Maria E.

Written By: Randy Benivegna

My grandma always says, “A man never truly grows up. His toys just get more expensive.” But for all her witty slogans and catchphrases, my grandmother also knows never to stand in the way of someone’s dreams, but rather to encourage and support those aspirations. So when my grandpa fulfilled one of his lifelong dreams and purchased his very own boat, she didn’t stand in his way. She stood by his side supportively. The boat–a 28 foot Northern Bay Down-Easter–was named the Maria E. after my grandma, Maria Elizabeth Locascio. The boat was purchased in October of 2002. October was a very significant month for my grandpa. It was in the fall of 2001 when my grandpa’s kidneys started to fail and he required an immediate transplant. At that time, buying a boat was the furthest thought from his mind. Every member of the family was just hoping and praying he’d be around the following year. On October 18th of 2001, my grandfather was the recipient of a new kidney, generously donated by his middle daughter, my aunt, Charlene Mastrangelo. You see, the boat wasn’t just a toy or an extravagant impulse buy. It was a privilege. It was something he worked his whole life to obtain and he earned that boat for all the trials and tribulations he faced. It was purchased after a lengthy retreat to New England. My grandparents had traveled to New Hampshire and Maine in the fall, ostensibly for vacation. But my grandpa had ulterior motives. Portland, Maine was where he found just what he was looking for. Once he had returned home and the deal was finalized, a second trip was required to collect the boat and the title from the seller. My grandmother opted to stay behind this time, so my grandfather invited his close friend, Bob Aarons, along for the ride. Bob and my grandpa traveled by ferry to New London, Connecticut, where the seller was kind enough to transport the boat via trailer from Portland. They trailered the boat; money was exchanged for the title, and just as they arrived by ferry, Bob and my grandfather ferried the boat back home. By now, you might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with the Hamptons or Montauk or the East End? Well, my grandparents have owned property in Montauk for thirty-one years. The boat was indeed a lifelong dream of my grandfather’s, but it certainly wasn’t the only dream he had. My grandparents shared a mutual dream of settling down in Montauk, and in 1983, they turned that fantasy into a reality. They loved it here, and that’s why they stayed all year round. From the active summer season to the dead of winter, they stuck around for it all. They stayed because they felt this was where they belonged more than any place in the world. People used to say to my grandfather, “Anthony, you must go bored out of your mind in the wintertime. What do you do out there with no one else around?” His response was, “Anything we want, or nothing at all.” If they wanted to grab a bite to eat, they had a few local establishments to choose from. If they wanted to stay in and eat dinner by the roaring fireplace, they did. If they wanted to stroll along the vacant beaches to collect beach glass (my grandma’s favorite pastime) and enjoy the tranquil scenery, they had the option. And there was always the shopping center in Bridgehampton, and the stores in East Hampton to keep them occupied. They didn’t always need huge crowds or flashy outdoor attractions to keep them entertained. They made their own fun. They had their home and they had each other, and that was more than enough for them. The rest was merely a bonus. I have many fond memories of my grandfather, and many great memories of Montauk and the Hamptons in general. My mom and dad used to visit Montauk before I was old enough to take my first steps. I’ve forged so many memories along the East End that the concept of squeezing them down into a few small paragraphs seems absurd. But alas, I’m restricted in the length of my trip down memory lane, so I have settled for sharing two of my fondest memories with you. The first took place in the summer of 2003, when I got to see him enjoy his boat with my very own eyes. Now I’d be lying if I told you I was a fan of the water. I can swim, but I’ve never had a good boating experience. I get seasick very easily, and if I do venture out on a boat, I spend most of the day with my head hanging over the side. But for one day, I put my fears aside so I could see my grandpa treasuring his dream come true. Naturally, I spent most of the day feeling seasick, but it was a small sacrifice to make to see that radiant smile on his face. And my aunt, uncle, and grandma seemed to having a great time as well. My grandma had packed a huge cooler full of sandwiches and cold beverages. But I don’t recall eating anything while I was aboard. I had taken Dramamine before boarding, but after were past the jetties, I started feeling nauseous. I do recall my uncle making a joke that they only invited me, my aunt, and my grandma along so they could catch more striped bass. But the fish just weren’t biting that day. In the end, I think it was my grandma who wound up reeling in the one big catch of the day. It’s hard to recall when I spent most of the day with my head over the rail. Eventually we turned back and I was happy when my feet touched land again, but I was happier that I got to see the joy on my grandpa’s face. The second memory that instantly comes to mind is the trips we took to Gin Beach in his black Ford Bronco together, along with their dogs, Rusty and Sissy. Rusty and Sissy were Siberian husky and Chow mixes, and they loved running up and down the vacant, pristine beaches in the fall and frolicking in the water. But what they loved even more was what followed the trip to Gin Beach. A trip to John’s Drive-In. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look forward to that trip as well. Believe it or not, the dogs loved ice cream. So we’d drive to John’s after the beach and he’d treat all of us to ice cream. The funniest memory I can recall is a little misunderstanding we had with the police. It was the summer and we had followed up our trip to Gin Beach with the standard trip to John’s. The dogs were in the car with the air conditioner running full blast, but my grandpa still didn’t like leaving them alone in there for a second. There was a bit of a wait and he was getting concerned, glancing out the window periodically to see if the dogs were all right. A female police officer was standing behind us and when my grandfather finally got the ice cream, he paid and walked out with me in a hurry. The officer noticed his distress and grew naturally suspicious. She stopped him outside, citing his nervous behavior and the fact that he purchased four ice creams and only took two spoons. At that point, my grandpa laughed and simply explained the other two ice creams were for the dogs. The officer returned his laughter and understood immediately why he was so worried. When it was over, we all enjoyed our ice cream and we laughed about the incident for years to come. On October 23rd of 2006, my grandpa underwent a biopsy. On the 27th, he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. My grandfather was a scrapper, a fighter, someone who never threw in the towel. He had survived a liver transplant in 1990, a kidney transplant in 2001, and he was determined to beat this. But on February 27th, 2008, he lost his brave battle. In 2007, the boat was sold to my Uncle Perry, the husband of my Aunt Charlene. Out of respect for my grandpa, he never changed the name. To this day, the name has remained the Maria E. and the boat has stayed operational. Someone is never truly gone as long as you remember them. I can never forget my grandpa, and I’ll cherish the memories we shared for the rest of my life. It was that same year of 2008 that I made the move to Montauk full-time to be closer to my grandma and the rest of my family. And like the rest of my family, it appears I’m here to stay. And quite honestly, I couldn’t be happier.