“I’m having that dream again,” Ralph thought, “the one where I’m wandering so aimlessly.”
He could never figure out where he even was, whether it was Purgatory or maybe even Hell. All he knew was that whenever he had that dream he was always so bitterly inconsolably sad. By now he was accustomed to it-the bleak lonely terrain, the sense of helplessness and loss. Lately he’d been having the dream so frequently. At the same time his wife Mabel was making funeral arrangements with the undertaker.
Julius and Ethel Weidermeyer were trying to get ready to deal with the news about his father’s death. The eighty year old grandfather had been ill with cancer for most of the past five years. When the inevitable finally came to pass, they made the one hundred and eighty five mile drive to his house in northeastern Pennsylvania in order to make the arrangements for his funeral, as well as to sort through all his belongings. When they arrived they were confronted with quite an adventure. They’d always known he was a notoriously sentimental character as well as a bit of a pack rat but their discovery was absolutely amazing. Going through his dad’s basement was like having a time machine. They found a bottomless pit of boxes, bags and cases of artifacts from literally the very beginning of his lifetime. He’d even saved souvenirs of people like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. His parents must have gotten all these things for him before he was even old enough to walk. As they went along they found clothes and memorabilia with all his old schools’ insignias on them. It appeared as if the old fellow had felt somehow unrelentingly compelled to save all sorts of relics of each successive era throughout his entire lifetime. The more they found the more awe smitten they were. “I just don’t get it!” gasped Ethel. “It’s not exactly as if there’s anything exceptionally valuable here. They’re all just very old pictures, records, clothes and things like that.” Eventually, though, they wised up to the fact that it was quite an interesting discovery. The more they thought it through, the more they recognized that there was quite an entire lifetime’s supply of profound history here. Besides its being a miniature lecture on all the history and pop culture of most of the twentieth century, it was also an indirect source of insight into all sorts of background about Mr. Weidermeyer, things they could never have otherwise found out. Over the course of his very long lifetime he’d told a lot of stories and seemed to have been quite knowledgeable about all sorts of offbeat things. It turns out, though, that he must truly have been quite devoted to all those long ago milestones. “I can imagine how Mom must have felt,” complained Julius. “He must have driven her out of her mind, nice though all this stuff is.” Anyone who wanted a lesson on things like the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean Conflict and Viet Nam could have the time of his life in such an environment. They could rake in an absolute mint, they thought, by charging admission for a guided tour. Soon they started having the time of their lives enjoying all the silliness of their adventure. Understandably they were sorry to have lost him. They would have really enjoyed talking to him about all these things. At his wake, they mentioned his treasure trove to all their family and his friends. It added quite a dimension of joy and relief to the otherwise somber occasion.
Yesterday I went to the funeral Mass at Maria Regina Church in Seaford for my ninety one year old Aunt Norma from Massapequa. All went well. After the Mass we all went to St Charles’ Cemetery on Pinelawn Road in Pinelawn. Mr. Gargiulo, a teacher of mine from St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School, was the deacon in charge of the ceremony there. After that we went to Sal’s Place in North Massapequa. That was where I made my big mistake. There was an open bar. As soon as Steve pointed it out to me I made sure I asked the bartender for a gin martini, straight up, with an olive. Unfortunately I drank it on an empty stomach. To my credit I made quite sure I only got one, and that I drank it exceptionally slowly, only a sip every few minutes. I know my limitations quite well by now. Alas it soon backfired on me. I got a very violent headache. I thoroughly enjoyed being with both my cousins and their families and friends-I’ve known their relatives and friends for quite a long time- but the crowd, combined with the length of time it all took, and the drink, made me miserable. After Steve, Bridget and I left, he wanted to go to Amityville to do something on his boat, and then to Lindenhurst to see my old neighborhood. Somehow we managed to convince Bridget not to shop for shoes and ice cream. As soon as we got back to the house I fell straight into bed, thoroughly exhausted and in pain, for the rest of the night. I still feel wiped out and need quite a lot of rest to recuperate. The worst thing that could possibly happen to me today would be if I push my luck and for lack of sufficient rest, end up getting even sicker. So far most of my headache is gone but it could come back very easily. The best thing that could happen would be if I refrain from doing anything that could provoke any further trouble. All I need right now is sufficient rest. Nothing very eventful is happening in my life these days, so I don’t expect my circumstances to change especially drastically in either direction. All I want is to recuperate from this truly wiped out feeling. I’m quite confident that I’ll be back to normal soon.
