Heraldry and We the People, Return from Spring Break

I originally wrote this post several years ago while the “Mom blog” was in its infancy. But after watching a good friend pridefully chose “just the right spot” to display her new, official and authentic family crest– complete with expensive frame and mat–freshly purchased while visiting a Theme-Park-Mega-Land…I thought we could all use a refresher. We Americans just don’t “get” the whole Heraldry and Flying the Family Colors thing. But boy, we sure want to participate! Here’s the real scoop, along with a bit of my own shame showing ūüėČ ¬†¬†1219121525aI’m not sure, but I believe it was PT Barnum who said “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

What I am sure of is:  I am one of those suckers.

¬† The other day I was clearing out a drawer and ran across a family crest certificate that my husband and I had purchased many years ago.¬† Can you hear the Merry-go-Round music yet?¬† It came from a very “proper” looking shop.¬† I believe that it was even spelled “shoppe” ~ a spelling meant¬† to further endorse the authenticity of fake stuff.¬† But we were young and silly and newly married.¬† So we scraped together the $35.00 ( a pretty Royal sum for us 30+ years ago) and bought a “fully researched and authenticated, heirloom quality” piece of paper with our last name slightly misspelled on it.

Wow.  How cool is That ?

What I have learned since ( ironically for free via library books) is that we were totally duped.¬† A crest is only “good” for the original “owner.”¬† A father may have a certain design, but it does not pass down verbatim to his children.¬† When important families married, as was generally the plan, their crests were merged to create a new one for the identity of the newlyweds.

Maybe there was an Earl of Momenhousen who bore the crest in my drawer a bazillion years ago.  However we, the current-day Momenhousen family, have no claim to it.

¬† Heck at this point, I don’t even know what happened to the receipt ! ¬† I do have an excuse though…I am an American.¬† Almost all of us are about one inch away from obsession with “the Old Country.”¬† Additionally, we are also generally convinced¬† there is a Demi-Czar, a Baron or at least a Bergermeister in our family pedigree somewhere.

Therefore, it stands to reason that we (meaning the immediate “us”) must have claim to a heraldic shield, a family crest, or something that verifies we are from a stock above serfdom.¬† Thanks Mr Barnum, you have given a name to this madness~

Sucker.

The real truth is that Heraldic Design is pretty much about Art.  If you are Canadian, you may claim a crest for your lineage if you wish to go through a long and arduous process. For better or for worse,if you are looking for something cool to put up on the wall, its time to do some doodling.  Although I did some intensive research on the topic and found a few favorite books that I think are very good for being technically correct, I just recommend the use of an artsy relative.

Simply by Googling “Heraldry” or” Heraldic Design”, or” Colors in Heraldry” you can save yourself some time and money. If you are looking for good books on the subject (and you can persevere for a few months to get through one) I would recommend one of these three.¬† And please note, the third one is not an opening chapter, it is the title of the book:

1.  A Guide to Heraldry by Ottfried Neubecker

2.  Concise Encyclopedia  of Heraldry by Guy Cadogan Rothery

3.  The Manuel of Heraldry a Concise Description of the Several Terms Used and Containing a Dictionary of Every Designation in the Science with 350 Illustrations  by Sir Francis James Grant

If these all sound too scary, have a sit down with your clan and start brainstorming what it means to be a “Dipfenhoffper” or “Smith.”¬† Think up some words,symbols, and colors to use to represent You.¬† Maybe then craft a family logo~for your ” house”.¬† Remember, siblings should be allowed to represent the same ancestry with their own selection of colors, symbolism and mottoes.¬† Consider using a string of words that spell out your last name as a motto like the poems kids are so fond of writing out of their names .

