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Sunday, September 13, 2015

HE WAS MORE THAN AN UNCLE; HE WAS GREAT.


Yes, Uncle Zio Felice was not just an uncle; he was my great uncle. He comes with lore and odor, mainly a Di Napoli cigar. To smoke a DiNAPOLI CIGAR, you have had to spend your life in a world of your own, because no one could take that smell! The lore comes from the fact that he had 19 children, all with one wife! How she got close to him at all with that cigar once, let alone 19 times is hard for me to understand.

Being a child of Uncle Zio Felice was a big responsibility: you had to know your place, not only in the pecking order, but at the table also. His wife Zia Maria would cook every night for 21 people. One would think that after the first 3 kids, she would have lost her interest in just about everything, but no, she made homemade pasta for Uncle Zio Felice and 21 people every night!

Once the children heard their father climbing the steps after he worked all day, they all lined up around the dinner table and stood behind their chairs. Once Uncle Zio Felice sat down, then and only then could the brigade sit. Not one morsel of pasta was to be eaten until father had started eating. No one talked unless he spoke to you.

On the job the little foreman ruled with an iron hand. Being in construction, he would run his crew as hard as he ran himself, especially his compatriots, when things were slow, he would hide some of his men until the inspectors left so they wouldn’t lose any pay. Then one year he hired my father’s brother on his crew. My uncle was to get a wheelbarrow filled with bricks and push it up a few wooden planks, as the building was being build upward. Soon he had calluses and his hands were bleeding. Uncle Zio Felice taught him to go behind the building to urinate on his hands, to toughen up the skin.

But the man was never the man he could have been. Prior to World War II, he had a son who wanted to be a priest. He forbade his son from entering the seminary to realize his dream. Had he become a seminarian, he might not have joined the army during the war, and give his life on Anzio Beach. Uncle Zio Felice always blamed and never forgave himself, a sad way to live the last 40 or so years of his life.


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