The anniversary of Robert Kennedy's death always reminds me of Uncle Tony's death, which happened the week after Kennedy's.
I was working in a card shop, when my boss came over and said my father had just called. There'd been a death in my family. My Uncle Tony. My father would be picking me up. I had the weekend off, without pay. Would I like a glass of water.
I couldn't have cared less.
We'd lived with Uncle Tony when we first came to America. After 2 years there was a problem over the weekly split. Uncle Tony's wife, Kate, was sporting a fur coat. We were leaving for College Point. Uncle Tony was moving to upstate New York. He may as well have moved to the moon. We never spoke of him again.
Here we were, 16 years later, driving to Uncle Tony's house. Aunt Betty, who'd known Aunt Kate since they were children, had gotten there ahead of us.
Uncle Tony wasn't even 50. Cholesterol runs in the family. That wasn't it. Uncle Tony had a taxi service. He had a partner. His partner had an affair with Aunt Kate. Aunt Kate wanted a divorce. Uncle Tony managed to drive to the hospital, where he collapsed.
Okay... if you've watched The Sopranos, you know the kind of funeral that was expected.
Aunt Kate agreed to give Uncle Tony a proper sendoff. Small condition... she wanted some company that night. She was afraid that Uncle Tony's ghost might drop by, for old time's sake. Aunt Betty was Sicilian and figured no problem. Ma had a terror of ghosts, so she said I'd help guard the widow. I knew I wasn't the target, so I said sure.
Cousin Barbara, as their eldest, ordered the headstone. She picked a double header, so her parents could rest in peace together for all eternity. Everyone smirked. Aunt Kate shrieked, "I'm not dead, yet."
We had a quiet night.
The viewing went as planned. After Aunt Kate was helped in, she howled, flew across the room and draped herself over Uncle Tony. Everyone smirked. The partner couldn't make it. The prayer cards were taken. We went to the Mass. Tony was buried.
Our family's first funeral in America.