Example (bad one, really bad one):

Bravery In The Hood Masked At Night (Bithman)

In my post titled Managing the Help(ers)” I talked a little bit about dividing this task up among different factions of the family.¬† It’s a great way to get everyone started with helping without driving you nuts.¬† And, as a bonus, if you can get everyone to create their own crest, then the cover design for their copy of the finished project will already be done.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Julie-Everhart-Fine-Art-and-Photography/161130630622523?__mref=message_bubble
Lord Levi, as rendered by my friend Julie Everhart, of Julie Everhart Fine Art and Photography

Wow, how cool is that?

It’s also as authentic as the “Heraldry” you buy in a glitzy little shop or from one of the online retailers. This is my fabulous furboy, posing as the Lord of a fictitious family who lives out their on-screen lives in a private home rented annually by their production crew.

I’d rather have this photo any day over one printed out with an ink-jet from a tourist trap! If you’d like your baby, or yourself, transformed into Napoleon or Marie Antoinette (before that whole unfortunate beheading thing) get in touch with Julie, you can have royalty “your way” as the great American (Burger) King says ūüėČ

Did Anyone Ask Laura Nelson ? An Update

About 2 years ago, I posted this rather (understatement) disturbing art image and posed the question “Did anyone ask Laura Nelson,” the woman portrayed in the image, if she wanted to be remembered that way? Now, a couple of years have passed and I am no less disturbed by this “art.” But, I am re-posting it in honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day. I am also adding the odd and far-reaching twists and connection that I have learned about this lynching. It seems that one of the people who was in the mob and a highly willing participant was the father of folksinger Woody Gutherie, famous for singing “This Land is your Land” and also in turn for fathering Arlo Gutherie of Alice’s Restaurant fame. Life is weird. History is weirder. The truth of our pasts and presents is weirder still… ¬†This was first on my blog January of 2013¬†20792708_BG2Today I had planned a very different post, but last night’s local NBC affiliate station WTHR here in Indianapolis ran this story as a “night cap.” I tossed and turned quite a bit thinking about this poor soul, Laura Nelson, and her image, taken from a 1911 photo, hanging from our city’s fancy new library’s¬† ceiling…quite awkwardly coincidental since¬† the subject of the photo is her lynching, and brashly portrayed¬† as “art”on fabric.

It’s a painful image to see.

Meant as a piece of the Black History Month observance display, I “get” that this quilt is not meant to be pretty.¬† It’s about a painful fact of our History. ¬†Most importantly (in my opinion),¬† the vignette is about the pain of Laura Nelson herself.¬† How awful.¬† How unspeakably awful.

The reporter interviewed several library visitors and the Arts Curator as well.¬† The comments were understandably mixed…one man (literally) applauded the portrait for its representation of what happened so commonly.¬† Others expressed concern over it’s potential to emotionally terrorize children stumbling onto this life-sized¬† image of a horrible death. Not just any death, a cruel and ugly death.

There were idiots interviewed too...I hope I don’t get attacked just for being white after someone sees this…

Perhaps the most telling part of the story though was captured by the news station’s photographer who caught the unfiltered reactions of those who “happened upon” the display with no warning.

I wonder how Laura herself would feel about this “art project”?¬† Would she be proud, humbled, hurt…would it make her sad to be remembered 100 years later only as a photo representing terror and wrong doing by others who were also “human.”

Last night I was finally able to drift off to sleep when it occurred to me that maybe somewhere on the same night, someone was becoming inspired to write the bigger story of this woman.  The story of Laura. The life of Laura Nelson.    Maybe a Grandchild, or a distant cousin, or cherished neighbor, or friend.

¬† Maybe, no, I am sure…

Someone should write that down…

This link will take you to the full story, it is disturbing, or it is beautiful ~it is as you perceive it.  One thing is for sure, it is not easily forgotten.

http://www.wthr.com/story/20792708/lynching-quilt-shocks-some-central-library-visitors

Merry 8th Day of Christmas Sugar Plums!

