Isn’t It Funny I Never Get To One?

On 22 December, I’d had enough. My friend Sean Carolan who runs Altrok Radio had irritated me into action. I called his work number, which I dial about twice a week, so on that occasion, my co-workers heard me stand up so fast my ergonomically disastrous work chair flew backward and I punched a bunch of numbers on my phone. I got voicemail.

Tata: Sweetheart -

My father’s mother loved me a lot and showed her affection in small, controlled doses. You simply had to know she loved you more than life itself, and would in fact do absolutely anything for you. One time, I made a pot of pasta fasul’ and we ate about half of it before it became apparent to us both we had to get rid of it. After she went to work, I flushed the rest of it down the toilet. On her way home from her beauty shop, she ran into workmen she knew in our apartment complex. They were sweaty and working very hard at something in the basement below our two-bedroom.

Edith: Sam, how are you?
Sam: You wouldn’t believe it. It’s like someone shoved gallons of beans into the plumbing.
Edith: (Trying not to laugh) I’m sure I don’t know how that’d happen!
Sam: Anyway, don’t flush for a while. I’ll bang the pipes.

Many large family dinners included arguments. Edith would express her firm opinion once, then when anyone disagreed, she clenched her teeth and said, “Sweetheart…” I never heard anyone call anyone else “…sweetheart…” without formal cutlery. Often, Edith grabbed an empty bowl or serving tray and walked to the kitchen, where she washed this poor dish with extreme prejudice, warbling, “Ahhhh sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found thee…” Edith called herself “the only Italian in the world who couldn’t sing.” When I call Sean, I’m hissing.

Tata: Sweetiheart, did you ever see Slapshot? If you’ve never seen Slapshot, you should definitely see it. There’s this moment where Paul Newman finally loses it. He’s had enough. He goes upstairs in the rink and slaps the organ player on the back of the head. Do you know what he says? He says, “Don’t EVER play Lady of Spain again!” Know that Oasis song in your current rotation? Don’t EVER play Lyla again!

Sean calls me back.

Sean: You hate it?
Tata: With my whole black heart. Please don’t make me kill you.
Sean: I might hate that more that you will.
Tata: I’m shallow. Do you realize prison would force me to be a brunette?

In my family, it’s a one-for-one exhange: someone is born, someone dies. My sister Dara was born the day before Edith died fourteen years ago. Eight years before that, I came home from work one night.

Edith: Your uncle called from prison.
Tata: Oh yeah? What’d he want?
Edith: He’s sharing a cell with Ellio of Ellio’s Pizza.
Tata: You’re kidding!
Edith: No. Apparently, Ellio needs a better accountant and a quarterly tax schedule.
Tata: Okay…
Edith: Your uncle said, “Ellio’s making bracciole in the hot pot. Can I eat that?” I said, “Yes, you can eat that.” So he’s happy.
Tata: He should be glad he’s bunking with someone who can cook.
Edith: I hope he’s using a fresh sauce!

A girl needs her standards.

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