The Uncles

the Uncles

Dear Rosa,

Eight children – six boys your daughter, my grammy, had. What a brood. But then, Irish Catholic families had lots of children. My best friend in Northfield was but one of 11!

You lived just across the street from Grammy and I can only imagine you were a help. Such shenanigans they must have engaged in…  I wonder, Rosa, look at how you’ve aged in this photo – see what thirty hard years have done. Sad to think, you would soon be buried. That’s you with Clarence. He wouldn’t live even as long as you did.

They grew into strong men, my uncles, all that served with pride in World War II. Each one has a story to tell and later I’ll share some of them with you. For now, I thought I’d share how they impacted my life.

Vibrant, loud, crass, my grammy’s house would be transformed when they converged from all parts of the country. Roger from Georgia, Hiram from New Hampshire, Earle from Burlington and Everett and Clarence from just nearby. What an event it would be when all gathered and how grumpy Grammy would become.  I spent the better part of my childhood there, only to be kicked out when she cooked dinner for them. Strange and harsh how us grandkids were never welcome, but we weren’t her children, we weren’t her “boys.”

You raised her to be fierce, and loyal. Sad, that you wouldn’t know, Rosa, that her grave marker simply says “Mother.”

Grammy would fire up the special kerosene stove in the side pantry and cook up a storm. The dining room table would be pulled out, cleaned of all her beloved knick-knacks and set with the fine china. And then they would arrive.

Such an event that I could only watch from a distance. My cousin, Marcia, and I would wander Northfield and grumble. We didn’t need her, we’d find our own source of fun.

But we never did. The uncles got Grammy for the weekend and we were told to stay away.

They’d leave my father a long list of chores. Fix the roof, Henry and paint the living room. It always pissed my mom off when they’d go and dad was left to do the work. He did it without complaint, though, she was his mother. And he was the baby of the family.

You would’ve been proud of them, Rosa, and pained to know how many died young and how many were taken by the alcohol.