If you read Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar, you know there was a teacher who changed my life. He was the theater director at the community college I started out at. One of the reasons I decided to “go public” with the book was because I wanted teachers to read it. I wanted them to know how much power for good they hold in their hands. How far and wide their ripples extend. How much some kids truly need a kind word, or a little extra support. How truly transformative it can be when we get it.
Over the last 25 years, Angelo Zuccolo has been the teacher I’ve stayed in touch with. He rallied the troops for the benefit concert we held to raise money for Riley’s service dog. He’s written me glowing references for every job I’ve ever had. He has a way of puffing up one’s accomplishments, and forgetting about your failures.
My dear friend and teacher Angelo Zuccolo left this earthly plane quickly and unexpectedly yesterday. He leaves behind his two beautiful daughters, just little girls when I met them. He leaves behind so many friends and students whose lives he changed for the better. One person who read my book emailed me in March and said, “That exercise your theater teacher had you do…the one you mentioned in the book….I just did it with my students and it was amazing!”
25 years later, a teacher all the way across the country, her students, benefitting from his ripples.
He made me feel like I was worth something. Like I mattered. And you know what? He did this for everyone. He parented his two girls, and then had enough left over to parent the rest of us some, just enough to see us on our way.
I will miss him.
Below, I am re-posting a piece I wrote about him in 2010.
Angelo, it was an honor and a privilege to be in your circles.
I love you.
It is always such a treat for me when my former theater professor writes a new book of poetry. I was fortunate to do a work study in the theater, and we worked side by side for a couple of semesters. In all that time, he never talked much about his personal life. He was a single dad. Sure, he gushed about his daughters, but not a peep about his love life.
His romantic poetry is so very personal. It almost feels like I shouldn’t be reading it! Like I happened upon his diary and took advantage of the situation!
Still, it’s the poems about his daughters which get to me most. Angelique and Marielle. Just little girls when I met them. Both grown now. Gorgeous dark haired beauties, making their way in the world as successful adults.
Looking Forward to Heaven
people ask me
if I’m looking forward to Heaven.
My reply is always
that I have already been to
every time that I walked down
with you on
your little blue tricycle
on my left
with your little sister in
her little blue stroller
in the center
our wonderful family dog
strutting along on our right.
We sang marvelous little songs
as we went on our way,
calling out to the world.
I’ve already been to Heaven
many times, and
it’s as incredibly joyful
as people say.
See why he’s so special?
Everyone should have such a teacher in their lives.
Here’s hoping we all look around and see a little heaven in our own lives today.
Angelo Zuccolo is the author of At Nighttime’s Bedside, New Year’s Laughtears, The Ocean Rose, Forty-Four Poems in Search of a Long Black Dress, and numerous short stories and playscripts.