This post falls into the tl;dr category especially since the intro is rather lengthy. Anyway – The other day I answered a (new) comment on an (old) post with “If you think Italian weddings are a hoot in hell, they got nothing on Italian funerals! ” which made me think of my Aunt Tess and the essay I wrote about her. I searched through my ‘documents’ and couldn’t find it. I knew I had a hard copy in my files and when I pulled it out I realized it had been typed on a typewriter and not on a computer. These essays were written back in the mid 1980’s. I’ve spent the afternoon typing Tessie’s story into my computer and I present it to you now, exactly as originally written (and typed) with no editing. Tho it is not far off from the way I write now, it could use a tune-up.
Let me introduce you to my Aunt Tess –
My godmother’s name is Tessie. She is my father’s older sister. She is in her late 70’s and has blue hair. Actually Tess is rather regal looking. She took after the Torre side of the family – large. Not fat, mind, just large. Actually if you put the family together they look like the back line of the Rams.
Tessie was married to a mafia lawyer, who for the entire length of their marriage maintained another household with another woman.
Jim had a son with this other woman (no kids with Tessie) and Skip and I were waiting for Jim to die so we could go to his funeral and witness the scene when Jim’s son showed up. Tessie knew about the woman but not the son. Well, Jim’s funeral has come and gone and Skip and I missed it. It must have been grand. Actually all Torre funerals are grand affairs, especially with Tessie in attendance. Ah, the sobbing, the breast beating, the flinging of the grief stricken into the coffin – it’s wonderful!
Tessie has a history of funeral performance. The tale is told that when she was a little girl (when funerals were in the home) she would get all dressed up and slip out of the house and wander the neighborhood looking for doors with black wreaths on them. She would go in, tiptoe up to the coffin and begin to cry and weep and wail. Everyone would say “Oh poor child look how upset she is” then they would say “Who is she?” then she would get thrown out.
We often asked her why she went to funerals. She never really answered us, just laughed.
Tessie lives up in Westchester, actually Yonkers, which is still the Bronx, near the race track. Tessie plays the horses – and wins. She has a very scientific method – license plate numbers, birthdays, the color the jockey is wearing, really logical choices but, she wins. She opened a special bank account for her winnings so her husband wouldn’t find out. One day she hit the daily double or the triple or whatever, and won big, I’m talking big! When the tax form came in Jim opened it in error and Tessie nearly had a heart attack. She fluffed it all off and since Jim didn’t really care what Tessie did her private income was safe.
Now my Uncle Al (who is another story altogether) also had a weakness for the track. But he did it logically, condition of the track, past performance of the horse, stuff like that – and lost, all the time. He lost so often that he was in the process of being fitted for cement shoes, if you know what I mean. The only time Tessie lost was when Al went to the track with her and bet on the same horses. Needless to say Tessie did not encourage Al’s company.
After my father died Tessie felt it was her duty to visit my mother every other Saturday or so. Tess would trek down from Yonkers to Long Island and spend the afternoon dragging my mother back and forth to the OTB parlor. In between trips she would listen to the races on the radio. My mother was thrilled to pieces about the whole thing. It kind of blew my mother’s Saturdays.
My mother saw more of Tessie after my father died than in all the 35 years preceding. And of course, you understand, my mother never liked Tessie and Tessie never liked my mother. But family is family and my father was Tessie’s little brother and my mother was his widow…so.
They spent many an afternoon glaring and arguing and rehashing 35 years of insults and slights and coming up with quite a few new ones. I really think Tessie was relieved when my mother moved to Phoenix.