It was easy to say that Italians were passionate people. This Italian family was certainly that. Tony felt deep feelings about people, me, his sisters and brothers, his son, nieces and nephews. I saw him slowly get ready to go to bed in the room I found out was his when he was growing up. His parents had not quite left it like my parents had left mine. There was things I knew were Angelo’s where he worked on projects and things, but it had things from Tony’s past. I’d look at some of those things later. I could tell by looking at him, Tony was emotionally numb. He moved slowly. It was almost if he weren’t here as he pulled his clothes off, then sitting on the bed having not gotten everything off and just stopped.
It hurt! He was hurting and I felt the hurt, too, but not as deeply. My father wasn’t dying. But I could see the pain on Tony. Both of Tony’s parents were dying and his father would die, we just didn’t know how soon. I stopped my getting ready and walked over. Without a word, I helped him finish getting ready and pushed him down, covering him up. When I was ready, our roles were reversed. I got in behind him and spooned him, putting my arms around him. “I’m here, Tony.” His hand came up, took mine and brought it closer to his chest, holding it there.
I don’t know if he slept much that night. I didn’t. In the morning, I got up as Tony was in the bathroom and went to make the coffee for that morning. I was the first downstairs, so I got things needed to begin breakfast as well as beginning the coffee. This wasn’t my kitchen, but I found what was needed. I would have to get some more groceries soon.
“Good morning.” I heard behind me. I turned to see Kathleen in her bathrobe. She didn’t look as if she slept well even after the sedative she’d been given. “You don’t have to do that. I can cook breakfast.”
I nodded to her. “Of course you can, but with a house full of people for Papa, you can take it easy for now.” I smiled, trying to keep that I knew her condition off my face. I hugged her. “So, don’t worry. I can cook.” I assured.
She chuckled. “I’m sure you can.” She said as she sat at the table. Her eyes looking at my face and then she smiled. “So, you know about me.”
I nodded. “Kathy told us.” But her statement was vague, so I clarified. “About Papa…and you.”
Kathleen sighed sadly. “How’s Tony taking it?”
“Not well.” I told her honestly. “He was furious at Papa, but I know he was equally upset about your condition.”
That’s when Kathy came in. “Good morning everyone.” She smiled and then kissed her mother on the cheek. “Did you sleep last night?”
Kathleen smiled. “Even through most of your father's and brother’s raucous.” Then she smiled at me. “You handled Tony very well. I had to be dead not to hear it.” She chuckled.
I gave a shrugging nod. “Well, he is Italian, but I’ve learned how best to deal with him.”
I began getting some eggs and bacon going.
“Louise is flying in tomorrow.” Kathy said as she poured some coffee, held the pot up for her mother, who nodded.
I grinned. “I’ll make sure we have plenty of coffee on hand.”
Kathy laughed. “It is the drug of choice for Delveccios.”
“I’ll need a whole pot more just for Tony.”
Kathy hugged me. “Thanks for being here.” She smiled. “Al will be over later today. David and Melissa will be here, too. The nurses for Hospice will be coming by as well.”
Hospice was a terrible thing to hear. It is such a pleasant sounding name, isn’t it? Not that they weren’t so important, they were. But they only came when there was nothing else, but to assist with dying.
“And Mama, you’ll need to get ready to go.” Kathy said to Kathleen. “No arguments. You’re starting your treatment today.”
Kathleen nodded. “I’m not arguing.”
“Is he in a lot of pain?” I asked Kathy.
She shrugged. “Who knows? He had to have felt pain for some time. He just never complains. I’m assuming he is. That’s what the Hospice nurses are coming to help with.” Then she smiled. “But you have a tough job ahead keeping Tony on track.”
I dreaded what was coming, but nodded. “For better or worse.”
Kathy nodded with a chuckle. “I was a witness to you two vowing that to each other.” Then she and I saw Tony come in, looking very rough. He’d not shaved or rested. Not the usual Tony at all.
He put his arms around his mother and hugged her tightly. No words were needed to know what they were saying to each other.
Kathleen smiled at him and then held him back. “I’m sorry we’re doing this to you children. You have good people to help you through this.” Then she ran a hand over his face. “Just depend on those that love you.” She said looking at me. Then she walked off to get ready to go to wherever she was getting her radiation and chemotherapy.
“Hi.” I said to Tony who came over. My hand when to his face as his mother’s had. I caressed his face. “I’ve made coffee.” He nodded and kissed me. It was a kiss of love, but there was more to it. Need. It was like he was drawing strength from our connection.
