Born on an icy morning just after midnight, my son Vinnie brought into this world a kind and loyal heart, a goofy smile and the most elastic ears we’d ever seen.
Veni, Vidi, Vici, Risi. He came, he saw, he conquered, he laughed.
He made us laugh too. Fearless in pursuit of contagious joy, Vinnie leaped happily over creative challenges and eagerly transformed himself into countless silly characters. His high school id photo became famous for its sheer absurdity as, quicker than a hapless photographer’s monotoned word “smile,” Vinnie arranged his hair and face into that of a middle-aged sit com character.
He countered the hi-jinks that occasionally got him into trouble with a genuine sweetness that made it hard for parental anger to stick. He made us laugh.
The third of four children, he made his presence known, jumping uninvited and occasionally unnoticed into class, team and group photos with such regularity that we have a whole collection of “and there’s Vinnie” photos. Our oldest daughter Katherine’s sixth grade soccer team photo? And there, front and center, stood Vinnie.
He made us laugh.
The last second jump in became such a habit for him that I’m sure families all over Northeast Wisconsin, on closer review, have an inexplicable gap-toothed, spiky haired little boy grinning at them from their vacation photos.
Vinnie grew up within the safe phalanx of family, and in a neighborhood enviably full of similarly aged boys. He and his pals Jonathon, John, Bruce, Alex, Alex and Mitch enjoyed an old-fashioned, ghost-in-the-graveyard, sledding-in-the-park, come-home-when-the-street-lights-come-on kind of childhood.
They made us laugh.
Today our skinny Vinnie turns 21-years old, a legal adult who will toast the occasion with copious amounts of black coffee and celebrate by writing a term paper and preparing for two more finals.
On Friday, though, he’ll cut a cake with all of us — grandparents, siblings, parents, aunts and uncles. We’ll raise a glass and marvel at the swift passage of time. We’ll honor a young man of integrity and class and we’ll be grateful for the consistent gift of Vinnie:
He makes us laugh.
I’m including this clip of three-year old Vinnie on a spontaneous visit to Santa. In it he asks for presents for his brother and sister. To date he remains their biggest fans. He used to happily jump in the car with me for a five-hour drive to watch his brother play football and he cheerfully offers to drive his sister back to her Chicago apartment, three hours out of his way.