Friday, December 4, 2009

When Will It Ever End? (Excerpt 5 of 5 from "Opening the Naked Window" - Book 2 of the Memoir Series)

I bet you thought I forgot to post the fifth/final segment/sample from book 2 of the memoir series. No - as promised, this passage takes place in book/season two, chapter/episode 20.


July 31, 1995

My dad was unusually chipper when we awoke that morning. He nonchalantly told my mom and I that his mother, Grandma Cassone had passed away and it was like he had seen her like one would see an angel. I was red with anger. I never felt much like an outcast until I dealt with my father's uppity, extended family and I wasn't looking forward to yet another 'Cassone funeral.' I grew tired from a very young age of all the weddings and funerals and weddings and funerals and get the picture. We were the only ones who remained behind in Detroit. Aside from my Uncle Don and Grandma Cassone, the rest of them pretty much seemed forgetful of their own humble beginnings. I knew in my hardest of hearts that when it was my father's time, Mom would force me to keep in touch with them. However, I found them all to be a bunch of fake asses and they made my stomach turn on many occasion.

So, we'd be going to yet another funeral and I was certain there would be high drama. You see, Uncle Rosario was the 'black sheep' of the family, had a very bad gambling problem that took all his money and in time sent him crying to my parent's front door late one night. He wanted to stay with us and I heard a bitter, yet understanding display of words from my father. My father wanted nothing to do with Rosario's problem, not Rosario himself, but his problem. I ran into Rosario a few months before Grandma Cassone's death and he told me to tell my father he didn't have a little brother anymore.

My father being the soft hearted man he could be would have been devastated by the notion, so Mom and I decided it would be best to keep that little bit of information from him. What gives, though? Would Rosario not speak to him at their mother's funeral? It would surely be the measure of his manhood if he could over look my father's rejection of him, which my father viewed as helping Rosario more than hurting him, but sock-it-to-me if Rosario didn't utter one word to my father at the funeral or the social that followed. I was quick to inform him he didn't have a 'weird nephew' any longer.

My father was a wreck at the funeral. He just writhed in pain. Mom and I would have even preferred if he hadn't gone, but we knew better than to fight him on it. Hell, it was actually something he wanted to do. My brother, Sean, was great to Mom and I then. He drove us to the funeral. He was the only of my siblings that my dad's extended family took to. Again, aside from Uncle Don and Grandma, my father marrying my mother who had children from a previous marriage was a complete and total no-no. They nosed down at us every chance they had, like my mother was the whore of the Amazon or something. It would really get to me after while, but my mother was better than all of them.

I would be so proud of her, even when I was too young to really figure it out. At all those weddings and funerals, she would always be the one sitting next to Grandma Cassone laughing and carryin' on like two Judy's. And out of all my numerous male cousins it was I who danced with Grandma Cassone first. It was tradition for the youngest grandson to dance with Grandma first. I would laugh to myself thinking they would try to look down on us, but they couldn't be blind and surely saw we were what the backbone of this family was made up of. Hardworking. Middle class. City folk. Not white collar, rich suburbanites - that's what they worked for and became.

I swear if my writing ever takes me anywhere and I get rich and remotely famous one day, I pray I don't ever forget where I've come from, because it can happen. When it's sad. I didn't know my Grandpa Cassone. He died when my father was just 16. However, from all the stories my Dad told of his father, I am sure he would be spinning at the sight of how the family treated us. Not Grandma Cassone, though, she saw beyond the simple mindedness. My siblings were like any of her other grand children. They got Christmas cards with the rest of us. I truly believe there was an unspoken respect for my mother in her eyes. Kinda like those who are last are first.

So, there we are at her funeral. My dad was a wreck. My brother, Sean, and I kept making faces at one another, which made me almost burst into laughter. We would always do that sort of thing, to break the monotony and I was sure my Aunt Donna remembered the time I embarrassed her at my Uncle Steve's funeral. Uncle Steve, like so many men in my family, had a bad history of heart disease and stroke. He had seven heart attacks and when he died; my mother broke my heart at how sad she was. She really respected him and what he had done for his family over the years. He kept them real. This was some years before, when I was just a boy and I remember he was the one that practically raised the family with Grandma Cassone, when Grandpa Cassone got sick and eventually died.

I remember Uncle Steve and I having a very deep conversation about Meryl Streep. It's funny how I remember that so vividly now. He could see I had some sort of talent for acting and he told me to make something of it. Then he went on and on about how great this Meryl Streep would be. It strikes me funny because this was like back when she was in The Deer Hunter. He had an insight about everyday people too, that he got from Grandma Cassone for sure and Uncle Don and my Dad had it too, but the rest of them... You already know. So, Aunt Donna and I were praying by Uncle Steve's casket and it was quiet and I started trying to sniff out this scent that came across my nose.

"What is that?" I said sternly.

Aunt Donna, my Dad's sister-in-law said, "Oh, you must be smelling my perfume."

Then I said, slowly (which added to the hilarity), "I thought it was formaldehyde."

After Aunt Donna and I shared a hysterical laugh, right over Uncle Steve's casket mind you - we thought he would actually bust a gut with us; we were carrying on so much. She 'thanked' me and I never lived it down. You know how something was once funny, but every time you see them and they tell the story isn't funny anymore. So, she of course just had to tell everyone the story over and over again.

What I noticed so much at Grandma Cassone's funeral was what all my dad's siblings obviously did not want to see and that was how sick my father was. Aside from Uncle Don's wife, Aunt Sandra, asking probing questions you would have thought my dad looked normal. That was so not the case. He had to walk with a walker and with my brother's and my help. My mother seemed a bit rebuffed once we got to the car, to go to the cemetery, at their sudden case of nearsightedness. See, what our side of the family is made up the time we got to the cemetery we were all practically in tears from laughter, my father included. I would always throw a sarcastic remark out there to get laughs and Sean was always certain to practically do pratfalls to get a snicker or two - that time he had burned himself with the car's cigarette lighter, trying to get it for my mother.

So, there's my mother bitchin' about my dad's family, my dad trying to talk her down, then I throw out a snarly insult and Sean's screamin' and hollarin' because he burned his finger and didn't quite know where on the car floor that hot cigarette lighter went to. We just all started to laugh and we were once again perceived as the 'weird ones.'

Which was fine with me...

I'd rather be weird than snooty any day of the week.


Opening the Naked Window and other books by Antonio Cassone are available at Amazon >>>>CLICK HERE<<<< and other fine online retailers.