A Manhattan-fueled tribute

“The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on.”  A line from the Rubaiyat of Omar K. and oft spoke by Russ’s dad.

R.I.P. L. John (Jack) Rackliffe. May 16, 1926 – July 30, 2013   Son, husband, father, father-in-law, uncle, grandpa, friend. A special man, loved and fondly remembered. The family came together as families do on special gathering occasions. We shared in the sadness and went about the business of a funeral and burial; the last stop at the Copper Beech Inn. There, cousins would re-connect, memories would be shared, family bonds strengthened and as always, the ritual of a group photo, or two.

Group photo in the garden featuring a painting of m/v Spray

Group photo (taken by Kerry) in the garden featuring a painting of m/v Spray

As the afternoon stretched into evening, the gorgeous new copper-topped bar beckoned. We bid farewell to Russ’s Springfield cousins, each expressing a hope that we could get together again soon simply because we wanted to and could make it happen. We miss seeing them and while all remained in doubt as to which year we all last met up for a RiverQuest tour on the CT River, we all agreed it was a great event, surpassed only by the  Rackliffe Bash 2000.

I think Kerry is recounting the "how we met story"

I think Kerry is recounting the “how we met story”

When you sit at a bar the sign on your back says, “Let’s talk and have fun.”  Our group of nine settled around a corner of the new bar at the Copper Beech – the still shiny copper top a perfect foil for the Manhattans many were sipping. Bar mates on adjoining stools introduced themselves and we shared a brief banter with them; falling back quickly into reminiscing mode. How strange to see our eldest nephew Matt, who we do see at least once a year, sitting with a drink in front of him. I know he’s 22 but some mindset adjustment is needed in my brain. Just wait though, I think, until our son (one month shy of 21) can place that same order with a simple request and flick of his I.D.

Russ would tell how, on Sundays his dad would listen to opera. Since this did not continue into his later years, we wondered if this wasn’t a clever means to scatter his three children to their own devices. Right? Even if not intentional, the effect was the same. So here we are, winding down at the copper bar and Hannah, a young lady who knew Matt from high school stops by to chat. Her sixth sense is acute and she knows which seats to snuggle up to; right between David and Kerry. My sister-in-law can talk to anyone, about anything and if the topic falls outside her vast knowledge bank; she can fudge it. A gift to be envied. We learn that Hannah has vocal cords to be envied and an operatic tribute is requested. America may have talent, and it starts right here in Essex, CT. She opened up and while none of us understood the words, we felt the feeling and sat in rapture. Thus, no photos of this impromptu serenade complete with a whirl and twirl between each of us. Simply awesome; a flowing river of honey and spice.  We could only hope that Dad Rackliffe heard and was pleased.

This moving finger is done for now.  I’d forgotten how much I’d missed being with such a loving group of people, mostly family and some so close to “family” that we forget they aren’t actually related. The love, the bonds, are eternal and as we separate to return to our personal lives, each knows that we are there for one another in time of need and comfort.   A week before he died, my father-in-law asked, “where’s the next stop?” Well Dad, I think you knew and I hope we did right by you. You made this all possible by raising two fine sons and a too soon departed devoted daughter. Cherish. Live. Love. Laugh. And may there be no moaning at the bar…- no matter which one you find yourself near.

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