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"I feel like Pope John Paul II..."

I got out of my sick bed to go to Dennis's funeral today. It was held in one of the largest, most beautiful churches in the area, St. Mary of Mt. Carmel. It's in East Utica, the former bastion of the Italian-American community in Utica (until recently the largest ethnic communities in the city, in order of longevity, were the Irish, Italian, and Polish; you used to identify where you lived by parish, not street, because there were so many Catholic churches and each had a very specific identity). It's all stained glass, painted ceilings, inlaid marble, and every piece of art has an "In Memory of" attached, most with Italian surnames.

So, when Fr. Mark (from, of all places, St. Mark's in North Utica) came forward to give the funeral homily, he started by saying that he felt like JPII at his first address to the assembly in Vatican Square, looking out at a sea of native Romans looking up at him, all thinking "So, who is this Polak?" But he knew Dennis well, was with him through the long years of his battle, and so it was right that he celebrate the Mass.

He was right, though. While the ages of the assembled friends and relative ranged from children to senior citizens, the vast majority were between 20 and 50, olive skinned, black haired, brown eyed, and harkened clearly to their roots in Calabria. There were the occasional blondes, and a few token Lombards, but otherwise, yeah. I was out of place, in more ways than one.

His sons were torn up, as was his daughter. I was touched to see that his son-in-law looked like he was taking it as hard as anyone. I think that says volumes about both men. Lynda was as I expected. She was taking it like an Evans-Wood woman--that's the lineage we share. In joy she's all Perritano; in grief the Welsh comes out.

And it was, in many ways, everything I expected. With some exception. It was a two hour funeral mass. My cousin Dennis sang (twice, and my God his tenor is beautiful). They talked about family, and the business, and family, and the Seabees, and family. Because that's both Dennis and Lynda, and why they were so incredibly right for each other. Oh, and NASCAR, but only a little. *smile* And family--did I mention that? Which includes his employees. All of these were expected.

I didn't expect the stretch limo for the immediate family. But maybe I should have. (I have to admit, it was efficient, and if there'd been one, we wouldn't have had some of the moments of embarrassment at my Uncle Pete's funeral.)

What I really didn't expect, but that I think is actually a beautiful, honorable element I never would have envisioned, is that the funeral cortege was led by his employees, driving the company vehicles, with "Dennis Padula and Sons Roofing" on the sides. Beautiful, and shiny, and proud.

Lynda knows I was there. I didn't go to the reception after--I'm family, but not really in the ways that matter at times like this. (Some things require more than blood.) It was, I am sure, an incredible laying on of food and booze, and by now there are clusters of maudlin Italian men holding each other up, and telling funny stories. The exhaustion is hitting Lynda and the kids, but they won't leave until the oldest relatives do. Who won't leave until the food is cold and the drinks are flat. Because that's what you do at an Italian funeral meal. I've been to enough of them--it's as predictable as clockwork. And it is a good thing.

So, yes, I probably shouldn't have gone. I really needed one last day in bed, and that's where I am now, and have been since I got home 2 hours ago. But I'm glad I went. A glimpse at the family I would have been welcome in, had we not moved out of Utica. I'd probably have married one of those Calabrian-sourced men, because that's who Uncle Pete and my godfather, my cousin Peter, would have approved of. And cousin Dennis would have helped with the vetting. Sometimes the veil thins, and we see a different world, a different set of...selves. No regrets, but still, an interesting view, from time to time, isn't a bad thing.

Dennis was sent off with love and tears. Not a bad epitaph. Not bad at all.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 5th, 2013 05:20 pm (UTC)
No, that doesn't sound bad at all.
Feb. 5th, 2013 06:42 pm (UTC)
My condolences, i am just now catching up on my lj reading or i would have delivered in person.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )