Before I move too far away my time in Pueblo, I’d like to say a little something about how much I enjoyed the city itself. It always warms my heart to see any city or town, small or large, take an interest in its history and preservation. Sunday night, my Dad drove my Mom, Eric and me around the town so we could hop out and take pictures of old hotels and motels, churches, neon signs, the county courthouse. (Check out my Instagram pictures here.) It was a great way to end the trip and it made me want to find out more about Pueblo’s history.
I spent the weekend in Pueblo, Colorado at a family reunion. It was the first time Eric met many of my relatives and I was touched again and again by the way everyone welcomed him into the family. I had been a little nervous about sharing that part of who I am with relatives that I only see a handful of times in a decade, but it turned out to be great.
Still, if there was one moment that defined the reunion for me, it was Saturday night after the meal when they moved the tables to turn the church fellowship hall into a dance floor. I posted a picture on Instagram and Facebook and it’s probably the most popular picture I’ve ever posted. I posted this picture of my parents dancing to the Frank Sinatra cover of The Way You Look Tonight. I’m no Diane Arbus, surely, but I do think I captured a lovely moment between the two of them.
My folks must have felt like the Brad and Angelina of the reunion because joining me in the quest to get a great picture of them were about 10 or 15 of my cousins. Mom and Dad would look at the camera, smile and then keep dancing. I’ve always known and been comforted by how much my cousins love and look after my parents.
You don’t live into your 70’s without having some lows and highs in your journey. You can expect heartbreak and belly laughs, illness and healing, embarrassments and proud moments to weave together in the fabric that is your life. My parents, of course, are no exception. As they danced together, I thought of the highs and lows, their story of love. If you read my blog regularly, you might know about my Father’s three battles with cancer, the toll it took on his body and, at times, his spirit. And you might know that he couldn’t have survived and thrived without the support of my Mother who doesn’t always give herself credit for how strong she is. But there they were, on the dance floor, hand in hand, cheek to cheek as Frank sang for them.
That night I thought about all the stories of the reunion. I thought about the festive Christmas Eve’s with St. Joseph’s spaghetti and fried bread at my Uncle Rocky and Aunt Barbara’s house. I thought how this was the first reunion without my Uncle Sam, who died a few months ago; his absence was felt. I missed my Aunt Cathy who wasn’t able to be there this year, but asked her nieces and nephews to post many pictures on Facebook for her. (We were happy to oblige.) And I was moved to see my Uncle Mike and Aunt Marlene, who’ve weathered much themselves, also on that dance floor. Some cousins danced, some cousins sat and talked. I don’t think I was the only one a little awash in complex, vivid memories. Reunions are bittersweet occasions.
Anyway, the reunion is over. I’m back at home, drinking my morning coffee, two dogs begging to be taken for their first walk of the day. My heart is still in Pueblo, but it’s also right here in Los Angeles, too. For as long as I live, not just when I’m awfully low or when the world is cold, when I hear this song, a song I never thought too much about previously, I’ll think of this reunion and of my parents and, well, fondly remember the way they looked that night.
The family on my Mother’s side has a big reunion coming up in a few weeks. It’s the first reunion that won’t be attended by my Uncle Sam, a larger than life personality who from the time he was a teenager and his own Father died, had been the acting patriarch of his family. Sam Petramala passed away on March 29, 2014. This reunion will not be the same without him and I know that my Mother is one of the people who will feel his absence the most. A quick story: at another reunion a few years back, my Mother became suddenly ill and we had to take her to the emergency room, where we spent a good portion of one of the days. That evening, when my Uncle saw my Mom as we came back into the hotel, he burst into tears once he saw her. He was a 70-something year old man who wept at the thought of one of his baby sisters being in pain. He always was her protector and I believe, from his current vantage point, he still is. All this is to say that I know my Mom misses her brother and I thought that if I asked her to write about reunions, it would give her a chance to share a little about the brother who was like a father. He was a dear man and this family reunion will not be the same without him.
