January 29, 1924 - May 31, 2010
When I was a little girl, a very little girl, I was afraid of 2 things - dogs and men. Ok. Are you done laughing? It's true. A collie named Prince who lived down the street cured my fear of dogs. My fear of men, a fear I might have done well to keep to a greater degree than I have, simply faded with time. Exposure. Overkill. Growing up sandwiched between two brothers, one a year older, the other a year younger, probably helped. But at the beginning, men scared me. Except for my father. And his brother. From the very start, my Uncle Angelo was one of my favorite people.
My memories of him from when I was a very young girl are vignettes, as such memories from childhood tend to be. But they have stayed with me powerfully all my life. And even though he moved his family from NJ to Tennessee when I was 8 or 9 years old, he always remained a very solid figure in my life.
I remember one time I went somewhere in the car with only my father and my uncle. It was the 50s. No one had seat belts. Little children were not restricted to the back seat. My dad was driving. I rode in the front seat, a bench seat, nestled between my two favorite men, smelling the sweet, rich aroma of my uncle's pipe smoke, and feeling his arm around me. I don't remember where we were going, or why I was the only one with them - I must have been less than 3 at the time. I only remember feeling safe, crawling into Uncle Ange's lap, smelling his pipe tobacco and asking him to sing a silly little ditty which I believed to have been written just for him - "Angelina, Angelone-uh, 50 cents a water melone-uh." I was 3. It made me giggle. When you were around my dad and his brother, you giggled a lot if you were a little girl. If you were an adult, you were regularly reduced to laughter so hard that it made you hiccup. No one else stood a chance. They were impossibly funny together.
My uncle Angelo died Monday night. My father's brother, the man who held me on a short car ride when I was a toddler, who also held me and cried with me at the bedside when my father died is gone from this life. The only one left now from that generation is his wife, my Aunt Adele. I can barely conceive of the breadth of her loss. She has lost her best friend, and her partner. In 2006, I attended their 60th anniversary party. How do I even begin to get my mind around that?
This afternoon, I'll drop the dogs off at the kennel for a three night stay. Tomorrow morning, I'll head over to my brother's house. We'll fly down together to be with our aunt, our cousins and their children. We'll be at the visitation on Thursday night, and at the service on Friday morning. And by Friday night, I'll be home in my own bed again, looking forward to picking up the dogs on Saturday morning. All the ritual and ceremony that surrounds death will be done with. And we who are left to grieve will go on with the rest of our lives. I know they are always with us, those to whom we've had to say goodbye. Each of us builds a matrix of emotional constructs to understand it. For me these things will always be true - that a lilting descant will recall my mother; that I can never repair anything around my house without feeling my father's hand guiding me; that a steak sizzling on the grill will bring my friend Mike's booming voice to mind so clearly I will hear him; and that catching the scent of someone's pipe will forever, as it has always, make me feel safe in my uncle's arms.
I'm glad your struggles are done. Rest now. Mark and I will be with your children tomorrow, and we will all celebrate your life. I love you, Uncle Angelo. That's always been, and it will always be so.