Saturday, June 6, 2009
(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.
Thanks to all our friends and family we gave Adelaide a great send off... and, we rang Adelaide out in style ( Thanks to Debbie M and Woody! ) a most amazing and joyous experience to ring out bells from the steeple, send music across the city of Boston The official bell ringer, Woody, a friend of Debbie's, rang a bell for each year of ADD's life plus 6 tolls to indicate she was a woman and then taught us how to ring Amazing Grace and other songs. www.ascboston.org/ Thank you to all at Arlington Street Church as well - Reverend Kim, Jeff Bouchard and all.
Dunno when Cathy will get to writing hers - it was great! You had to hear it! Robert's and Ann Kennedy's are two others I wish we had. Wish we had recorded them somehow. *sigh* But here is mine...
Eulogy - for my mother, Adelaide
First let me say thank you all – for being with us today and always. We came to your city as strangers, not knowing a soul. We Dooley/DiBrizzis had no family in Boston and we still have no extended family here. And you took us all in. You became our family of friends. It is a pleasure to know you all – like the song says “ Seasons are fickle, and fate isn't known as kind, But friendship is a diamond, and trouble is a diamond mine.”
Some, who have met our mother in her later years may be surprised to see Adelaide’s memorial in a Unitarian church. But we knew her longest know that this is a place where her spirit and intellect would be able to dwell and worship in comfortable communion with each other. She used to say, when we were teens and our father ( who art in heaven) our father was at sea – not metaphorically but literally - Well …. I mean to say he was at sea and far from home working as a ships navigator and sometimes Captain. And while we were teens he was at sea – hard to say who was more “at sea” when he was gone – him or Adelaide ? She really let it all hang out and she would say in response to questions about her the lapsed Catholicism and her membership in the First Church Unitarian… “ If all the Catholic churches burned down at once…it would make a lovely glow.” Her own father was a Free Mason and a radical anti-cleric. He lived with us when he was very old. Adelaide liked to tell how one time a serious a medical situation arose and she called a priest and an ambulance out to the house. Her father, my priest baiting Noono, was given Extreme Unction - (the anointing of the dying promised to send recipients straight to heaven, Do Not Pass Go – out of Jail Free etc. ) “ How do feel, now Mr. DiBrizzi? “ asked the earnest parish priest to which A. Anthony DiBrizzi replied, “ Now, I gott-ah my ticket stamp-ed-ah. Va bene.”
This is not to say Adelaide was a false catholic or a hypocrite – she had her beliefs and her own version of catholic practice that was a rich mix of superstition, fear and a deep mystical spiritualism that was closely aligned with the Francisicans and other kick butt practitioners of the main rule of Christ like Love and forgiveness This is what Adelaide valued and tried to practice. She was always a practicing Catholic in this sense and her practice was her very own. When I was young I thought Jesus Christ had a middle name. If you ever drove with Adelaide you would know the guy I mean. She prayed unconventionally but fervently and it went something like this… “Oh Jesus! Oh jesus ! O je –…Get their license – take it down !!!Oh Jesus f’n Christ, here comes another one…” It wasn’t Jesus H. Christ she prayed to but his brother, Jesus F.
Adelaide had many sides and reflecting on 50 years of life together my heart is so full of memories (and not very clearly detailed remembrances either so we may hear some rebuttals and addenda from Cathy.!) I lived with and near Adelaide for 50 sentient years of my life –for you younger folk let me say, knowing someone half a century feels just as freakin’ long as it sounds – it is a l-o-n-g time. So many memories and stories flooded my mind last night that I simply had to go to sleep without being able to write more than a few words. I woke up trying to essentialize --trying to find the essence of her story and I came up with 3 words that helped me organize my memories of my mother, Adelaide’s life…love, fear and connection. And then another expression, with more words came to me “ Life don’t clickety-clack down a straight line track, it come together and it fall apart.” – ferron
Adelaide loved people and it is a joy to see all of you here. But Adelaide also operated a little like the old Communist party – we did not know she had so many friends! We all were like separate cells, not to know of each other for fear of - what ? That we would collapse into ourselves and be weakened? Or more likely, that she would lose her place? This was not a totally paranoid thought – she did not have a secure place in her large family and reaction to this trauma shadowed her and limited her personal interactions all her life. My sister and I are the more the merrier types but family was more than crowd enough for Adelaide. Other than family gatherings , she liked to be with people one on one. She was a great listener and she was a thoughtful and often direct in sharing her insights. She called ‘em like she saw them too, which sealed as many friendships as it rendered. But because she was open and listened she met all sorts of people – we live in Brookline today because she met the Superintendent of the Brookline Public Schools on the Staten Island Ferry in 1966 – in her gift for connection and conversation she used the 20 minute ride to exchange life stories and she figured how and where to live in Boston. Because she talked to people, she was friends with Anwar Sadat’s daughter when she lived down the street. No one introduced them, they met on the sidewalk and started a friendship right there, in conversation. My mother listened and reflected and connected. She had a genius for it.