Wear all your finery at once today in celebration of the 8 Maids a Milking
We are now on day 16 of Christmas Break. The thrill is gone. Dollbaby has become consistantly surly…so we’re heading to McDonald’s for Drive-Thru breakfast

Another Christmas has passed and a fresh new calendar is opened. Now, after the stockings have been sacked, the wrapping is in shreds and all the ribbons lie crumpled in wait for the vacuum’s new belt…life will go back to something a bit like normal. I would be lying if I said I miss the frenzy once it passes.

In the coming days I’m sure tiredness will sink in. ¬†Hopefully a dash of self satisfaction for another year of “festivities well hosted” will settle over me too. I’ll be looking for a way to kick off the year with some memory invoking prose. I’ve been experimenting lately with something a little different.

Poetry as Memoir 

My poet friend Marjie Gates Giffin does this with aplomb and I really admire the results. Mom’s own journey into this emerging genre, however, has come in fits and starts of childish rhymes and goofy lyricism. But, I do keep trying. And though I won’t “set it free out it into the world” any time soon, I enjoy the fun and challenge. It stretches me creatively and is a beautiful Art Form for something I do as work each day.

If you would like to try this shorter, more distilled type of family story telling, I encourage you to take a look at Marion Roach Smith‘s lovely post about doing just this. She is the author of The Memoir Project, another must-read for those who write these crazy stories with love!

Meanwhile, here is a selection from Marjie. I dare you to read it and then NOT see the quivering tower of fluffy green deliciousness she describes! ¬†I love this poem because…

1. It’s really good

2. I am not aware that it’s poetry while I’m reading it (no brain-pain involved)

3. The picture fits smoothly into my head with comfort and ease. I understand it and see the scene and hover near it as the quick story unfolds.

4. Enjoy~

Green Salad

>*<

When I was small,

Grandma’s Christmas salad

looked green and spongy

and, when dipped by finger,

tasted tangy sweet.

It posed like a centerpiece

in a big crystal bowl

bedecked on top

with red maraschino cherries

and sprigs of holly.

Little delights were hidden

under its soft, lime folds:

tart bits of pineapple,

clumps of cottage cheese,

and best of all,

rich swirls of whipping cream.

Simply dubbed Green Salad,

the smooth and frothy Jello stuff

was as much decoration

as it was holiday treat.

With her flair for the dramatic,

Grandma bestowed it upon us

year after year after year.

With none of the flourish,

but mindful of my role,

I, too, bring forth Green Salad

for my own festive

Christmas buffets.

Some of my family disdain it;

others dish more than their share.

But without it ‚Äď

without Green Salad on my table,

I couldn‚Äôt have Grandma ‚Äď

And delicious memories ‚Äď there.

>*<

Marjie G. Giffin is a delightful poet and author of several local Indiana history books. Ripe with info and insights for Genealogy and Family History writers with stories steeped in the Old Guard and lowly working class neighborhoods of Indianapolis they are a prize for your bookshelf. Check out her listings on my own Bookshelf page.

So after sucking up the ribbon and smelling the unmistakable stench of a burnt vacuum cleaner belt…sit quietly for a moment. Relax. ¬†Then while basking in that pool of calm, see if you can pen something simple and perfect. Try your hand at poetry to sum up a moment of your family gathering.

Tradition passing down the generational stair-steps is the lovely theme here. ¬†Perhaps yours will be lovely too! And that, as always, means “Maybe someone should write that down…”

Why Did My Brain Remember & Forget?

PD_0146
Where is he headed, What is he carrying along, and Why is he walking away?

 

How often have you taken the time to “frame” an event with its lead-up and ¬†aftermath?

Like, what were you doing, what errand were you checking off your list, who did you linger to chat with at the grocery before that storm hit, your sister-in-law went into labor, the teen rear-ended your corvette at a stoplight?

Maybe after the rain stopped you found a sopping wet kitten who became a permanent member of the family, or you happened upon an old city directory at a tag sale you never planned to stop at, then sis-in-law popped out unexpected twins so you headed back to the baby store, and the reckless teen driver was the son of your high school crush!

