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Grace Notes
A hopeful newspaper column ~ by Natalie Costanza-Chavez
Past Columns Grace Notes > Rocco's Chair
Rocco's Chair

Mar 7, 2011

Rocco’s Chair Deep in the corner of my garage, a shelf holds my ratchet set, a drill, my Dremmel, a purple zip pouch full of bits, and a wooden cigar box with a slide lid; it’s carved with the initials R.C., Rocco Costanza, my grandfather who died many years ago. Beside this tool shelf sits my grandfather’s dinner chair, the central marker of a small space of quiet I’ve created for myself. In the summer months, when it isn’t too cold, I escape to the chair for all manner of reasons - to wait out the bored-boy kerfuffles in the house, to gather myself when I’m over- tasked or over- worked, to avoid the demanding eyes of my sweet border collie, to take a break. I ease myself into the chair, arms on each wooden side; the spots are worn where his hands used to rest. My grandfather’s life had a time for everything – not, mind you, time for everything, but a time. He had a time to fertilize his fig tree so it would bloom, a time to brace the huge and orange-heavy branches of his 50 year old citrus tree so the almost sweet-ready fruit wouldn’t simply pull the limbs from the trunk. He had a time for a glass of sherry and an anise cookie, a time to put his boots back on to work, a time to scrub the day - first from his tools, then his hands. This man had rhythm. Even his name moves like the ocean waves he taught us to fish – Rocco. In 2006 I wrote my first Grace Notes column about him and the two words he frequently used with his rambunctious grandchildren as he was patiently showing us, teaching us, something: “Go easy” he’d say. When he was teaching us tools or wood or fitting two awkward pieces together he meant “don’t force it.” If it was waiting for fish to bite, or picking flowers or blackberries in proper bloom, he meant “don’t rush it”. When it came to relationships, he meant “be gentle.” In these last few weeks as I’ve made the decision to take a break from writing Grace Notes, my grandfather is constantly on my mind. In late 2006 our nation was coming out of a bruising election cycle; it’s now early 2012, and we are about to go back into one. I worried then that God and spirituality were being dragged down into the muck of partisanship. I still do. Then, 2006, I wrote this in my first published column: Instead of fish on a plank, I see words being flung and slapping down hard on a national stage. They are silver, glistening and sharp like the edge of a knife on the tongue – the God-Words. And they are big fish – these God-Words. They pack a wallop – Sin. Morals. Faith. Life. Values. Evil. Prayer. And the biggest of all: Religion. The problem is these words are too important, too universal, and too holy to be tossed around like so many gaping fish. These most sacred of words are being taken from us, heaved onto a national stage and then shouted and redefined to fit the agenda of whoever is doing the yelling. It is high time to go easy on the God-Words. I’m using this last column to say that it’s still high time to go easy on the God Words. And the God Issues. Go easy. Be gentle. If you are very afraid, breathe and slow down. Find the image of an old man’s chair and sit yourself down. Remember that most people are good, and that many things are holy and that each of us sees the world slightly differently. Take a breath and plunge ahead with your day to days. I hope to write to you again. For now, I’m off to the garage chair; I need to gather, to go easy. (You will be able to access Natalie’s past columns from her website, which is in the process of being updated: www.gracenotescolumn.org or email her at grace-notes@comcast.net)