I forgot to mention adventure in her 3 essential words. Adelaide had a sense of adventure – if I understood all the things she told me correctly, she eloped with our sea captain father out of a thirst for adventure. She loved him – yes, as opposites attract but their expectations were one of those tragically funny miscommunications of chick lit romance:
She: “Ulysses, baby, when do we set sail?’
He: Penolope, honey! I am home.”
Timing was not her strong suit. She thought she was going on a life long cruise as the wife of a captain. While our father I believe, thought he was coming home at last - Home to a mother, a stay – at – home- wife, kids - in short, all the trappings of family that he had not had since being orphaned at age 12. Lets just say that working out this train wreck of expectation with reality was not pretty or easy on anyone and move on….
But Adelaide’s sense of adventure brought us to Boston and that adventure brought us so many gifts that I still wonder at all we gained by that one move…. Adelaide also took us to camp, so all three of us could afford to go she was camp nurse. She hated the countryside, she hated camps (She loved to say – especially to her fellow staff members, “Camp is a four letter word” ) she hated it all -- but she loved us. So she worked while we spent summers in the country, playing, swimming, boating by lakes – for us it was idyllic. For Adelaide it was one of i sacrifici My mother did not do things by half either – She, who hated machines of any kind, cars and any fast movements - rented a motor boat for one week after camp and she took us skiing. Imagine Adelaide who was afraid of escalators for Chrissakes , but because we had become waterskiing enthusiasts at camp - imagine Adelaide standing in a motor boat waiting for the “Hit it! “ order and flying from idle to 40 mph as we practiced flying dockstarts…
Adelaide suffered from mental illness and I am proud to acknowledge her struggles and her eventual triumph. It was hard, very, very hard on all of us – but it was hardest on our mother. She did not remember all the awful things she said and did when she went from creative to… delightfully energetic to… manically busy to…. frantically occupied with things real and imagined to…. out of control! Off the planet! Flying without an airplane. And then the inevitable crash. We can only imagine the pain on the inside of that flight. In the end, Adelaide struggled with mental illness and won. It was a hard won victory – in part she overcame her illness because she outlived her disease but mostly I think she was over-medicated and not by accident.
• Because she loved us
• Because she feared the crashes and damage they caused
• Because she yearned for connection
She stayed medicated to the point where she lost her capacity for joy and fun. In truth she traded all the pleasures of happiness willingly to stay in good relation with all of us.
So many years…so many things to remember – and to be thankful for… I remember :
How, although she really had wanted me to be a doctor - - she always supported me – who I was – not who she wanted me to be— she helped me out of BU where I was a Philosophy Major and let me live at home and put together a portfolio and get into art school And she was my biggest fan.
How she could turn a phrase ( when I made up one too many excuses she once said – “Some people live in BC and others live in AD but you- you live in EC – the era of the Extenuating Circumstance! – now do the damn dishes!” )
How we would stay up late and talk and walk and talk and walk around Brookline and then eat Italian soul food of Spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and cheese.
How she always had friends of every religion, sexual orientation and race and they were always welcome in our home – sometimes for dinner – sometimes to live. She was generous, and open minded long before this was cool or done –
How she lead the way in social activism and only tried to curb me for my safety -
How she invited the United Farm Workers to our house and as the Vietnam war dragged on, even helped organize with me and some very radical friends a Brookline Citizens For A General Strike Against the War -
How she came to my side whenever I needed her and had the sense to ask her. How she took care of all our three girls while I studied for my Masters degree…
How she told me the truth when she thought I needed to hear it – even if it was risky to our relationship
And mostly, how she loved and cared for us all.
Oh sure ---there are many other stories to tell about how her fear would morph into anger and meanness and in her pain and sadness she would lash out but ….for today and truly – because it is in balance… and it is true -- I am thankful.
And I wish I could say that I said it – or maybe, that I said it enough ? while she was alive but….
Thanks Mom – when you were good – you were very, very good, and I loved you. We loved you. And we will miss you.
June 4th 2009
Adelaide DiBrizzi Dooley -
Memorial Service June 4th 2009
Arlington Street Church, Boston MA
This is a picture of George, the other bell ringer...