“On behalf of a grateful nation....” The bronze star, purple heart wearing man handed a perfectly folded triangle of a flag to my eldest aunt, her second time on the receiving end. She sat on the far right, with her son’s hand on her shoulder. Her sisters, in descending order, sat to her left. On the second row, it cast a perfect snapshot for me- their backs to me with husbands- a husband comforting a sister on each side. In the background, a silver casket that held the source of such love, such frustration, and such emotion.
Slowly, very slowly, the bugler that was out of sight started the 24 notes that comprise Taps. Only moments before I looked at my SIL & said, “How in the hell did we forget the Kleenex?” Husband passed me two.
Having held it together for too long, I pushed my sunglasses to the top of my head and whispered softly to myself, “Holy Mackerel” before the water works set in. I openly sobbed along with my brother and cousins. I was shaking. So much so, that Martha put her hand on my back and Husband touched my knee. I prayed for my pain to end at this time of loss, as he is no longer confined, no longer limited.
The world is thick with irony- in the Catholic section of Park Hill cemetery, there is an aisle that runs halfway through, dividing the left side from the right. The sidewalk ends at a marble cross of Jesus with the “INRI” found at the top. Three rows back, the Spanos- who were the Italians that made their own wine- were seated side by side- having been buried years before. The Cobais’ are there, and so are so many other legends of people that I have heard about from my mother’s childhood. At the very front of this outdoor space, I picture a church- an altar- and my Millie & my Big Dad are on the front pew, with five spots next to them.
He was a remarkable man who lived a simple life. I will miss him terribly.