Riding Free

 Everyone copes differently; some cry for the loss of a loved one, others smile because they know they’ll see them again.” ~ Author Unknown

“He was behind us at one point when I checked my side mirror and, when I looked again only moments later, he was gone. As I kept looking into my mirror, I realized that he wasn’t catching up with the rest of us, so we decided to turn around and head back to see if he was okay. This is when we saw the ambulance blocking the road, with its lights flashing and the EMT’s working on Geno.”

Geno and the other riders were on their way back home to Chicago from having a day of riding in Waukesha, Wisconsin. There were several of them riding in tandem and Geno was towing behind the others, surely enjoying the beautiful scenery that surrounded him.

A witness from a passing car saw the entire accident. “I saw him riding and then watched him just drive off the side of the road, as if he was making a simple turn, as if that turn and road was a part of his journey, as if he was meant to continue on in that direction… he calmly drove off the road.”

One Samaritan who saw the accident stopped and immediately called 911, while others pulled Geno’s motorcycle off his chest where, once they did, his color came back to his face.

Official reports said that Geno took a turn, didn’t negotiate it properly, and slid off the side of the road. As Geno was thrown from his bike, he hit a metal telephone box and then a road sign before landing on the ground, where is motorcycle landed on top of him and when the ambulance arrived at the scene, the EMT’s found Geno unresponsive. He was taken to the nearest trauma center, Waukesha Memorial Hospital. The medical staff worked on Geno for hours in the E.R., but they couldn’t save him. Geno had severe body trauma… a fractured spine, broken leg, cracked ribs, a torn aorta, and bleeding in the brain. His injuries were so extensive that if he did survive… what quality of life would he have been left with?

Geno's Memorial Marker Waukesha, Wisconsin

Geno’s Memorial Marker
Waukesha, Wisconsin

Because of all these massive injuries, one would believe that Geno was traveling at excessive speeds of 60, 70 or even 80 mph when he came upon hitting that phone box and road sign. The reality is that Geno was going less than 20 mph when he went off the side of the road, when he hit those obstructions, he was traveling under 20 mph when he met his fate. He was going a snail’s pace, barely moving, and not even enough speed to start up a gentle breeze through his hair. It left many of us questioning… how such a speed could leave so much damage.

“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…” ~ John Lennon

  Geno's Mass Card

 

It was Geno’s request not to have a traditional funeral service and his family honored his wishes. Carol, his wife, had him quietly cremated at a funeral home in Mundelein near their home. About a month later, the family had a memorial mass for Geno so that we could all have some sort of closure, to say our final goodbyes, to make peace in our hearts in our own individual ways. Carol brought Geno’s ashes to St. Michael’s church in Chicago, where Geno’s brother, Joey, who is a Catholic Priest, carried out a beautiful mass that Saturday afternoon last August honoring Geno, as so did the Army’s honor guard, acknowledging that he was a veteran soldier who fought for his country. Playing taps for the congregation and while the honor guard spoke to Carol on the behalf of the President of the United States, you could hear some mourners weeping openly while others chose to cry to themselves, as their tears left their eyes, quietly rolling down the their cheeks.

After the mass, we continued to celebrate and remember Geno’s life. We all cried together, we all laughed together, while everyone shared their own personal “Geno Stories” to the point where we were laughing from the deepness of our bellies, only to follow up by shedding more tears. The stories that others shared were truly entertaining and one of a kind, a story only fitting for Geno and always at his expense.

Eugene, Geno, Bro, Ponch… no matter what we called him, he was known more importantly as husband, son, brother… friend! Geno was a very outspoken man, his personality infectious! Geno brought to the family what a butterfly brings to a garden… beauty, smiles and, at times, one hell of a free spirit! Below is one of my own favorite Geno Stories.

“Hey, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh…? And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick.” ~ The God Father

The Red Hat

One day, when her children were young, Bubby was making her homemade spaghetti sauce. Bubby, made everything from scratch when cooking for her big family. One of her specialties that everyone enjoyed was her homemade spaghetti sauce, where the pot of tomatoes and spices would simmer on top of the stove all day, cooking for hours, with an occasional twirl of the spoon around the bottom of the pot, making sure it wasn’t burning. Surely, one could smell the sauce wafting all through the house, while at the same time the kids’ bellies filled with anticipation, just waiting for the spaghetti and sauce to be served up for dinner.

