Al is old school. An Italian immigrant, his parents brought him from Southern Italy when he was 12 years old. Not knowing a word of English, they immediately threw him into public school -- way before the days of ESL classes. From a family that never believed in complaining or failing, Al made his life a wonderful success. He raised three children with his beloved wife. He has taught school for over 40 years. Three years ago his wife, who had been the provider of fabulous homemade treats for our lunchroom, caught the flu. Within 19 hours she was dead. Al, never complaining, carries on. Now his treats are store bought. Every time he brings them we fondly recall the delicacies his wife used to make us.
At 67 years old Al can still beat his soccer team up the four double case flights of steps. They've learned not to challenge him. He agrees that on the straight away the boys can beat him -- but not charging up those steps. Some nights he's at school until 11 p.m., head coach of a group of immigrant boys struggling with English and in love with soccer.
Two summers ago, his son flew him back to Italy first class to reconnect with his relatives. We're still sitting through the picture shows of that trip. This past summer, with his mother now 92, Al spent the summer in Omaha learning how to make his favorite Italian dishes. He came home the master of spaghetti sauce.
Over the weekend, Al went to Whole Foods and got all the freshest ingredients. Then he made his mama's sauce -- organic tomatoes, fresh oregano. He also bought two packages of Italian pasta and pretty good sized wedge of parmigiano reggiano. Then he spent four hours making mama's sauce.