Saturday, June 6, 2009

Burying Adelaide - June 5th - NY,NY

(See more pictures in album below)

We waked and drank and sang until late on Thursday night. And then we were up at 6AM to take Adelaide's ashes to NY, NY to be buried with Raymond. My father was very responsible and took care business for his 5 orphaned siblings and he had bought a plot in Queens when he was only 26, and it was the first year of the Great Depression. There he buried his nearest older brother Mortimer and prepared a space for his sister Alice, and brother Eugene; leaving 3 spaces for those who would follow.

Cathy had found a favorite "Ming Dynasty" vase of my mother's and with her friend, Vicki, transformed it into an urn. It was one of two matching vases we inherited from Aunt Alice. Cathy can tell you the full story - it is a good one. Cathy was running late and we missed the Acela train and she decided to give ADD's ashes a short tour of Boston since we had to wait for a later train. (I think somebody put the mal'occhio on Robert and my rolling transport, no?) We had to be at the cemetery by 1:30PM so were cutting it close. Cathy carried the ashes the whole time, in a cheap cloth shopping bag. She felt bad that is was not a classier bag but I think Adelaide would have laughed - or killed us - depending on where she was in her spectrum.

The mal'occhio followed us onto the train, because the car CTD and I were sitting in sprung a leak. Then the taxi we scooped ( in the rain on 7th Ave at noonish, in front of Penn Station -amazing we got one at all!) had a driver who could make no promises about getting us where we needed to go. The driver said he did not know Queens at all "I only know Manhattan and Brooklyn." I had planned on taking the subway so I had just my memory of directions I sent to our cousins and Cathy tried to get her phone to show google maps. Amazingly enough, with CTD online on her tiny phone, help from cousin Michael on cell phone, we got to St. John's Cemetery on time. We filled out paper work as we met our 1st cousins for the first time in 26 years and proceeded with them to one of 12 or more chapels. A priest did a very standard funeral rite and "bobitty bing boppity boom" they were ready to shooo us out. We told them to chill for a minute- we were not in any rush to close out 81 years and change of my mother's life. After we sat with ashes for a bit we went out to see the grave site. We had wanted a grave side burial but they would not allow it -"too wet" they said. Oy.

Afterwards our cousins drove us into Greenwich Village where we were taken to Rocco's, an excellent place for coffee, cannolis and conversation. It was so wonderful to talk and listen and find more pieces to what we had grown up experiencing as a shattered family. I had arranged the shards of our extended family experience into a logical design and I had created a narrative like one of those dotted line drawings you see in museums that show where the pieces they hold would have fit when the original was whole. With new and bigger pieces of the vessel in the form of more information and history from our only slightly older cousins, a new shape and a much richer and clearer picture of our family and our mother appeared.

Michael DiBrizzi represented the 1st cousins, second generation and Tony, Gloria and Tony's wife JoAnn represented and testified about their Aunt Adelaide. Tony and JoAnn had done so many kind, even heroic things for my immediate family - they are just amazing. Cousin Gloria had gentle and loving memories to share and Michael has actually been to the town of Sassano, ( inland and south of Napoli ) where the all the older DiBrizzis - Adelaide's siblings and father had immigrated from in the late 19th and early 20th century. In addition to knowing Manhattan like the back of his hand Michael is also the family genealogist. We then had an amazing Italian dinner (compliments of Michael -!) right near where our parents first lived as newlyweds in Greenwich Village. The cousins dropped us off at Penn Station at 8 PM. We promised to meet again and not let death be the only call that gathers us together again. A promise we mean to keep. Maybe for a trip to Guys and Dolls in the summer.

Sad to part with the warmth and kindness of our cousins, I started to tear up as I felt the loss of my mother and the exhaustion of the preceding weeks getting to me as we said goodbye. But I was immediately distracted from my sadness when we found that the next train to Boston was at 3AM. After we thoroughly kicked ourselves for not checking the return schedule, Cathy reflected -" Makes sense there are only a few trains. Who would leave NY for Boston on a Friday night except if you lived there?" Mal'occhio on rolling transport theory anyone ?

So we scrambled around on our cell phones, asked at three desks at Amtrak and found the last bus to Boston with available seats at 9:30PM and luckily it was right outside Penn Station. I then thought to call my mother to tell of our adventure and not to worry, that we were coming home later than expected... The loss of her washed over me, like an unexpected wave when you stand knee deep on the shore, with your back to the surf. I am sure it will, again and again. Too weary to be sad we strolled through our front door well after 1AM.

Thanks DiBrizzis. My heart is full.


Kathi said...

Norah, great story and so characteristic of the D-D family heritage!! It wouldn't have been in keeping if things had all gone smoothly, ya know??

It was a beautiful service, too. So poignant for me now, having lost my own mom and sharing that bond with you and Cathy about growing up with mental illness and all that it brings.

Love & hugs,
your former "outlaw," neighbor, surrogate auntie to the girls, sister artist, fellow foodie & FB pal, Kathi

JandJ said...

Really got me.
Look forward to viewing your and CTD's eulogies.

Anonymous said...

evil eye or mal'occhio ----

In some forms, it is the belief that some people can bestow a curse on victims by the malevolent gaze of their magical eye. The most common form, however, attributes the cause to envy, with the envious person casting the evil eye doing so unintentionally. Also the effects on victims vary. Some cultures report afflictions with bad luck; others believe the evil eye can cause disease, wasting away, and even death. In most cultures, the primary victims are thought to be babies and young children, because they are so often praised and commented upon by strangers or by childless women. The late UC Berkeley professor of folklore Alan Dundes has explored the beliefs of many cultures and found a commonality — that the evil caused by the gaze is specifically connected to symptoms of drying, desiccation, withering, and dehydration, that its cure is related to moistness, and that the immunity from the evil eye that fish have in some cultures is related to the fact that they are always wet.[1] His essay "Wet and Dry: The Evil Eye" is a standard text on the subject.

In many forms of the evil eye belief, a person — otherwise not malefic in any way — can harm adults, children, livestock, or a possession, simply by looking at them with envy. The word "evil" can be seen as somewhat misleading in this context, because it suggests that someone has intentionally "cursed" the victim. A better understanding of the term "evil eye" can be gained from the old English word for casting the evil eye, namely "overlooking," implying that the gaze has remained focused on the coveted object, person, or animal for too long.

While some cultures hold that the evil eye is an involuntary jinx cast unintentionally by people unlucky enough to be cursed with the power to bestow it by their gaze, others hold that, while perhaps not strictly voluntary, the power is called forth by the sin of envy.