if you know me, you probably know how much i love my family. my whole family. i love. my family. i grew up 9 or 10 hours away from my dad’s entire side of the family – the big italian side! and it always made me so jealous to miss out on a lot that went on with everyone. despite that, we were up there regularly… and i feel like i have always had a better relationship with my cousins than many people i know that grew up in the very same town as theirs. near or far [most often too far], i love them like siblings. we drove each other absolutely crazy when we were younger, but the fact always remained that we were family and we were there. even if we weren’t always there. because love ’em or hate ’em, your big, loud family is who you have, right? 🙂 [i love them. i’m pretty sure we’ve established that!]
and seriously, i’m so tired of logistics and money and time and silly life things constantly getting in the way of what matters. life is short. so, last summer, i finally got to snag the kiddos after too long away and head up north to get some quality fam time. and ahhh! it felt so so good to be back. last year was a really hard one for me. my “cup,” as they say, was just beyond empty… and i was really craving time in a comfort zone that made me feel me. and like i wasn’t completely on my own all the time… which is kind of just how adulthood makes me feel. but when you’re with those from your childhood, you can just look at each other and be like “we’re not adults right?! okay, cool.” and laugh like old times, and whew. that’s so nice! i mean, call me a millennial [no, wait! please don’t.], but the struggle is real.
anyway, i keep going back to this one afternoon up there that was my very, very favorite. several of us started gathering in my grandparents’ living room. aunts and uncles and cousins laughing and chatting. they even brought my grandmom in, whose health has been declining due to ALS, and she was just beaming to see so many of us in one room together again. my aunt started playing the piano. we were sipping wine and snapping cousin pictures. [i’m always demanding these, i know, i know. i’ll never regret it!] i was so happy. to me, almost nothing is better than finding yourself in a scenario where “the gang” is together… whichever gang that may be, you know? and i especially had the best time getting to catch up with one of my cousins, my dad’s godson – vince, that i didn’t even know i was going to get to see that trip, as he’d been living elsewhere… but he was there, and i absolutely soaked up that time with him! it’s weird to try and describe this, but something in me really felt that those moments with him were more special than usual. i assumed, though, that it was just me being the overly-sentimental, chronic moment soaker-upper that i am! but now i wish i’d known how really important that afternoon was. if i could go back to that day, i’d have hugged him so much longer. talked more. all of it more.
just 5 months later, this past week, i found myself back up there with all of those people that i love… except for him. we gathered around him… without him actually being there. and heartbreaking doesn’t even begin to describe how it feels to watch your loved ones experience pain and loss as everyone gathers simply to miss and remember the person you wish you could hug and talk to even just one more time.
and while i have plenty of christmassy photos from last month to pile into a big, overdue holiday post… right now this is just the only thing on my heart and mind. and though every sunrise these days has me gazing upward, asking more questions than ever before, i am so so so grateful for each person i got to squeeze this past week. [and for my husband for working out the travel logistics for me when i was too overwhelmed to do it myself!]
vince, thank you for the best hugs. the warmest smiles. the ridiculous jokes. 😉 thank you for showing us how to live big and without fear. thanks for letting me kick off 2018 with so many people that i love! and such beautiful snow. if only you could’ve been there… but you’re at a much better party now. still, i hope you got to see how unbelievably loved you are and always will be! so so so many people were there in honor of you. we were reminded at your mass that though the body dies, the love and the relationship does not. it’s just a matter of geography. having already grown up with the long-distance family life, myself, that brought me more peace than anything else. so! i guess i’ll work my mind around that one… until we’re all reunited once again in God’s living room, right? i have faith that there will be red wine flowing! love you always, vin.
[and to anyone willing – i’m also going to ask that, perhaps… if it dawns on you! would you please lift up a prayer of peace and healing for my uncle and aunt – my dad’s oldest brother and his wife – and their children, my wonderful cousins. thank you!!!!!!]
[and ps. please tell me you get the movie reference in the title! such a good movie. even if you aren’t italian. ;)]
[adding to this: here is the eulogy from the funeral, beautifully written and so bravely given by my cousin, joe “poe,” vincent’s older brother, who is my age. i cannot read it without sobbing all over again, but it is absolutely perfect.]