So often a turning point day has multiple events of significance embedded within the same 24 hour stretch. We tend to fixate on what caused the most emotional stir and let the other things fall to the wayside.

It’s amazing how we can recall the big picture and let the detail slip our minds.

 

Take a walk back in time and see what you can dig up with some before and after framing…I was shocked that I had forgotten these two very different events happened on the same day. If I were a tidy-type, I would have thrown out that pile of used up day planners long ago–and likely lost this key point of the bigger story for years–maybe forever. Since I am not (tidy) and thus had not (let go of them) I tripped on this revelation.

That inspired some other “revisiting” and made several stories even richer! Even Mom’s Mama had a good time recalling putting off a trip to the library the day before an unexpected blizzard hit. Her books ended up being several dollars overdue! It was easy to laugh about it because the local paper had run a feature story about the “snow storm amnesty” the library would be offering on overdue books for the entire month of February!

I found a rather startling example recently. I had completely separated the events of a certain day into two very distinct memories–each exclusive of the other. ¬†I had totally forgotten how the two occurred on the same day.¬†We had planned a big Graduation Party for our daughter on a Saturday a full two months after she had ceremoniously received her diploma. We wanted to be sure to go far enough into summer so our party wouldn’t have to compete with any of her classmate’s. Then, we purposefully scooted it out a little farther into early August and made it a farewell-fest for all the Grads before they parted ways for College.

The Weather Channel was forecasting blue sky perfection for the day. I’d watched it hourly from the first moment the 10 day outlook was broadcast. For a perfect party, I was banking on perfect weather. I hoped to do the whole party pool-side for the kids, with their noise, salsa drips and “music” all outside. The adults could take refuge in the air conditioned, upholstered seating surfaces and non-offensive music laden land of “indoors.”

Three days before the big party, I had a general idea of the head count to expect. The weather was still looking great. I had all the beverages purchased and stacked in the garage. Friday night, we would load the old reliable extra fridge with all the pop, beer, and bottled water it would hold. I had a full battle plan in place including a prep schedule planned for all the food (of course I had to cater it myself…let’s just say I’m a little Martha Stewarty at times). I had already struck a deal with one of my best friends and a couple of neighbors to loan me some space in their garage fridges for the platters and trays I would have neatly Saran-wrapped ahead of time.

The weather forecast was holding up. It hadn’t wavered a bit for seven days. I had completed all my runs to Costco and Party City for Purple and Gold plates, napkins and disposable forks and spoons in heavy silver plastic that looked like the real stuff from a distance.

All was clicking along. Right on schedule. Spit Spot.

This stuff was all listed on the pages of one of my old day-planners unearthed recently. I’d added notes and had my customary sticky notes with assorted lists, and of course, the main sticky with the list of lists that I needed to make still…the count-down, the contingency plans, the last moment to-dos and errands. Everything within my control was under control. And if it wasn’t something I could control, I had a plan B, and C firmly outlined and listed on my Post-it notes.

Everything was in place, ready to happen–and then what I hadn’t planned for happened. The weather was perfect as I answered the phone call, only to hear news that came from out of the blueness of that clear sky. A dear cousin had unexpectedly died. The funeral service would be held Saturday. Graduation party Saturday.

Now, it’s not my intention to be callous sounding, because I clearly remember each event and what happened. But there was a huge partition in my head between the two gatherings, separated as it turned out by only 4 hours real-time. Until I found the lists, the schedule, and the notations on my old day-planner, my mind had disconnected the two events. Even though the Grad party a had been planned as a celebration of my daughter’s graduation, and a send off for her and all of her classmates, it was also became a way for our family to gather and share stories and food and happiness and grief on a perfectly mild, sunny day, without anyone going to any extra fuss.

So what did I find? A pile of old date books, yes. But more importantly, I found a link, some serendipity that I had walked through without noticing in the moment. One party, two emotionally opposite events, three reasons to gather, under the comfort of a perfectly blue sky.

Totally worth remembering.

