Monday, December 31, 2007

A Loss, Doubled

The man pictured is my cousin, Fred, known to me in my childhood as "Little Freddie." Today I learned of his passing. He was the son of my father's sister, Anne. Anne attended Our Lady of Vilnius as a child, as did my father. Fred's father, Fred Sr., was Italian-American, very much in keeping with the locale of Our Lady of Vilnius. Their family lived on Carpenter Avenue in the Bronx. A full 11 years older than I, "Little Freddie" always seemed a grown man to me. I remember my first vacation trip to a cabin in Dutchess County, which at that time was very rural. We toasted marshmallows around an open fire and he talked about the Aurora Borealis. I felt intimidated by boys and he always treated me very kindly.

His family moved to southern Maryland when I was 7, at first a great tragedy. We visited twice a year bringing Italian cheeses, bread from Prestano's and bagels. In return we enjoyed not only the company of family but oysters fresh out of the beds, grits, crabs that we caught in the Potomac, the opportunity to play slot machines legally and the pleasure of knowing a near-human Chesapeake Bay retriever named Web.

In the past, whenever anyone of significance passed on I would request a Mass at Our Lady of Vilnius. In the case of my cousin it would have been satisfying to have the Mass said at a church with ties to our heritage, his and mine. It would also have been fitting to have the Mass said by a priest that I think Fred would have really liked.

Every time someone passes now there is a double emptiness.

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