Son, Andrew, was the second of seven boys born to Nana and gramps. Uncle Andy, aunt Mary, and cousins Frank and Caroline, lived in the upstairs apartment above my great-grandparents, who lived in the house located behind Nana’s house. This apartment and the one above Nana’s served as launching pads for newly married sons with young families. As did some of his brothers after him, he started in Little Italy then migrated to surburbia. After the move to Wickliffe, another son, Brian entered the world of the 1950s.
I was seated at the kitchen table fussing with the zucchini on my plate. My father was completing his food as the rest of the family rose and disappeared. Dad wasn’t thrilled with me because I downed all else from the plate but was having a difficult time with the zucc. “Finish your plate then you can go.” Not looking up, but continuing to move the veggie from one side of the plate to the other, I exclaimed my disdain for the cold, bland residue on my plate. That didn’t go over well at all. Quickly, I was told how hard my mother worked to cook the meal and how hard he worked to provide it. “So, you will sit here until it’s all gone and that will be bedtime, if necessary.” I had no retort, but the thought went through my mind that the zucchini was grown by my grandfather in the garden behind the garage. How hard did he work for that? Hey, I’m twelve years old, if I wanted to see thirteen I knew I had to keep my thoughts to myself.
Lord, let me get this down without wretching. Worse, now, it was cold. More than a few times, dad reminded me to “get it down or else.” Now, I can look back and ask, “or else what?” Bed early, no dessert, grounded? Then, though, I believed, murder.
Suddenly, a knock came from the kitchen door, it opened and there stood my uncle Andy. He stepped into the kitchen, was greeted by his brother and me, and sat down for a cup of coffee and a biscotti. Playing grown-up I pushed my dinner plate away from me about six inches, sat back and listened to the siblings talk. Work’s good, family’s good, when we going to see ma? Small talk. After a dip of biscotti into the coffee, uncle displayed two tickets for the Cleveland Indians baseball game to be played that night. He explained that a co-worker was willing to give the tickets away if someone would use them. Uncle snatched them up and now sat five feet from my father offering to take me to the game if it was okay. My head dropped instantly to see if the zucc was still on my plate. “Please, Lord, make it go away.” Without fuss, dad placed both hands on the table and rose out of his chair. “Tonight, huh? “Peering down to my level he affirmed that I had never been to a pro game before, then said, “Okay. Tell your mother and put on fresh clothes.” There is a higher being and he’s in my house this day. I didn’t even scoot around the table. I slid off the chair and slithered from under the table.
Uncle took me to the game. We shared hot dogs, drinks and our love for the game. He bought me a scorecard/program and showed me how to keep score. I have passed on the same method to my nephew, who I took to his first pro game. Uncle encouraged me to cheer for my team, and encouraged me to boo at the opponent. It was a glorious evening. We replayed the game, which Cleveland lost, on our return trip to Euclid.
Uncle dropped me off in the driveway, never coming in to see dad or mom. We bid each other a good night with a big thank you and hug from me. I raced into the house with the scorecard tightly gripped in my hand. Loudly, I announced what a great time was had by the two of us, while casually mentioning the home team lost. Both parents listened, with a grin, nodded after my thanks, then explained I had school the next day and I should get to bed.
After a restless night, because of the excitement from the night before, I went through my morning routine which included a bowl of cereal at the kitchen table. I approached my usual spot, noticing the setting looked different. Sure enough, there it sat. The dinner plate with zucchini. Thanks, uncle, for the twenty-four hour respite.
By Carlo Orlando©