1/18/07

My big fat Italian wake.

Things that are apparently needed for a man over 60 to attend an Italian wake (in no particular order):

  • black shoes and white socks.
  • Light blue or tan polyester suit.
  • Striped tie at least 5 inches wide at the bottom.
  • Pants that are pulled up to somewhere around your armpits.
  • A plaid cabbie hat, or a tan and brown Stetson.
  • A crushing handshake that says, "I still got it," and a desire to advertise this fact.
  • 5-10 interesting and/or mind-numbingly boring anecdotes about "the old days."
  • A tan wool coat with flap pockets and a fur collar.
  • Varying amounts of body odor.
  • Garlic. As much as you can get.
  • Old Spice. As much as you can get.

Things that are apparently needed for a woman over 60 to attend an Italian wake (in no particular order):

  • Enough perfume to consume all the available oxygen within a twenty-foot radius.
  • Said perfume must smell like decaying flowers, or a mixture of Glade and Raid.
  • Bright red lipstick specifically designed to come off on the cheeks of others.
  • The genetic predisposition to slobber-kiss complete strangers.
  • The ability to touch and kiss deceased people with no qualms whatsoever.
  • 5-10 interesting and/or mind-numbingly boring anecdotes about "just last week."
  • More fake fur than Chewbacca and the hairclub for men president combined.

The night was incredibly sad, and many tears were shed, but it wasn't without its laughs. For instance, before the wake when we were all at my wife's grandfather's house, I realized that I forgot my black wool coat that I normally wear with my suit. Her grandfather, in an attempt to be helpful, went into his closet and brought out a full-length tan overcoat with a white fur collar and said, "Here, wear this." I laughed and said, "I can't wear that. I'll look like a pimp." He said, "What do you mean? It's the coat I'm wearing tomorrow!" Then I asked him where his bitches be at. No, actually I'm lying about that part, but the rest is true.

Later on, after most of the crowd had gone, we got to reminiscing a little. Somehow or other the conversation came around to M____'s last words. I'm pretty sure her last words to my wife were "I love you so much."

Her last words to me were:

"They stuck it in my rectum."

Apparently, she was talking about her recently received dose of Tylenol, but she didn't initially clarify that fact. I didn't find that out until a bit later. It did clear up a few things in my mind, as you can imagine.

The previous day, before I had reluctantly learned how they give Tylenol to patients who can't swallow, she felt she needed to share another important fact with me. Obviously, since she had a stroke her voice wasn't always very intelligible and she had to work at it quite a bit. Sometimes, when she concentrated really hard on what she wanted to say and took her time, it came out right.

On this particular day, she made a little "come closer" motion with the finger on her good hand, and so I did. I held her hand and leaned in close to her face so I could pick up her whisper. She paused for a second, took a deep breath, and then said:

"Papa....is a fantastic lover."

I burst out laughing, and blinked away the tears that were starting to form. Why she couldn't just tell me "I love you so much" and leave it at that, I'll never know. I dutifully passed the proclamation on to my wife's grandfather, and it made him blush and laugh a lot, so... there's that.

She was a special lady.

18 comments:

  1. Anonymous5:51 AM

    You are a fantastic person and you must live an interesting life. To find humour even in such cicumstances!By the way, am glad am first if nobody's beaten me to it by now.

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  2. Anonymous7:32 AM

    If nothing else, you'll be prepared and dressed appropriately for any Italian wakes that come along after you are 60. And some good stories from back in the day. And most importantly you know that she appreciated your sense of humor. That's pretty cool.

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  3. Italian wakes sound very similiar to Irish wakes...just subtract the garlic, and add copious amounts of whiskey and lilting songs...

    I wasn't there when my 99-year old grandmother died, but I do remember our last conversation. Her exact words, "Watch out for girls. They're sneaky and they'll try to trap you. You don't need that."

    True story.

    Sorry JV.

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  4. What a great lady. I hope I'm able to keep my wits about me and maintain my sense of humor if faced with similar circumstances.

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  5. Yeah, I'd say that Scottish/German grandmothers are the same. That list described my grandmother to a T, with one exception.

    Her slobbery, red lipstick smooch was applied with a tickly mustache. I'd put on a struggle against it to amuse the crowd and then make a smart-mouthed, but clever, comment and she'd give me smack and scold me.

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  6. That's our boy, JV. It's good that you're maintaining that sense of humor.

    So did you wear the overcoat? Just askin.

    BTW, have fun in Schenectady.

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  7. Upstate Broad11:30 AM

    Johnny, it's so great that you're handling this with your sensibility.

    I just have 1 question. My husband has been re-assigned to Virginia, he's leaving this weekend, and it's going to be a couple of months before I can join him. Do you know if Papa is busy?

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  8. "they stuck it in my rectum." i didn't know whether to laugh or cry! those have got to be in the top five of famous last words.

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  9. Okay, "they stuck it in my rectum" and "Papa is a fantastic lover" paints a mental portrait I don't want to have about anyone's grandparents. I'm not sure what my grandmother's last words will be but I'm pretty sure one of them will be the F-word.

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  10. No, I didn't wear the overcoat. But he did. And he looked fabulous.

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  11. Why this post made me cry when the sentimental and beautiful photograph did not is a quasi-mystery. Although perhaps it was because this post made her a) human and b) fantastic. My great-great grandmother divorced her husband in the early 1920's because he failed to give her an orgasm. Yeah I'm not kidding. Apparantly in Norway getting divorced in those days was freaking unheard of. Getting divorced for that reason - BRILLIANT.

    I keep telling my husband that he's got to stay on his toes - I come from a family of women that take some things very seriously.

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  12. Nessa, do mean consistently or just one time?

    Cuz if it was just the one time, that's pretty harsh.

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  13. I think we're talking EVER. However, I tell my husband it was just the one time. Can't let him get comfortable...

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  14. Anonymous10:14 PM

    JV- your wife's grandmother sounds like a fantastic woman I would've loved to have known... and FYI... you hit the Italian funeral thing head on. I laughed right out loud.. been there.. done that.

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  15. Anonymous5:59 PM

    does your wife's grandfather have any 'single' brothers? or, perhaps he doesn't need THAT much time to grieve the loss of his wife?

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  16. This is funny and touching. My late mother had alzheimers , and sheonce remarked to me that my father was "a good lover too", after I had been commenting on his gardening skills. Later, she forgot totally that she had ever been married, so I hope that her last memories of him were nice ones.

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  17. I'm sorry for your loss.
    As a full blooded italian I have to say, you nailed it. The description brings back a lot of memories....

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  18. Sounds a lot like our Irish funerals, only everyone where's black, theirs a LOT of drinking involved after wards and at least one person (usually a less well know female relative) causes a scene.

    There is a story in my family of a rather large, wailing, long lost cousin who, while trying to kneel on the prayer stand (gotta love the Irish Catholics!) lost her balance, tried to catch herself on the first thing handy and...you guessed it, pulled over the coffin, dumping my GG Uncle onto the floor! My Grandmother told me this story, it was the first close relative she lost and her first funeral. She was five. Back then they still had the wakes at home. I don't know how she ever went to a funeral again! She passed away 6 months ago at the age of 90 and lately a lot of the stories she told me and things she taught me are popping up in my head at odd moments...then I cry, or laugh, or both...

    I know this is several years out dated but I hope your fam is dealing well at this time.

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