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Sunday, August 07, 2016

THE FUNERAL

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day

It was 1956, and the hit song was ‘Catch A Falling Star’ by Perry Como, and the world was about to change for me. As I was getting adjusted to my new home away from Brooklyn, we got the news that Grandpa Ralph had died.

For love may come and tap you on the shoulder
Some starless night
Just in case you feel you wanna hold her
You'll have a pocket full of starlight

It seemed like the end of an era, how would we ever go on without Grandpa? He never said much but he was always there, for Grandma and for us, a quiet old world man who made his own wine and vinegar, had a phenomenal garden and loved his Francesca. My thoughts went to my grandmother and how sad she must be right now. Dad had a solemn face and I could see him looking back over the years as a child and young man, remembering his dad, and he was doing it through his eyes.

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day

It was a cold January morning, and Dad decided he must go out to see grandma immediately, so left us to ourselves with instructions to be ready when he got back, so we could all gather together to go to Brooklyn. When it was time for us to leave, I remember becoming a little nervous, apprehensive and even reluctant to want to go to see Grandpa dead in a coffin. My experience was somewhat limited when it came to the dead. As a second grader, I went to the funeral of my 1st-grade teacher, a very cranky mean old lady, and with my sister, on our way home from school, stopped at the local funeral parlor to view her remains and make sure she was dead. I remember being overtaken by the odor of flowers, as I entered the room and seeing a sea of people and then the open casket. It stopped me short, almost paralyzing me as I looked on. Whenever I smell cut flowers, I think of funerals to this day.

For love may come and tap you on the shoulder
Some starless night
And just in case you feel you wanna hold her
You'll have a pocket full of starlight (pocket full of starlight)

When we arrived at Grandma’s house, I noticed something was different in the storefront, the windows were closed off, so you couldn’t view anything from the street. When we got inside I found out why. Grandpa was in the store, the place where he spent all his time working, he now was working even in death.

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day

Laid out at the front door was the coffin, and grandpa was in it! Instead of a funeral parlor, Grandpa, who always wanted to die at home, did, and stayed there! But instead of bins of gifts and shelves lined with items, all that was removed and instead, I see sconces on the wall, a drape covering the front of the storefront and is the backdrop for the coffin. There’s a cross hanging from the curtain over Grandpa and rows of chairs facing the coffin. I asked Dad why the chairs are there and he says to me that the chairs were for people to view Grandpa. Being a stupid kid, I asked: “What’s he gonna do???”

For when your troubles start multiplyin'
They just might
It's easy to forget them without tryin'
With just a pocket full of starlight

Then the sadness sunk in, people, relatives and friends of Grandpa and Grandma came by, mostly old blue collar Italians from the hood. Some came and looked in the coffin with quiet curiosity and respect, some holding their hats in hand, some even placing a hand on the coffin edge for a moment before crossing themselves and turning away.

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day

And so the beginning of the rest of my life began, with the realization that we will all end up the same way, not any better or worse, just the same… dead. The time to catch a fallen star is when you are alive and can, and save it for a rainy day, hopefully not the last one.

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