By now you have probably embraced that light we all hear about upon death...having been drawn into that final tunnel infused with it, after your older brother Bob (on the advice of doctors who said "there isn't anything more we can do") had to give the word to shut down life support and say goodbye and face the unfaceable: letting go of a loyal younger brother, a devoted son to a father who won a Silver Star in World War II (who married the woman he loved to become the mother you adored), a faithful boyfriend, a friend to the many from long ago Hollywood High school days, and much before that Blessed Sacrament School.
By now you probably also have finished reviewing your life from end to beginning as so many experts say right after death, and those who judge you from on high have pronounced that you did your best with honor, elegance, and grace just as your parents taught you.
I always knew you as dependable, reliable, funny, candid, charming, chivalrous Albert De Francisco--the guy who I always knew if I needed anything, anything at all, you would provide it free of charge other than with the love your heart carried, especially when we were kids around 15 and 16 who thought we knew it all.
I remember how we loved each other then as young teenage friends do with virtuous passion, friendship, equanimity, and innocence. Yes, we were naive, but never about our devotion to each other or to the rest of our friends who comprised the crowd we hung with so long ago.
I remember while traveling over Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood hills in your Triumph motor cycle, my long black waist-length hair tangling in the wind while wearing one of my many hippy dresses, and barefoot, high on a certain drug of fashion in those Swinging Sixty days, I never once worried about whether or not we would make it to the bottom of that twisty turny road so carefree with the craziness of the night, of the times. We didn't wear helmets then (God help us), my mascara ran making ghastly streaks on my face which prompted you to whisk me over to the local IHOP on Sunset Boulevard across from our high school to wash my face. You simply wanted to take care of me. You didn't wish me to make a fool of myself. And you never ever cared about what others thought when it came to your allegiance to friends. You simply wanted to be there when called upon. Maybe that is why I never called upon you. I knew you would be available to save me from any situation if I dared request it. But I couldn't. You took such a task with great seriousness, in those days, I took nothing seriously, least of all myself. But you defined the word serious in the way your word was your bond. So unusual for a teenage boy in 1968.
I remember that through the passing decades we drifted apart and then back together as waves lapping randomly on the shore sometimes hitting the same mark twice, sometimes not...but each year, on my birthday, you would call and leave me a happy birthday greeting, considering that April 18 is your brother's birthday also, it was easy to remember me on that day as well. What I can't forget is that even during the years that we didn't necessarily talk you would still always call me. I mean for years. And I, stupid and self-absorbed, never called you back to thank you, I merely marveled at your recall and your consistency, and smiled upon hearing the grin in your voice.
I remember the one year you didn't call me, I called you, finally, and bawled you out for forgetting this task you had set up for yourself with annual precision. One which I looked forward to and sincerely missed. We laughed and chatted for a long long time and then met for dinner to which you brought your parents who were elderly and still very much in love, they'd always held a fascination for me, a girl who grew up in a divorced home, whose father had abandoned her at four years old. Mr. and Mrs. DeFrancisco, which are the only names I ever called them, were so much in love and were so esteemed by you and your brother, I always prayed I would have the same loving marriage. Your mother was a small sexy little drop of a brunette who held her cigarettes erotically like play toys and your father--in one look at her--would drink her up in one small gulp. She was his and he was hers. No doubt about it.
I remember the day prior to your bone marrow transplant at City of Hope hospital, we talked on the phone as you walked around one of the large and brightly lit lobbies dragging your tree (you called it) with requisite IV plastic bags of sustenance hanging like Christmas ornaments (you had about 5 or 6 while other patients, you said, carried 10 bags or more). You were getting a little exercise and talking about how your house remodel was almost finished and how glad you were that your brother had relocated from Hawaii with his new wife and kids to care for you during the long awaiting recovery process. We laughed a lot that day and revelled in each other's voices and relished in the longevity of our friendship and the joy in knowing that you would come through this immense passage in your fight with leukemia.
Instead, at not quite 59 years of age, you have joined your parents in that great divide between this world and the next. I know they met you with a great white blinding light of love and elation as they embraced your spirit. And most likely have shared with you the answers to the many mysteries of life that those of us who are left behind still wonder at.
And now I will always remember how each day since you are no longer able to return my messages or hear my voice I still call your house twice sometimes three times a day just to listen to you say, "I'm not home right now, leave me a message and I'll call you back."
I won't forget that I can no longer do so and that you can't call me back, that I will never hear your happy birthday message again or hear your smile and your laughter and that no amount of wishing I could will change a thing.
The world feels emptier without you. But because of you I can still remember.
A celebration of Al DeFrancisco's life:
Sunday Aug. 23rd at 4:00 P.M.
At the home of his neighbor Dave
3714 LATROBE ST LOS ANGELES CA 90031.