what came before; what’s coming

My father and three of his sisters, ca 1929
My father and three of his sisters, ca 1929

My father’s sister Irene, who was born on July 17, 1910, has died. Now of the ten children in that family, only Aunt Dot is left.

Old people die, and while Aunt Irene’s death wasn’t unexpected, it still gives me a lot to think about. My father, who died in 1985, was very close to Irene. If I believed in heaven, I’d imagine them all sitting around a big kitchen table. My father along with Joe, Katie, Fran, Ebby, Lou, Ann, and Freddy and their spouses, all arguing about food and how was it that Aunt Fran got such a bee in her bonnet, and whether it was 1933 or 1934 the photo of Grandma Rose in the blue dress was taken.

Right now they’d be making room for Irene. Somebody, probably Aunt Ann, would hand her a dish of manigot and braciol’, and somebody else would remark on how ma never cooked it that way, sausage in the sauce, whose idea was that? My father and his brothers would be telling dirty jokes with the punch lines in Italian, and Aunt Kate would do her duty by smacking the worst offenders with the flat of her hand on the back of the head, or, if she’s feeling benevolent, a wooden spoon. Somebody would tell the story of the day pa almost shot the horse for spooking and spilling a whole day’s worth of berry picking except ma locked him out of the house so he couldn’t get his gun.

Somebody else — I imagine my father doing this — would say how nice it is to see Irene, and ask for news of the rest of us. I’d like to be a part of that conversation, someday. Another thirty years or so.

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