 

 

Cures for Headlice and Other Maladies

           PD_0056

           Ew yuck~ There I said it~ Lice !

Recently my husband came home and confessed that he had let a coworker in on my secret removal method.  I was stunned!

I couldn’t believe that:

1. he had admitted that it had ever happened in our house… and

2. that he really remembered something I’d done about 20 years ago.

I have a huge abiding love of old books.¬† I am especially drawn to Etiquette and “Women’s issues” titles.¬† I believe the oldest in my collection is from the 1830s, which isn’t ” but a wee youngster” compared to lots of my Euro-reader’s own family bookshelves…but when you consider that most of them were received as gifts or rooted out at tag sales…I’m living pretty large antiquarian- biblio-wise.

One of my absolute favorites is called

  The Science of Women 

Mulierology 

for the Maiden, Wife, and Mother

Mom Note:¬† This was,¬† as far as I can tell, a compilation put out by AB Gehman in 1888.¬† A man by the name of Thomas William Herringshaw claims to be the founder of this “Science of Women” that he named Mulierology, but as far as I have been able to discover, it is pretty much a made-up word, and there’s a little controversy over who it really is attributable to.

Modern in it’s time, Mulierology¬† gave advice to females in any condition, age or marital state.¬† A lengthy chapter describes the birthing of babies and the wise use of a heavy packing of goose grease to the traumatized tissues both on the interior and outer surfaces of the mother after birth.¬† Ew.¬† No wonder women died so frequently of¬† postpartum infections.¬† What genius conjured up goose grease as a “healing salve” for peritoneal tearing?¬† TW Herringshaw do you really want to take credit for that one?

There’s also a pretty hilarious discussion of birth control at the end of the volume.¬† I am especially fond of the description of the withdrawal method.¬† It is described as a leisurely paddle down the river, and then a gentle drifting and going only along as the surface takes the canoe, gently ebbing on its way in its own time.¬† The book goes on to caution though ~¬† This method is easily spoiled by turbulent thrusts and raging action against the current until one goes over the falls.¬† Mom is paraphrasing, I start laughing so hard everytime I read this, my eyes tear up and I can’t see well enough for an exact quote.

Not even kidding.

The “itches” as head lice (or probably any other creepy crawler living where it should not be) acording to Mulierology¬†is to be relieved by frequent and hot suds baths followed by application of a sulfur paste to any immediately affected area.¬† All bedding, clothing and head wear must also be taken into clear air and sunlight, swept vigorously and then all brushes and combs treated with a sulfur powder.¬† This can also be mixed with water and taken internally in extreme cases

PD_0165.

Nice to know

Fortunately (?) for my kids, I had no patience to sit around grinding up match tips to glean sulfur (I don’t know of a good 1800’s apothecary here in the Midwest).¬† So after weeks and weeks of waging war on these nuclear-bomb resistant pests, I devised my own method inspired by stories (tales of horror actually about dirty buggy families of my childhood).¬† No, I didn’t douse the kids in kerosine or gas.¬† But I sort of thought along those lines. Using a big box fan to blow the fumes away from their little faces and with towels held in place to protect their eyes, unloaded a whole bottle of hand sanitizer on each one’s itchy head.¬† I slapped a shower cap over each little noggin, waited a good half hour and then combed out the dead critters and their grossly engorged triple-sized swollen egg nits right out of all those blonde curls.¬† Honestly, do not try this at home.¬† I don’t think the kids remember the itching, but they sure remember the stinky fan treatment to “get the mice outta their heads.”

