Editor’s Note: This post was written before our trip to New York last week, but I was waiting to hear back from my aunt before posting it. I’ve just heard back from her tonight. Though I’ve already talked a bit about our trip to my uncle’s funeral, here’s what was on my mind on December 12, the day before we headed northeast to our family.
This past week was one of those weeks that offers more than one person should be asked to handle, culminating with sad news on Friday that my Uncle Sam in New York has joined my father and other family members now “bowling in Heaven.”
You met Aunt Barbara, my father’s younger sister, the week I blogged about Mom’s 80th birthday party. Aunt Barb and Uncle Sam married on June 16, 1963 – forty-seven-and-a-half years ago – and they parented two beautiful girls, my cousins Anamarie and Sandra.
Uncle Sam had been ill for a number of years, and in the past few months things had taken a turn for the worse. Nobody was surprised by the news, I don’t think, but that doesn’t take away one ounce of ache, especially for Aunt Barb, my cousins, and their families. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers in the weeks and months ahead as they work through this difficult time.
Thinking about Uncle Sam most certainly brings a smile to my face. He was exactly what you think of when you think of an Italian uncle. He wasn’t a tall man, and he did gray nicely with a good head of thick hair. He was a wonderful gardener and most importantly a hard worker. But it was his broken English that stands out most in my mind. I’d be lying if I said I understood everything he said to me over the years. Though he came with his family to America while still a young man, they all continued to speak the “language of music” at home.
It’s difficult to describe the way Uncle Sam pronounced the word beautiful – the “beau” was more of a “boo” … boo-tiful. Nah, that doesn’t do it justice – but it was a word he used often, and in my head I will hear him saying it till the end of time. It was, after all, a testament to the beauty he saw in his wife, in his daughters, in his grandchildren … in all of us.
Italian grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles are known for slipping a few bucks in your hand when you hug them goodbye prior to a long journey. Aunt Barb would hand me a couple bucks, saying “Shh, don’t tell anyone.” Then Uncle Sam would turn around and hand me a couple more. Sometimes it was the other way around. Either way, I usually protested – I may well be the only niece who would say, “But Aunt Barb already….” “No, no, no,” was the response. They were just that generous; that was just how it was done.
Rest in peace, Uncle Sam. Ti vogliamo bene. Oh, and here’s a few bucks for your journey… Shh….