Ray asked if I would write about a family reunion we are going to this month. Webster’s Dictionary said reunion is reuniting, the coming together of a group which has been separated for a period of time. I checked the Thesaurus and added these words: rejoining, reconciliation, homecoming, get together. The more I think about reunions, I realize there are many reunions. The military person returning home to his/her family. The excitement of seeing the smiling faces and shouts of children saying “daddy I missed you!” The family dog greets them with kisses (licks) on the face. What a happy reunion and wonderful day. Another reunion which has a bittersweet homecoming is the person who died serving his country, the casket draped with the American Flag. Just recently a service man from this area came home to his final resting place. 62 years he was separated from his family and friends. He casket was met at the airport in Tulsa and escorted home to Caney, Kansas. He was honored by so many people who never knew him just respected and appreciated what he did for his country.
Another bittersweet homecoming is to come together to celebrate the life of a person who has departed from us. It is said a funeral is for the living. I believe this. It’s a time when people come together to remember and celebrate the life of this person. We gather together to support each other as we mourn for this person. In our family, we recently came together to honor and celebrate the life of my brother Sam. He struggled the last three years of his life so we could make more memories with him. Now he is at his eternal home. Rest in peace, my brother. We all love and miss you so very much.
This month we will have a family reunion. It is an event which happens every two years. If I remember right it was started by a group of family who came together for a funeral. They decided we needed to meet for a happy occasion. Family will come from Canada, Utah, Colorado, and many more states to numerous to mention. It is a big event for us! It is a time to greet each other and renew our hearts and minds. There will be great food, (Italians always have food) games, a banquet, did I mention food, and on Sunday a family picnic with lots of food! We will play games, and recognized the oldest family member and the youngest family member. Lastly during this weekend we will share stories, pictures and we will remember those who went before us to their eternal home and they will greet us when we go to our final reunion.
This is not a review of last week’s American Horror Story. I will merely offer that the best moment of the episode was Stevie Nicks’ haunting ballad she sang at the end, just her by the piano singing to Jessica Lange’s character, Fiona Goode. I did not remember hearing the song before, so I did a little Google search and I found this video of her singing it at one of the most, pardon my pun, magical concert venues I know of, Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside of Denver. On Youtube, in the comments someone left the background about the song which I’d also never heard. The man she is talking about is Joe Walsh, of The Eagles.
Apparently, the following was in the liner notes of her 1985 album, Rock a Little
“I guess in a very few rare cases, some people find someone that they fall in love with the very first time they see them… from across the room, from a million miles away. Some people call it love at first sight, and of course, I never believed in that until that night I walked into a party after a gig at the hotel, and from across the room, without my glasses, I saw this man and I walked straight to him. He held out his hands to me, and I walked straight into them. I remember thinking, I can never be far from this person again… he is my soul. He seemed to be in a lot of pain, though hid it well. But finally, a few days later, (we were in Denver), he rented a jeep and drove me up into the snow covered hills of Colorado… for about 2 hours. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going, but he did tell me a story of a little daughter that he had lost. To Joe, she was much more than a child. She was three and a half, and she could relate to him.
“I guess I had been complaining about a lot of things going on on the road, and he decided to make me aware of how unimportant my problems were if they were compared to worse sorrows. So he told me that he had taken his little girl to this magic park whenever he could, and the only thing she EVER complained about was that she was too little to reach up to the drinking fountain. As we drove up to this beautiful park, (it was snowing a little bit), he came around to open my door and help me down, and when I looked up, I saw the park… his baby’s park, and I burst into tears saying, ‘You built a drinking fountain here for her, didn’t you?’ I was right, under a huge beautiful hanging tree, was a tiny silver drinking fountain. I left Joe to get to it, and on it, it said, dedicated to HER and all the others who were too small to get a drink.
“So he wrote a song for her, and I wrote a song for him… ‘This is your song, ‘ I said to the people, but it was Joe’s song. Thank you, Joe, for the most committed song I ever wrote. But more than that, thank you for inspiring me in so may ways. Nothing in my life ever seems as dark anymore, since we took that drive.”