come, and they let me know by sending cards, or calling, or emailing.

One such friend, Jim Moroney, had let me know far in advance that he wouldn’t be able to make it. He and his wife Barbara had commitments in Dallas that they couldn’t get out of. Jim was in my freshman dorm at Stanford and he first met Rocky first quarter of freshman year when he and I and a couple other guys drove down to Santa Barbara for a pretty wild weekend of eating and drinking. During college and after, Jim had enjoyed more than a few of Rocky’s famous Italian meals and had famously watched Rocky and Stella, Rocky’s dancing partner of 17 years, tear up the dance floor. Rocky always asked about Jim, and Jim always asked about Rocky.

On the afternoon of the celebration, as I was getting the house ready for the party, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to greet a UPS delivery man with a large, heavy box. And in that box was a lovely case of wine — a chianti, I think — from Jim and his wife Barbara, along with a note letting me know that, regretfully, they wouldn’t be able to make it. It was a lovely, touching surprise in honor of Rocky.

As I recall, the party started around 6 pm, and the house filled up quickly with old friends and great memories. There wasn’t any sadness, just warm remembrances of Rocky and his joy in bringing others joy through food, wine, dance and conversation.

Sometime in the early evening there was a knock on the door — a little strange, since most people were just walking right in. I opened the door, and there to my jaw-dropping amazement were Jim and Barbara. The case of wine had been a ploy, a faint to convince me they weren’t coming from Dallas. But they did. And I was stunned, speechless. It was one of those moments in life when you realize that gift of friendship is a richness that has no monetary or material measure.

And so today, as I went to find a knife to open the mysterious box, I knew that it had come from Jim. Had to. Because I remembered that a couple weeks back in an email exchange he had asked for my mailing address, which I found curious.

Federico and I opened the box and true to form there was a note from the Paola Gloder, the owner of Poggio Antico, confirming the gift of a half case of a collection of years of their Brunello di Montalcino. I was stunned again.

And tonight, as I’ve sat in our Testaccio apartment, thinking back on the 40+ years I’ve know Jim, I have only one question: will he knock again?