This weekend I got to experience a lot of memories. I spent the early years of my childhood and most of my ongoing summers in Connecticut until I graduated high school. This state holds a special place in my heart and will always feel like my home. It has been a long time since I visited this state. I went last year for a memorial and before that for my grandfathers funeral. This visit was proving that my travels were becoming predictable…this time it was for a funeral for my godfather and Uncle Johnny. He passed away Easter Sunday due to a heart attack and most of my dads-side of the family from all over the Eastern border found their way to find closure.
The moment I stepped inside the airport of White Plains New York I was flooded with memories. Every year my Poppy and Grandma would pick us up at the airport. I realized, for the first time, that my poppy would never pick me up from this place again since he had passed away when I was a junior in high school.
I spent a few days in Norwalk with my grandmother and cousins where I got to remember so many things as I stepped into each room. My boyfriend and I dropped our bag off in the spare bedroom that my brother and I often had shared. Every morning we would be awakened by a rooster that lived a few houses down. I sat in the kitchen to have my grandmothers ziti and special homemade sauce. For the first time I found that I had a lot of time to just sit around and hear stories. I asked my grandmother about how she met poppy. She remembered every last detail down to what she wore which warmed my heart knowing that she had what most people spend their entire lives looking for, friendship and true love.
The next day we visited what I think is the most amazing concept of a grocery store, Stew Leonard’s. I love that place. Only there can you actually pet cattle and then go buy milk and other fresh groceries. That was like my childhood play pen while my grandmother shopped.
Sunday was the hardest day of all because I had to say goodbye to someone else and forever be reminded of his memories just like I am of poppy. I stepped into a catholic church, a religion I no longer practice. I had to do the first reading, which I forced myself to do. These words I read were meaningless to me as I stood up there. I couldn’t understand what they meant and why they mattered. When I read the word death I had to pause and choke back my tears. I did my best even though I could hear the wavering in my voice as I pushed myself through. I sat down in the pew and did my best to push back those emotions that I thought I had used up months ago. My Aunt gave a beautiful eulogy filled with memories and wisdom. Later, at the plot, I had to read a letter from my brother which reminded me that he wasn’t here to deliver it and that made me angry and sad.
The best part of everything was to see my family reunited at the beach in the afternoon. Telling tales of my Uncle. A very nice man had brought clams which are my absolute favorite. My poppy, uncle Johnny and dad used to clam all the time. Poppy would hide the illegal small clams in his wetsuit just for me because he knew how much I loved him. Every summer this is what we did. We would clam and then spend the whole night eating them. I held the record in that house, 96 clams in one sitting. Then afterwards grandma would freeze them and later make stuffed clams that were always delicious with ketchup. It’s sad to think those days are over. Nonetheless I enjoyed every clam I got that day. Later we walked down short beach and my Aunt Diane took what she was given of his remains and gave it to each of us so that we could let him live in the ocean. That is a beautiful thought to imagine that one of the members of the frog-men was in the ocean that he loved.
All in one weekend I experienced loss and freedom. I was reminded of how short and precious life is. That even though a family can be separated, in the end they can find a way to be close to each other…even if it is just for one day.
R.I.P. Uncle Johnny