As Bubby’s sauce continues cooking to perfection, she tends to other things around the house. Geno decided to take a stroll through the kitchen, with his red knit hat in hand, twirling his hat high into the air with one hand only to catch it with the other, like pizza dough, not once, but several times, over and over, as he watched it spin back down. Geno continued his game, challenging his red hat to twirl even higher into the air with every toss he gave it, catching it every time as if on cue. Geno’s game finally ended when he spins his red hat into the air one last time. Watching it make its descent from the ceiling, he soon realizes that his red hat would not be landing in his hands as it did so many times before. Geno watched his red hat spin uncontrollably away from him, only for him to see it land directly into the large pot of homemade spaghetti sauce that Bubby had been simmering on the stove for hours!

Standing before the pot and, of course, not wanting to “fess up” to his wrongdoing, Geno decided to tuck his red hat deeper into the sauce. Taking the spoon, he pushed the red had underneath the sauce, completely submerging and covering it up, hoping that everything would go unnoticed. Geno quietly walked away and out of the room, not mentioning anything about the extra added ingredient to his mother’s spaghetti sauce.

As dinnertime arrived and, with all the kids that bordered the table, they all waited patiently as Bubby began to serve up her infamous spaghetti sauce that everyone had been waiting for since the moment Bubby tossed that first tomato into the pot. Surely, it was at this moment that Geno was praying his red hat had somehow mysteriously dissolved into the pot of spaghetti sauce. Spoon in hand; Bubby takes a stir of her sauce only to discover that the added ingredient was not a part of her original recipe. She soon realized that it was Geno’s red knit hat, which laid perfectly camouflaged, as it stared back at her from the pot. It was Bubby that was now simmering on a low flame. Bubby realized that she couldn’t serve up the sauce because her sauce was not the only thing that was cooking in that pot all day. Tossing out the homemade spaghetti sauce, along with the hat, Bubby ended up walking to the local Certified Super Market on Clybourn Avenue, where she was forced to purchase canned spaghetti sauce to serve with her spaghetti. It was at this point that Geno was never allowed to twirl anything in the kitchen again while Bubby was cooking.

It was many years later, when Geno was out on his own, living in his own apartment, when he decided to cook the same spaghetti dinner for his date. Cooking the sauce the way Bubby did, he cooked it to perfection… except for one minor change. Instead of boiling the water for the pasta, Geno figured he’d save a few steps and cook the pasta within the sauce. It was only a few minutes later that he realized he didn’t have a wonderful spaghetti dinner, but a pot of concrete instead. Not only did he toss the sauce into the trash, but the pot itself went into the trash as well.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ~ Julia Child

Frank shared one of his favorite stories with us as well.

The Widower

One late evening in the early 80’s, Geno decided to grab the telephone book, after having a few beers, where he would start rummaging through the M’s for all the Morin’s within the city of Chicago. He was curious to know exactly how many Morin’s there were. Surprisingly, there were only two… his family and one other person by the name of Morin was listed. Geno decided to call the phone number only to discover that it was registered to a little old woman who lived on the northwest side of Chicago. It was then that he shared that his last name was Morin, too, and thought perhaps they were related. Being the charismatic person he is, Geno carried a conversation on with this woman and chatted with her for the longest time, where he discovered that she wasn’t a relative after all, she had been a widower for many years, and that she liked to talk just as much as Geno did. After a lengthy conversation, Geno decided to end their conversation, while wishing the widower his best. With that, they hung up.

Approximately another year had gone by when Geno took the phone book once again, looking for all the Morin’s in the city of the Chicago. Tracing his finger under the M’s, there it was for a second time, the same number that he had called just the year before. Picking up the phone, he dialed the number only for the same widower to answer the phone. Geno shared that his last name was Morin, too, the same as hers, commenting that there aren’t very many Morin’s in the phone book. The widower went on to tell Geno that her husband had died, never once remembering their previous phone conversation from just the year before. She would share that her husband used to do this and that for her, and how she missed him. However, Geno let her talk on, repeating almost everything that she had said the year before. So, here, a tradition was born, where every several months, Geno would call his widower friend to have a simple chat, making sure she was okay, only for her to repeat the same stories over and over again to Geno. Surely, it gave one old woman time to express herself about the past, reminiscing about the love she once shared with her husband, only for her to be left thinking of fond memories of what use to be, memories of what was once hers.

As we all continued to share our stories one after another, we couldn’t help but to feel numb inside. Of all the years the Morin boys were riding, this was the first horrible tragedy that the Morin family had ever encountered and, from my own heart, why Geno? It just didn’t make sense to me, especially by the means of his demise. I can only believe that Geno’s life lessons here on earth were complete and it was now time for him to begin his life with God. I admit that I am selfish and I wished Geno was still here with us, living and being a part of our everyday lives. But, I realize that God had called and must have needed him more.

