Thursday, July 13, 2006

On a Personal Note....

So yesterday, as Milingomania reigned on these pages, the clan gathered to pay a final farewell to Uncle Gene. The sight of my aunt, devoted to the very end and broken at the descent of death's earthly reality, was more than enough to keep the rest of us swimming in tears through a day filled with rough moments.

In the name of Aunt Ang, and that of my cousins and all of us, eternal thanks to all of you who sent prayers, condolences and such beautiful words after Saturday's post. I shared your words and sentiments with them, and especially as my aunt is probably (after the Boss) the most faith-filled among us, know that your expressions and promises of prayer really helped keep her lifted and strong through these days. As she said to me after she arrived in town the other night, "Rocky, I really feel like I'm being carried," so thanks again to all of you who, from near and far, joined to lend the spiritual assist.

As I noted the other night, it was the first time my Mom's family had gathered to bury one of our own in half a century, minus two weeks. Again, not an easily thing to get used to. But the days showed the best of all the values we've been instilled with, and to witness that was a real grace and blessing.

Every time our Virginian branch of the family comes home to Philly -- which, given the number of us all and the hectic lives we lead, basically boils down to wakes and weddings -- a bunch of us among the hometown cousins have this tradition of putting our parents, aunts and uncles away for the night and getting together with the travelling cousins, usually at a nice, quiet bar, and letting the stories and the conversation fly at a steady clip.... Of course, the screaming laughter usually isn't far behind. True to form, despite the long day, we didn't break for the night until 3 in the morning. And it'll pick up again in a couple weeks when I head down to Blue Ridge country for some R&R, to keep my aunt company for a bit -- and, of course, to moderate the Great Diocesan Blog Catfight brewing in the church of Richmond.

Don't worry -- when it happens, Whispers will be coming at you live from Virginia, where (as it should be everywhere and at all times) a Philadelphian is bishop. (Che gioia.)

Even though I do want to make like the Vatican and enjoy a restful August.

Well, somewhat restful. I hope.

Looking out onto the crowd gathered for the funeral luncheon -- around 125 or so people, with maybe 10 or so immediate family-members absent -- my mother had the quote of the day when she said, "There are four strangers here." As you can see, in this context "strangers" = people not blood-related.

Making her first trip out of the house since April, the Boss appeared to pay tribute to her first son-in-law to head homeward. As Gram isn't walking so well (she had to stay in one of the cars for the internment) she kept me busy getting her customary glasses of wine mixed with ginger ale. And a steady stream of her seven children, 26 grandchildren and their spouses and 28 great-grandchildren kept her company as she fired her trademark verbal grenades.

In recent weeks, I've come to find a good new tactic to keep my grandmother peaceful -- which, as her many descendants know, is no easy task. Whenever she settles on a new target on whom to vent her frustrations about things that, despite happening seventy years ago, she remembers with crystal clarity, I pull my wallet out and either toss it onto her lap or pull out the cash and, while she's not looking, push it into her hand.

Immediately, the airing of grievances against long-dead people ends and she starts flipping through the bills like a child with a new toy. She tries to give the $20 or so back to me, and I put up a playful fight, and then she offers either her legendary salvo, "You know, money makes the blind see and the lame walk," or simply, "You know, I love money."

Yes, we know -- we all know. This is, after all, the woman for whom the highlight of any holiday is when, as the relatives walk into the family seat, each approaches the head of the table, kisses the seated Boss and lays the recommended "tribute" (a card, envelope, and extra little something) before her.

In my case, she returns it, noting as she does that she's only lending it back to me. Ya gotta love it. For my sake, please pray that she makes it to see 90 in the fall, because I have absolutely no clue what I'd do without her.

After a week filled with grief, joy, laughter, sadness, no down-time and a flood of visitors from afar, I'm hoping to take a breather. The latest chapter of Milingo Madness made everything that much more hectic; it was supposed to be a quiet start to the week but, per usual, it was not to be. The things I do for this beat.....

For those of you not counting down, ecclesiastical Love Week begins in Philly ten days from tomorrow, so I need to head into it rested, ready and, of course, tanned. Please keep the stories, comments, corrections, etc. coming, and thanks again to all of you who have enough tolerance to put up with reading the daily feed.

This work will never be completely worthy of your time, interest, goodness/hatred and support/defamation but, like Avis, we try harder. In God's time, may the effort eventually be vindicated.