Unfortunately I’m between jobs right now. My last two jobs were one with Citicorp Retail Services and one with the postal service in Melville and Bethpage. I could never stand the postal job because it was so physically hard and strenuous but at least it was something. The work was very boring and required a lot of heavy lifting. Many of the people there were hard to get along with but that’s a part of any job. My circumstances in Bethpage were especially difficult to handle because I was often forced to work the graveyard shift there. Most of the people in management were at least reasonably decent and easy to get along with. The only one who was a troublemaker was Marjorie, a surly black woman. There was a union there but I never got significantly involved with it. Of all the people I knew, Kevin and Anton were the most significant union officials. The one advantage to my having worked there was that I got a chance to meet a lot of very interesting characters. Before that I worke at Citicorp Retail Services in Farmingdale and Melville. In the first department I was in, Sales Processing, from the late 1980’s until the early 1990’s, everything worked out quite well and we all got along quite well. Sal, Carole and Yolanda were in charge. Most people there were quite decent and good natured, Besides the inevitable fighting and personality conflicts it was always quite a happy environment. Then after a while that department was eliminated. I got moved to Customer Service. That department was harder for me to handle because there were a lot more trouble makers there. There were still quite a few very good people too but there were entirely too many who were genuinely bad. For a while I was also a sacristan at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst. At that job I used to have to deal with a wide variety of diocesan priests, professed Religious and parishioners every day of the week. It was a nice part time job. I was required to get everything ready for the daily Masses and novenas, as well as weddings, funerals and other things that were required to keep things going at the parish. That was yet another environment where I was expected to deal with very many eccentric characters. having lived for most of my life in Lindenhurst I really knew my way around the parish and got along quite well with most of the people. I’ve never been a good salesman. In the 1980’s my eighth grade history teacher tried to get me involved with Amway. That’s a really good job for someone to have if he’s a capable salesman but I simply don’t have the aptitude for that kind of thing. That kind of job is very good for my teacher and his wife, who’ve always been better than I at dealing with people in that way. My cousin Gary tried to get me involved with Primerica Financial Services. Unfortunately even though we attended all the meetings and classes, and did well on the tests we were required to take, it didn’t work out for us. I consider it quite a worthwhile experience though. It’s always good to know as much as possible about insurance and the financial world.
A while after my mother’s death my father and I got things ready to put a marker upon her grave. We only got a few chances to visit her grave together and to take care of a few official details. He died on November 7, 2014, forty five days after her death, after having been suddenly taken ill. He was rushed to the Veteran’s Hospital in Wilkes Barre and died there. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to see him on his last day because he told me on the phone, at about 7:30 a.m. , not to bother to drive to the hospital in the bad weather. It was raining and very foggy that day. I went to the hospital after his death to sign some paperwork and to make official arrangements to get certain things done. Uncle Frankie, Fran, and Mary Anne and her family all showed up a very short time after his death to help with the funeral arrangements. His funeral, as well as my mother’s was at Our Lady of Sorrows Church at St. Monica’s Parish on Eighth Street in West Wyoming, and Gubbiotti’s Funeral Home in Exeter. Father Leo McKernan celebrated the Mass. Many of the same people at his wake and funeral had also attended hers. Because he was a veteran of the Korean Conflict, there was a very impressive military honors ceremony, with some men from AMVETS, at the gravesite. The aftermath of each death was a busy time because of all the people calling and visiting and all the extra responsibilities that accompany that kind of change. I spent my first Thanksgiving since my parents’ deaths at cousin Michelle’s house in Dallas. All of Aunt Lauren’s family were there. I spent Christmas with Mary Anne and her family in Long Beach and have been here ever since then. Life without either of my parents has brought with it many very drastic changes.
My mother got cancer last November. Over the course of the next ten months she spent most of the time at the Geisinger Hospital, John Heinz Center and Wilkes_Barre General Hospital. The doctors, nurses and therapists, among others, did a good job of helping her. She spent her eightieth birthday in bed at Geisinger Hospital. In the end she finally succumbed and died, on September 23, at the Geisinger (formerly Mercy) Hospice in Wilkes_Barre. Her wake was at Gubbiotti’s Funeral Home in Exeter and her funeral Mass was celebrated by Fr. Leo McKernan at St. Monica’s Parish at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in West Wyoming. Unfortunately it was on my father’s eightieth birthday.