Thursday, March 17, 2011

The way we were

I never expected it to end like this but the truth is, expectations have always gotten my big fat heart in to lots of trouble.    I know it wasn’t your fault that you were the prodigal son and the fixer of family messes from early on, and I can see how that kind of pressure wears on a person, I really can.  It’s just that I always thought that this life’s road and the bumps on it were compressing you in to a diamond of a man: a self-made someone so many people respected and admired.  The husband, the son, the uncle, the brother, the friend, the Godfather, the businessman.  I thought it’s what was seasoning the flavor of your character—the one you were always so quick to put forward--the kind of man who touted living by example with integrity and virtue.  But it turns out the twists and turns were more like water torture for you, and even though you always said you never wanted to end up like your father, it’s what eventually broke you.  I saw your shine wearing off and tried to talk to you about it over and over again, but you were never one to use your words.  And then eventually your “I-would-never”s became your reality, your emotional tornado leaving so many of us in jumbled confusion, left to sort through the wreckage and try to make sense of it all.  To pick up the pieces you left behind of the life you worked so hard to create after you thought the grass was greener on that other side.  The hardest part was reconciling whether you were never the man I thought you to be, or if you eventually morphed in to this person so opposite the façade that you couldn’t keep up anymore.  It isn’t ever easy to admit that someone isn’t who you think they are and the truth is that I mourned that you years ago, well before you got sick.  You were instantly my uncle, baptized my Godfather, became my father-figure by circumstance and responsibility when you inherited me as a bouncing baby 8 year-old, and always my closest family blood tie.  And for as much as I have tried to understand it away and that at the end you have made amends the best way you know how, the sad fact remains that you are my biggest disappointment and worst heartbreak.  It seems that even the strongest, most virtuous rocks can crumble.

But today, I will remember everything good.  I will remember the man who instilled in me the importance of friendship, goodwill, of the people you choose to bring in to your created-family being the biggest reflection of you.  I will remember you doing anything you could to help a friend.  I will remember being the 3 year old wondering why the Santa who came over on Christmas Eve had her Uncle Sal’s eyes.  And shoes.  I will remember those quiet pre-dawn, sleepy weekday car rides with you the first summer I moved in when you were dropping me off for the day at Auntie M’s because nobody was quite sure what else to do with me.  I will remember Motown, Chicago and Dean Martin.  I will remember our oddly puzzled-together family of 3 sitting side by side in your El Camino heading to cut down our Christmas tree.  I will remember the rumble of your work truck when you’d park in front of Nonna’s for a visit and the sound of the garage door heralding your homecoming in the afternoons meaning I had 35-50 seconds to get off that damn phone and pretend to be doing homework.  I will remember Feast of Fishes and baked ziti and O’Brien potatoes.  I will remember the look on your face when we were pulling out of the hospital and you knew your mom was dying.  I will remember the look on your face when we sat alone in that red booth the day my mom died, and you realized you didn’t have to worry about your crazy sister’s mistakes anymore.  I will remember you almost shitting your pants when you were teaching me to drive and I thought making a left hand turn at the red light on Golden Springs was legal (whoops!).  I will remember long weekends at the lake.  I will remember your open door policy and your thrill at having people congregate weekend after weekend in the home you were so proud to have built.  I will remember that you loved Frosted Flakes, Crystal Light, watermelon, meatballs, German Chocolate cake and coconut.  I will remember you teaching me: how to dive, how to pour a perfect shot without a jigger by the age of nine (because every young girl should have at least five cocktails she can mix at a moment’s notice!), the importance of a perfect margarita, that V0/7’s should always be tall, not to buy it if you can’t pay for it today, how to perfectly fan bar napkins for a party, the difference between screwdrivers, how to put air in my tires, the importance of looking up and using a new word every day.  I will remember years of late night gift wrapping for you when you’d show up with bags and bags of loot for Auntie on Christmas Eve (sweet, annoying and verging on child labor!).  I will remember dancing with you at my surprise 16th birthday party on a boat with most of our favorite people.  I will remember sitting with you watching the TV in horror as LA rioted and they pulled that man out of his truck and beat him and how you told me to always be aware that actions cause unimaginable ripple effects.  I will remember you trying to figure out what to say to me after I got my heart broken for the very first time and the look of helplessness you had on your face when I burst in to tears.  I will remember the way you carried that huge, heavy dining room table--my very first big-girl home purchase—up all of those stairs to my apartment.  I will remember Culture Club, the way you always got misty at “Harry & the Hendersons”, how we could watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Footloose” together over and over again.  I will remember going with you to vote, Disneyland and The Turkey House.   I will remember the way you used to grab Auntie in the kitchen and give her a smooch.  I will remember New York trips.  I will remember my 21st birthday and loving that you guys wanted to spend it with me.  I will remember my college graduation party and how mortified you were the next day that you got overserved...by yourself.  I will remember your National Guard stories, Northwood’s Inn Sundays, that you were always fun at parties, could talk to anyone, loved all of your Godkids fiercely, taught little babies how to give lewd hand gestures and fed them lemons.  I will remember being your flashlight holder year after year while you were up on the roof hanging those Christmas lights just-so and Halloween parties.  I will remember Lakers games, football pools and your USC helmet chip and dip, 4th of July parties with your annual Firework Extravaganza in the cul de sac, the 1984 Olympics.  I will remember your Italian pride and the (gaudy!) Lira rings you had made for us.  I will remember your pride in America and how you hung Old Glory with reverence and respect every holiday.  I will remember Paco Rabane, your hideous perms and muscle pants of the 80's, and that I never, ever in my whole 37 years saw you without that moustache. 
Today I will remember the you from my beginnings with love, respect and gratitude.  We said goodbye and you're with all of our angels now.  I hope that wherever we really end up to rest after we go gives you all of the answers to the questions I’m not sure you realized you always had.  And I wish for your soul and spirit nothing but peace.

11 comments:

  1. I am officially verklempt. Condolences. This is precious, tender, moving, intriguing... a beautiful tribute. I have so many questions & quid pro quos. Oh! Just remembered I will (WILL) see you at end of month! Squeee! xo

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  2. Oh Sue......I am soo sorry friend! You have such a way with words ........and I can only imagine how cathartic that was for you to write. Thinking of you and sending lots of hugs your way!

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  3. Sue....your post is amazing and beautiful. Todd told me about Sal last night. I am sad to hear it ended this way. If you need anything don't hesitate to call. lots of love coming for you and donna from the melansons. Xoxoxo

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  4. Thanks so much, beautiful friends. xo

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  5. The first part of this was so amazing, so poignant, so completely exactly what it should be. You are an amazing writer. You have captured that thing that, prior to reading this, I didn't know needed capturing.

    The second part was so loving, so beautiful, and in some ways, more difficult than the first. Only wishes of peace to you, for reconciliation has clearly arrived.

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  6. This is beautiful and so touching. I will remember our "fan off," USC parties and one of your house parties in college (maybe your 21st?) I'm pretty sure I took shots with Sal. This truly is a wonderful tribute. Love you! V

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  7. Wait just one hot second. That photo of the three of you wasn't there last night when I read this. Pretty sneaky, sis. Aldo: How cute are you?! Cut it out, will ya?! [RIP Uncle Sal.]

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  8. So difficult to express the grief and loss associated with Sal (past and present) but you managed to do it so gracefully. I love you and am here.

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  9. Beautiful. As are you.

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  10. speechless....touched...honored to share in this space...forever an imprint on my heart...

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