Thomas DeBaggio wrote the books that I am reading currently, "When it Gets Dark" and "Losing My Mind", which focus on his struggle with Alzheimer's Disease. The novels are haunting and beautiful, and have moved me to tears at times and made me laugh at others. I had written about "When it Gets Dark" only yesterday, and through a misunderstanding, I thought that Thomas had passed some time ago, only to learn that he actually passed this past Monday, February 21st. I opened the Washington Post today and saw his obituary there, and it was quite a shock.
Thomas talks about the things he sees on his walks every morning, and lived in North Arlington. I used to walk a few dogs in the same areas described when I worked for Happy Hounds. I even remembered passing his house on one of my routes. It has been fascinating to read about his observations of Arlington present versus Arlington past. One of his first apartments was even near my previous apartment. In the book, he even sings the praises of The Italian Store, an Italian grocery store and deli that was a frequent lunch stop for me on an afternoon of dog walking. The connections I have made with things that he says and sees in the books has been quite amazing.
As many people surely have felt after reading the books, I feel like I knew him. His candid writing style and fragmented story vignettes paint the picture of not only a man's life and remembrances, but his struggle to write it all down before the images flicker away. When his frustration and anger come out, you feel it too, and the moments of joy that he recalls bring a smile to your face. More than anything, the books have taught me more of the beauty and fragility of life itself, and to enjoy every single living moment that you can. And when a book can do that, it is truly written by an amazing human being.
Rest in Peace, Thomas. You have been and will be very much in my thoughts.
Full Washington Post Obituary can be found HERE.
Here is another mention from the Washington Post Blog.
And another from NPR. Which you can listen to HERE,
and Thomas's son,Francesco, wrote his own message on the DeBaggio's Herb Farm and Nursery website.