Wednesday, April 22, 2009
That's my Pepe. He didn't made it an actual Bruins game until March 14th, 2009.
Yesterday would have been my Pepe's 79th birthday. He passed away fifteen years ago, a passing that left his family grieving.
Pepe was the original Bruins fan, literally. He taught my mother and her brothers what it was to be a fan. He taught them to cheer for a team that always left it on the ice. He would sit on his front porch in the middle of winter, a small transistor radio in his lap, listening to the far away voice call out the play from the original Boston Garden. I imagine those nights were cold, dark affairs, as winter nights in northern Vermont are not the definition of hospitable. These were the days before NESN HD, before Jack Edwards or Dale Arnold, or even Fred Cusick.
He taught them to cheer endlessly and never forget that if you're a fan, you're in full-barrel. You don't leave your team because they're dwelling in the basement. You don't stop following because they can't stage one successful defensive zone breakout. You cheer for them regardless of how they play, because you're a fan.
I suppose that being a fan of any team is a bit like marriage, something that I will be part of sooner rather than later. There are going to be moments that are pure bliss, moments that cloud your eyes with tears. There are going to be trying times, gray days that just seem endless. Through it all you endure, as you love your significant other. You will set your jaw, take a deep breath, and believe in your heart that things will get better.
Pepe spread his love of the Bruins across all of his grandchildren. I can remember going to my grandparent's house one night when I was eight or nine. It was a school night, so it was a big deal. I remember Pepe relinquishing his chair to me. I felt like the captain of the house. I don't remember who the Bruins were playing. I remember waking up at some point with balled-up Hershey Kiss wrappers all over me. Apparently Pepe thought it was hilarious to gently toss refuse at his slumbering grandson. Serves me right for having the gall to fall asleep in the middle of a Bruins game. I must have learned my lesson; I have not done that since.
We still judge players, both on and off the Bruins, against Pepe's standards. Pepe would have loved the current mix of Bruins, especially Timmy Thomas. And I know that he would have had a proud smile on his face this past March, when my sixteen year old sister was mistaken for Johnny Bucyk's granddaughter while standing in line at The Garden.
Although a void was left in our lives when Pepe passed away, I know that each and every one of us think about him at least once during a Bruins game. Any time that Kessel scores a beauty of a breakaway goal, as he did tonight, I think of Pepe. Any time that Lucic ragdolls an unwise opponent around the ice, I think of Pepe cheering, jabbering in a language that would quickly turn to an english/french jumble that would have several of his beloved grandchildren laughing and yelling, "English, Pepe!!" I think of these times and I smile.
Tonight the Boston Bruins banished the Montreal Canadiens to the netherworld that is an early exit from the postseason.
I'm not a religious man, or even one that is very superstitious, but I like to think that Pepe was up high tonight, smiling down on his team and his family.
So tonight, Pepe, on a night that you would have been 79 years and 1 day old, I raise a CC and ginger to you, jingling the ice cubes just a bit. We all miss you and love you very much.