So, Paula and I and Tricia are sitting at a picnic table, talking with Dennis Malone at Sunday's Rally for Ralph.
And the man of the hour sidles up to the table to say hello.
"You're not getting me just yet!" Ralph Dantino says to Dennis, a big grin on his his face, which today is beaming with energy and hope.
"That's OK," says Dennis, the lifelong Geneva resident and owner of . "I'm not in any hurry. You take all the time you need!"
On this perfect Sunday picnic in June at Riverside Banquets, it only feels right to laugh and give the Grim Reaper a little NBA-style elbow in the ribs.
Because this is a day that celebrates life and love and family and community.
We got to the Rally early—Paula and I and Tricia (Kathryn was at a graduation party)—and the photos here don't give you a good sense of the huge crowd of people who came to enjoy the food, the games, the music, the raffles and the conversation. And to do a little good along the way.
Ralph is, of course, the Geneva alderman and former School Board member, contestant and perennial community volunteer who is battling a rare appendix cancer. The rally was put together by friends who knew that the mounting expenses of medical treatment were more than any family should bear.
It's hard to accept the charity of friends, and Ralph had said to me at least once after a City Council meeting not to make such a big deal about the fundraiser on Geneva Patch. But this is one of those rare cases when you have to say, sorry, we're doing this for you anyway.
And Ralph and Nancy could not be more deserving. Like so many of the people who were at the picnic Sunday, they are folks who give back to their friends, neighbors, schools, city and church—time and time again. They show so much grace and courage and good-heartedness, every day, just by living it, and by thinking of others more often than they think of themselves.
One of my top 10 favorite movies—probably top five—is It's a Wonderful Life. And I have no idea why, but one scene that gets me a little misty-eyed is at the end, when everyone in the town is dropping their money on the table in the Bailey living room.
Sunday was a little bit like that.
Beth Bales will have a column on Tuesday, hopefully with a ton of photos and information about how to make a donation, if you couldn't be at the rally itself.
Please make a donation if you can, because as Clarence writes inside the jacket of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, "no man is a failure who has friends," and because, you want to know a shock? Ralph Dantino is a great guy.
George Bailey: Oh, did you hear that, Annie?
Annie: I heard it. About time one of you lunkheads said it.