why is it death brings out so much superstitious thinking in me: omens, cautions, worries of what it all means? and then the memories, nostalgia, that sinking sigh of time lost.
services are set tomorrow for my uncle. this will be the first time in all the years since he and sally got back together that i’ll be meeting his side of the family. i’m sure it will be the last meeting as well. it’s hard enough to tend the ties we have with the blood relations we grew up with let alone those by marriage.
i used to have a large family, as was the norm for italians at the time. grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins all were closer and gathered at the expected times, sharing food and gossip. it used to be walking into my great-grandparent’s little row house on a typical sunday was a great navigational feat–weaving through crowded rooms of suited and skirted legs, hoping not to be stepped on or grabbed for a cheek-pulling, lip-splitting kiss.
gathering times are fewer and smaller now. families themselves are smaller and the lines of blood and marriage are thinner than they were a generation or so ago. my children never had to plot a dangerous course from front door to a small concrete backyard filled with vegetables and fig trees growing against chain-link. i miss this for them. i miss the uncles who smelled of whisky and cigars, the aunts and grandmothers with aprons and wooden spoons at the ready, the cousins forming a tight circle against the tide of grown-ups, knowing that if we stayed together we stood a better chance of escaping a rough-cheeked kiss or a too tight hug.
these gatherings are mostly dim memories now. memories of another time–no more real than a memory read in a book written by someone else. to be honest, we don’t even think about each other anymore–except maybe when a funeral comes about.
so, tomorrow i say goodbye to another uncle in my shrinking number of uncles. i’ll see some cousins for the last time, and my son will see them for the first and probably the last as well.
it’s all just too sad and i don’t know if it even matters much in the end.