Like I said, that was years ago.¬† I figured the statute of limitations had run out on that Mommy Dearest moment.¬† Then home comes Daddy, feeling quite proud of himself for sharing the true and absolute “Mom Method for Removing Mice from Heads”¬† I think I’ll write a book and call it “DeMicerology : the Science of a Mom who Snapped after Weeks of Ineffective Lice Treatments”

I’m sure my kids are huddled together right now whispering…Maybe someone should write that down…

Uncle Joe

¬† ¬†untitled-holytrinity According to Parish records from Holy Trinity Church, John and Mary Urbanski had 10 children.¬† Of¬† 10, only 2 girls and 2 boys survived to adulthood. Francis, Joe, Annie and Mitz were born , christened,communed, confessed and confirmed as Urbanskis.¬† Suddenly, around 1915, they all became “Casters” an Americanized name, and a generic term describing John’s occupation at the time. ¬†¬† The ugliness of anti-German sentiment had overtaken people’s everyday lives and had crept¬† along the National Road¬† and deep into Indianapolis.¬† Suddenly, old street names like Germania were changed from German words and towns-names to¬† more “appropriately” American ones like Belmont Avenue. ¬† Coinciding with the German hysteria, the KKK was recording its biggest membership surge since the days of the old South.¬† Thus being Catholic, being immigrants, sounding German (colloquially called Hunkies ) while speaking their Slovene native tongue all became rather lowly and dangerous. ¬† Our¬† family was among many who changed their surname to blend in.¬† In those early years of the 20th century, being different or being “less” was both a social hindrance and potentially treacherous.

Mom note: somethings just never change…

Neighborhood assimilation centers were set up to help all children and adults learn to be more American and to turn their backs on the lives they had left behind in “the Old Country”. The Ku Klux Klan was deeply entrenched in the small counties ringing the big city of Indianapolis, and there was a simmering contempt for anyone or anything that may have been in allegiance with the Kaiser.

John and Mary were raising their children in between the country folk to the west, and the eastward cultured city dwellers just across the White River bridge. Considered West Indianapolis at one time, their small neighborhood was now called Haughville¬†named after the metals manufacturers plant located there by Haugh Brothers in the 1880’s. ¬†¬† Soon Haugh’s foundry was joined by the modern refrigerated packing business Kingans and the immigrant workers flooded in to take the jobs and simple frame housing.¬† They had been recruited and imported from their bergs and villages in places like Slovenia, Serbia, and Croatia. That’s how the Urbanskis had come to Indianapolis and that’s how they earned their daily wage too.

¬†Grandmother Mary saved every penny she could spare to buy up boarding houses.¬† For years¬† the parlor floor in the family’s own house was¬† “bedded up” for newly arrived workers who needed temporary lodging.¬† They had taken the long transatlantic ocean liner trip, paid in full by “the Company”,¬† made a connection by train and found themselves in Haughville on John and Mary’s floor…working in the mill, or the packing house, renting a space on the floor to sleep on, and in turn,¬† saving every penny they didn’t drink to bring their families over too.

Joe wasn’t the oldest of the children, but he was probably the tallest at about 6′. He was athletic and tough,a simple and hard-working man who chain smoked and stirred cream and sugar into his coffee in ritualistic trance-like manner. He played bush league baseball and was the big hitter on Holy Trinity’s men’s team. When he was 18, Joe was drafted into the army. When his hitch was up he joined again to serve in the place of his brother who was about be wed. I often wonder if he didn’t rejoin just for something bigger to do than spend his life running gutted pig carcasses from the slaughter hooks into the cold lockers at Kingans. After all, being big and strong, that’s likely where he would be headed for life.

Note: he is the tallest in the center of the back row in the photo. 

I’ve heard a tale or two of Joe in his younger rougher days.¬† Especially one about him and some buddies getting into a fist fight with some men from “somewhere else” passing by the corner tavern. All was regular Saturday night fun, when one of the outsiders added a 2×4 into the fray and started swinging. In Haughville it was considered “off-limits” to use weapons in a fist fight…a real sign of ungentlemanly behavior. ¬† By the time the cops arrived, the crowd had disbursed and a half-dozen guys were laid out neatly along the gutter.¬† Bloody and semi-conscience the “strangers” were helped to their feet and sent on their way back toward the bridge.¬† To the frustration of the officers,¬† the tavern was filled with only law-abiding citizens enjoying an evening out. As a matter of fact, they were all having such a lovely time singing and carrying on, none had even noticed a ruckus outside on the steps. ¬†The interlopers never bothered to visit Haughville again… with or without their 2x4s .