It was comforting to know that just a couple days before Geno’s accident that he had a visit with Bubby and his brother, Joey, where Joey did the anointing of the sick with Bubby, as well as the three of them having communion together. Although my heart was heavy with pain and sorrow, I found peace in knowing that he shared these two sacred sacraments with his mother and older brother. It seemed like the timing of everything was meant to me, meant to fall in place.

Geno passed away exactly 10 days before the anniversary of the motorcycle accident that Frank and I had over 20 years ago, where our lives were spared. My thoughts take me back to that day when Geno came to visit me in Columbus Hospital when I was in there recovering from my own motorcycle accident, where I was learning how to walk again. With a huge box of candy in his hands for the nurses, Geno walked so proudly into the therapy department, just like Forest Gump, holding his box of chocolates, as he handed them over to the staff. My therapy for that day was to cook for a guest and myself. I made hamburgers… one for me and one for Geno. He spent hours sitting there with me, lifting my spirits. That day, it was Geno’s heart consoling mine, telling me that I was going to be just fine. Today, it’s my heart that consoles Geno’s spirit. I still can’t believe we lost him… But, he passed doing what he loved – riding, riding free with his face and knees in the wind.

Geno Goes To Sturgis…

“Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.” ~ Author Unknown

Sunday evening, the day after Geno’s passing; I was on my way upstairs to bed. As I was passing through the dining room, I noticed a stuffed doggy toy on the floor. Believing in signs, this is when I asked Geno for a sign. I said, “Geno, if you are here with us, can you please move the doggy toy from the floor and place it onto the dining room table?” With that, I left the toy where it was at and went on up to bed. Monday morning came rolling around quite fast and I was up rather early. As I headed downstairs, I saw that my request from the evening before went unnoticed. The stuffed doggy toy lay quietly on the floor exactly where I had left it just hours before. I thought to myself… okay, next time. I walked into the kitchen to get my day started and made a pot of coffee. I made my way back to my art room, where I opened up the curtains and windows, inviting the day’s sunshine into the room. As I turned around to put things away into my art cabinet, I noticed on top of the cabinet was the bag of rice crispy treats that Donatta had made for her visit that fateful Saturday. They had been on the kitchen table for the last few days, exactly where Donatta had left them when she arrived that Saturday afternoon. Picking up the bag and returning it to the kitchen, I was rather irritated because they didn’t belong there. I blamed either Tanner or Frank for eating them directly out of the bag and just plopping the bag wherever they pleased once they were done eating them, which was on top of the art cabinet in my back art room. Once they woke up, I brought it to their attention and asked them why they tossed the rice crispy treats on top of the art cabinet and couldn’t put them back into the kitchen. Both Tanner and Frank denied that they had done it. Turning to Arla, I asked her if she had done it and she confessed a big no, as well. Standing there in front of them, I asked, “Neither of you placed these treats on top of the cabinet; so they just appeared there themselves?” Nobody confessed to moving the treats to the back art room, they even swore that they didn’t touch the bag. It didn’t seem to be a big deal; that was until I remembered that I asked Geno for a sign the night before; that if he was with us to move the stuffed doggy toy to the table. Did he decide to move the rice crispy treats instead? To this day, I never found out who moved them from the kitchen table to on top of the art cabinet, a complete room away.

Even from a distance, Geno was remembered so fondly. I can’t even express into words how many people had come to share our grief with us. Friends and family have all expressed a deep sense of loss in hearing about Geno’s passing, which goes to show all of us how much Geno was loved, how much he touched each and every one of our lives, even if it was for just a brief moment or through a lifetime. In honor of Geno and for the family, I created the below presentation as a remembrance of the man that will always live forever within our hearts. Geno is with us in spirit, whether it’s within the butterfly that dances gracefully across our path or within the rays from the setting sun that beam down upon us from the heavens above. This Sunday, June 16, my family and I will repose the soul of Eugene Pacelli Morin, where he may enter into heaven and eternally be with God in his home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “Riding Free

  1. Your writing and stories always leave me speechless. You always say what I’m thinking… For example the part about how he was only driving 20mph very slowly and how witnesses said as if though he was following a path. I was thinking that was Gods doing , that was the path he was to take to get him back to heaven. That was how it was suppose to end, the way God wrote it in his Geno’s life long story. Yes it doesn’t make sense but when does death ever make sense. :(. Thank you for sharing his story with me, he sounded like such a blast, and a kind person. I also get the sense he was a jokester, so definitely I’m guessing he was the one to move those rice crispie treats. Lol 🙂

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