For most of the years I knew him, Al Delcupolo never sat still. He was polishing his car, or sweeping the driveway, or shoveling snow, or hosing down his lawnmower, or cleaning the gutters, or digging, or climbing, or hacking at some shrub, or up on his roof - a thing that drove his wife, Katherine, and me crazy.
He wasn’t a spring chicken. He was in his 60s and then in his 70s and still climbing ladders.
“Please, Al, please be careful!’’ we pleaded. “We don’t want you to fall.’’ And he laughed and declared, “I won’t.’’ And he was right. He never did.
He was a man always on the go, who, every day, walked miles with his dog, Dante. He stopped and spoke with everyone he met. He drove Katherine to see their daughter, Mary Anne, or to the mall, or to the grocery store, wherever she wanted to go, happy to be doing, happy to be out talking to people, happy to be lending a hand.
Al was good and kind and affable and generous. I know this because I was his Mrs. Kravitz, watching him daily from my office window, taking notes, writing about him - once, when he decided to sit down and rest in a wheelbarrow, even running across the street to take his picture.
Al watched out for me, too. Whenever my husband and I were out of town, he fed and walked our dog, Molly. He brought in the mail. He collected the newspapers.
When I was home, he put up with my constantly borrowing things: his lawn mower, every time mine wouldn’t start; his wheelbarrow, whenever my front tire fell off (it did this often); his spreader (I hadn’t cleaned mine and the fertilizer clogged the holes); and even his state-of-the-art, deluxe, electric hedge clippers.
The first time I borrowed the clippers, I brought them back with the extension cord cut in half, full of mea culpas and promises to buy him a new one. “I’m so sorry!’’ I wailed.
Al didn’t say a word, just shook his head, walked into his garage, and returned with another cord. “Just don’t go cut up this one, OK?’’ he said, laughing.
This was Al. Whatever anyone needed, whatever someone wanted, Al said, “Sure, take it. Sure, I can do it.’’
Sure. Yes. OK.
A heart attack nearly killed him four years ago. It was a bad one and, after, there was no more climbing ladders, no more raking, and hardly any walking at all. But he got around. He was slower, a little crankier sometimes, but on sunny days, spring, summer, and fall, I’d look across the street and there he would be sitting outside his garage, wearing his big gray wool sweater, watching Katherine plant or weed, watching kids riding bikes, and people walking dogs, and mothers pushing baby carriages, watching the world go by, and smiling.
I think I first knew I loved Al the day he offered me the second extension cord. Or maybe it was the day my baby granddaughter Lucy held out her arms to him and said, “Al!’’
Katherine was the one who made Lucy’s christening gown. Katherine was the one who made her crib set. Katherine was the one who gave her milk and cookies. But it was Al whom Lucy reached for, Al to whom Lucy ran to hug.
It was the same at every holiday, birthday, party, or family dinner. Al and Katherine would come to the door and all the grandkids would run to greet them. But Lucy ran the fastest, and Lucy always ran straight to Al.
Al died this month at age 83, from complications of heart disease. “Our neighbor Al died,’’ is what we tell people. But “neighbor’’ doesn’t encompass what Al was and will continue to be to my husband, my children, to their children, and to me.
We loved him and he loved us. He was part of our family. He didn’t just have a place at our table. He has a place in our hearts.
The table will be emptier without him. But he will be our hearts’ treasure always.