¬†Joe discharged from the army after a couple of tours. ¬†He had spent most of his time driving big supply trucks across the swampy roads of the Philippine islands. ¬†Sometimes, at Grandpa’s he would start stirring his coffee and speaking about the giant black snakes… hundreds of them that would be all over the lonely roads at night when he was driving convoy. ¬†He talked of how they must have needed the heat left in the road to warm their cold blood at night. Sometimes he described the thumping sounds of them hitting the bottom of the big trucks.¬† ” The sound never let up some nights, like all the snakes in the world were there in the Philippines.” I hung on every one of Joe’s words, and had the nightmares to prove it!

Headed home, Joe had saved up some money and following the wisdom of his ¬†mother began buying rental properties.¬† He had small homes and duplexes and eventually bought a couple of small neighborhood apartment houses built-in the old style of shops below and rooms above.¬† One of the buildings was home to the laundry and dry cleaning store his sister Mitz ran. ¬†Being in a good location (between the businessman’s downtown and the upscale homes of the Indianapolis old North Side) Mitz’s shop cleaned and starched clothing for local celebs and politicians. ¬†After actress Frances Farmer was “treated” for her nervous breakdown (famously via a frontal lobotomy) she came to Indianapolis and hosted a television program on one of the local stations. ¬†Aunt Mitz did the movie star’s alterations and cleaned her delicates for years from her shop in Uncle Joe’s building. ¬†I’ve never been clear on whether it was Mitz or Joe who owned the business. ¬†I would speculate that it was there when he bought the building and he let Mitz run it as a way to support herself. ¬†I couldn’t even say whether or not she paid a dime in rent. ¬†Uncle Joe rarely talked about such things

Joe kept all the rentals as his investments. ¬†All of John and Mary’s kids were desperately frightened of being poor. ¬†Saving money and saving stuff (anything that could some day be useful to someone in the family) was always top priority for them. But he also worked for the Indiana University Medical School as a night watchman until he retired. ¬†A family joke (or maybe it was truer than others wanted to admit) went that Joe guarded the cadaver room for 30 years and didn’t have a clue what was in there.

I mostly remember him as generally very quiet and reclusive. ¬†We saw him at Grandpa’s occasionally on weekends before he went in for a night shift. ¬†He would pull into the drive in his massive dirty ivory Plymouth Fury. His car windows were legendarily coated in an amberish vaseline-thick goo from years of collected cigarette smoke. ¬† If I saw him coming, I would run to the kitchen drawer where Grandpa kept Joe’s ashtray (it was like a beanbag on the bottom) and scurry to get a spoon out for his stirring. ¬†I delighted in watching him swirl the pale sugary coffee and cream soup he made in his cup.¬† I listened to the funny old world way that he spoke (he held the accent and manner of speech of the old country that my Grandpa had worked so hard to erase from his own speech) and watched him punctuate sentences with his hands.¬† Uncle Joe also had the largest nose I had ever seen on a person.¬† It was just like Jimmy Durante…but since Jimmy was on tv and in movies he really didn’t count as a real person.¬† Uncle Joe had a real-live Schnazola that was mercifully never passed on to the next generation.

When he died years ago, it was as a “confirmed” bachelor. ¬†He is buried at the Catholic Cemetery,but I do ¬†not recall a mass for his funeral. After his retirement from the night watchman’s job, he really had little to do and fell into the staid habits of a reclusive old man. ¬†He must have had a heart attack and died without much suffering. ¬†He was found after lying dead alone in his home days later. Only his German Shepard dog was with him.

I think of him whenever I stir my coffee ūüôā

Photo at top of page from the Holy Trinity Parish Diamond Jubilee celebration book:

Slaves To No One, written by James J. Divita