Friday, July 21, 2017

A Special Edition: In Memory of Ray

A friend in Virginia once asked me “Does anyone ever fart on Cape Cod?”  He meant that everything always sounded so rosy in my blogs that it seemed like a place where nothing could ever go wrong. I answered, “Of course it does, but who would want to read about that?”  Well, something enormously wrong did happen this month, and we along with countless others lost a very special, true 'Cape Cod Character'.  His name was Ray, known to us as “our brother-from-another-mother”, a Cape fishing legend, a family man, and a friend to everyone he met.  Many of us knew Ray had been battling an illness for years, but he just shrugged it off saying that he still had a lot left to do.  And, he did. 

Ray was a familiar sight at Fort Hill, enjoying the beauty and checking on fishing conditions.

When I met my husband in Virginia and we decided to make our home on Cape Cod, he promised me that when we got here, I would meet a wonderful friend of his named Ray, and that I would love him.  
Soon after his first visit to our new home, he became a regular.  In fact, if you were a reader of my earlier blogs, he was mentioned often.  Once he discovered Ron’s barista skills, he began bringing friends with him to sit at the kitchen bar and get acquainted.  “Ya gotta try this guy’s coffee.  It’s the best you'll ever taste!”

Some days, he would come by with his truck full of vegetables to give away.  “Get a bag and come pick out what you want, Sweetheart.” 

When the weather was bad, he’d come in soaked and I’d give him dry clothes to wear while I threw his in the dryer, and he and Ron would watch the History Channel together and rehash WWII.  “Sweetheart, while you’re at it, there’s a button missing, do you have an extra you could sew on for me?”

Many times we would come home and find his dog, Tiggie, tied up to the truck bumper in the shade so he wouldn’t dig up my gardens, and Ray asleep on our couch snoring blissfully to a movie on TV with the cats curled up beside him.

Our cats, who are fairly discriminating about people, loved Uncle Ray.
When the weather was conducive to leaving the windows open, we’d hear him singing in his strong, rich voice as he ambled up the walk, “Oh, my spurs go jingle jangle jingle…”  

He would never miss an opportunity to mug for the camera, go for the joke, or share his good fortune. 
Sharing a joke with Ron, his brother-from-another-mother.

Wearing a tinfoil Viking hat, of course, because why not?
Years later, when Ron was flat on his back from chemo treatments, the basement flooded and I needed help moving soaked carpets up into the yard.  Ray was there in 5 minutes and Ron never knew what went on until we had it all cleaned up. 

Ray was one of those people who thought there was no such thing as a stranger.  While some Codders rudely proclaim “We’re Not on Your Vacation” with bumper stickers, we’ve seen Ray walk up to tourists in the summer and ask, “Hi there, where are you all from?”  He took hours getting through Stop & Shop because he greeted every employee as an old friend.  Many of the kids he babysat for later brought their kids to meet him.  He took friends to medical appointments and shared food, money and a nonjudgmental ear.  He thought every woman was beautiful, every kid was cute, every animal was precious and nobody was unworthy of help.  He pretended he was just a dumb fisherman, but he was wise in all the important ways. 
Taking Ron's twin sister and family from San Diego clamming. 
Before we knew it, our vocabulary was peppered with ‘Ray-isms’ like, “Getcha, gotcha”, which meant, I know what you mean.  And, “I stink so.”  Translation: I think so.  Or, "OH, HO, HO, HO...", which just meant he was getting up and on the move.  “Did I ever tell you about my French-Canadian cousins, Jacque and Pierre?” was the only joke he could remember and would tell as many times as you would listen.  He always wanted to know if we had any Canadians or French people staying at the B&B so he could tell them that joke.  If we didn't, he'd walk over and introduce himself anyway, and after asking if they wanted to buy any fresh lobsters he would tell them all about his imaginary cousins.  Nobody ever complained.  As his memory became worse, I learned how to make “Indian Pie” many times, told with the same enthusiasm and detail each time.  

Ray was drawn to a career in fishing when he visited Cape Cod from his home in Western Mass because he said it looked like something he thought he could do. He grew to love the ocean and became proficient enough to support a family.  After befriending the remarkable Cape Cod fishing legend, Tiggie Peluso, who taught him and dozens of others to fish, he became the only person Tiggie ever allowed to fish on his boat with him.  Tiggie’s daughter, Lou, recently related her first meeting with Ray to me:  “My father's health had been declining for a long time and Ray came to visit him at home.  After hearing all about this amazing fisherman and friend from my dad for so long, I was not expecting to open the door to see a little guy about my height with a Santa Claus beard. I thought he would be so much bigger!”   
Ray and his dog, Tiggie, named for Tiggie Peluso
After Ray was not allowed to drive anymore because of his health, we started going through withdrawal, missing his daily drop-in’s, even if it was only for a few moments because, “I gotta get home and make dinner for Anne”, the woman who stole his heart when he first came to the Cape, no matter how many times he found himself “in the doghouse”.  We kept listening for the bells hanging on our door that always jingled when he let himself in.  “Anybody home?  Are ya decent?”  We kept looking for his truck to drive in and hear the slam of the door and his admonishments to his dog, "Tiggie, be quiet and lie down.  I'll get you some water."  We realized that it was our turn to help Ray, and we made “Ray-Play-Dates” to get him out of the house.  By that time, his energy was flagging, and the outings wore him out and were probably more for us than him.  But, he still had so much more he wanted to do and we wanted to help him do them.   We knew his health was failing, but like everyone else, we thought there was more time.  A few more months, maybe a year, or two...but it still wouldn’t have been enough.  

Ron and Ray on the way up Fort Hill on one of their "play dates".
Kudos to Ray’s wife, Anna, who took the best possible care of the most impossibly strong-willed patient ever, who thought he could live 'his way' forever just by being too busy to acknowledge his illness.  We knew the force of nature you were up against, Anna, and we're so grateful for your Herculean efforts.  Just as wicked Nor’easters blow bits and pieces of Cape Cod away from time to time, the universe saw fit to leave this giant hole in all of our lives who were lucky enough to know Ray.  We know he’s only as far away as our memories... 
Our birthdays were 4 days apart.  The 'Scream' tie was a gift from Ron.

His wife, Anna, planned a fun birthday party for the both of us.

He loved the chipmunk slippers I found for him.
And, the lobster hat...
...which he earned honestly.

He always included us in his holiday fun.

Was always willing to indulge my strange photography experiments.
Teaching Ron how to make pizza dough.

Goofing it up with our boys at Fort Hill.

...but we're still going to miss him, wicked bad.


  1. Thank you for this wonderful tribute to Ray. As his neighbor for the past 12 years, so many things that you mentioned about Ray sound amazingly familiar to what we also experienced. I still keep looking out the window waiting for Ray to come over for our daily talks. He was a truly kind man, with a loving heart, who was willing to help anyone who needed it. He truly was a "Cape Cod Character" who will be missed by many, especially his neighbors.

    1. This must be Ed. Thank you and I'm glad you enjoyed reading it.