Monday, July 7, 2014

A death in the family (July 22, 1980)

 Aunt Florence is dead.
 The shock of it more as the death of institution, part of that which connected us to earlier ages of the family, her face floating among the more important events. We knew it would happen soon. She'd been suffering for years with her tiny husband, Benny, struggling to keep her comfortable.
 Dead. The last of my grandfather's clan, the youngest of seven.
 It amazes me how things end, how the memories vanish over night with the pronouncement of death. Whole histories of whole peoples lost in a matter of moments. No formal history for anyone to examine, and the accent of their time and place, lost forever-- a stretch of personal experience that actually paints how a time was lived.
 Grandpa loved the family tradition and nearly destroyed his sons to continue it, trying to mold them into twins of the men who had come before: John-the-Baptist Sarti, Uncle Robbie, etc.  I think largely he broke their spirit and prevented them from being themselves.
 Florence, however, was a flower, hardly typical of a complacent, traditional Italian woman, and my few memories of her involved her bay-side store to which some summers I went crabbing. She rented boats and crab traps, and fed hungry fisherman hamburgers and fries.
 They lived a block up from the store in old time Bayshore houses, built like their northern companions with transformed summer houses in the back. One summer she woke in the middle of the night to catch me with the light on, asking what I was doing up so late, her voice like a ghosts rising from the main house, amused at my answer: "Reading".
 After Grandpa's death, I saw little of her. Once I think at Teddy's wedding, once more at Alice's death. But her death came a whole generation later than any suspected, as if she had stepped out of time, lasting beyond her time-- though others of that generation still linger on. Like my Grandmother now 72, or her sister, Katherine, at 70.
 But they all say something tragic about living and the passing of time, and how whole segments of experience come and go, how I will come and go, taking with me memories of my friends, relations, and the world as I have known it.
 I'll miss her. But I miss what was inside her more.

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