“If I don’t tell you often later...” Tony said quietly. “I love you. I need you.”
I smiled at him. “You have me.”
In many ways, Tony was just lost. I could see he was trying to think about what he needed to do was just a little harder for him to grasp what that was right now.
“You need to call Nick.” I reminded him.
His face scrunched a little at the thought, but nodded. “I’ll do it in a few minutes.”
I needed to let my own parents know we wouldn’t be there for the Fourth of July as we always were. That was tomorrow.
After we got some breakfast, I did go visit with Angelo, but left him with Tony mostly. I sighed hating what was happening and the helpless feeling there was nothing I could do.
I was in Tony’s world now. I didn’t know Queens, but I knew I would learn a lot very quickly. I was determined to do as much as I could. I found out where Kathleen did all her shopping and planned to put in supplies we’d need. The nurses for Angelo came and gave him the needed medications and tended to him. They told Kathy, as if her being a Master’s Degree nurse wasn’t enough, but she listened about how they gave and when they gave the medications. These were potent narcotics needed for Angelo’s pain. Who better to know if he were in pain that someone that knew him? David and Melissa came by, but like me, there wasn’t much they could do. I walked about the house, looking at the many items. They took a lot of pictures I found out. Memories were everywhere. I was in Tony’s room when I found his collection of high school yearbooks. Notre Dame. The high school in Queens, not the college. Pulling out the books, I found Tony in them. He was always a very handsome man, even as a teenager. I read some of the comments written by friends he’d gotten there. Some were sort of racy. I even saw pictures of their prom with a picture of Jean and Tony dressed formally. It was shortly while I was doing that I heard Kathy come in after getting her mother settled from her radiation and chemotherapy.
She smiled seeing I was looking through Tony’s yearbook. “If you really want to see his past….” She went away briefly and came back with a photo album. “You should see this.”
I chuckled as I took it. There they were. Tony, Kathy and Louise, with their parents at a beach, Coney Island and various parts of New York and other places. The nicest picture was Tony about five or six, with Kathy about eight and Louise a budding teenager. He had been a very cute little boy, but I was prejudiced. As big as he was now, it was interesting to see him as the little brother with two bigger sisters.
“Oh, no.” Tony said coming into the doorway as he saw what we were doing, he was smiling. “That’s embarrassing.”
I grinned at him. “Why? You were cute! You still are!”
He came and sat beside me on the bed, Kathy on the other side of me. Then I saw something surprising. Tony had said there was no yard and I had seen what they had. But now I saw a pool in what was their backyard, which was paved now. It was pretty big, the pool. It was one of those above ground pools, but it took up nearly the whole space of their backyard. In it was little Tony, Kathy, Louise and three other children having a really good time. I saw Angelo shouting at someone, his hair a little thicker and darker, but a handsome man. I could see where Tony got his physique from, his father had passed it to his son. I guessed Kathleen was taking the picture.
“Remember that, Tony?” Kathy asked smiling.
Tony nodded smiling as well. “And I remember why.”
I looked puzzled. “Is there a story to why?”
Kathy nodded. “Oh, yes.”
“Our dear neighbor.” Tony began with a smug smile. “One of your people…”
I felt annoyed when he said like that. I was good at faking looks, remember? “My people.”
“Non-Italian.” Kathy clarified calmly. “One of few in this neighborhood. Here you were either Italian or Jewish. They weren’t either.”
“Oh.” I nodded.
“She and her husband had bought a pool.” Tony explained. “She came over one day and told Mama, your children are welcome to come over, but keep it the day before they clean it.”
That was odd. “Why that request?”
Kathy nodded. “According to her, because we were too greasy. So, we were welcome the day before it was cleaned to get rid of that oil we supposedly had.”
I know I did well faking emotions on my face, but now…I was just just…well…appalled! “She didn’t!”
Tony nodded. “She did. And she was ignorant enough to not know how insulting that was.”
“Of all the stupid….!!” I knew that being ignorant was no excuse, but it always amazed me when I heard it and so blatant!
“She thought we were oily and greasy.” Kathy shrugged.
“When Papa heard about it that night….” Tony began with a chuckle.
“Right in the middle of dinner….” Kathy chuckled, too.
“Papa throws down his fork and tells us we’re getting a pool!” Tony finished. He was laughing. “I mean right then! Dinner was left unfinished and we went immediately.”
Kathy nodded laughing. “I think he even went in debt to get it. And not just any pool…”
Tony shook his head laughing. “No….he got the biggest pool, bigger than theirs! It barely fit in our back yard as you can see!” Then he pointed to two of the children. “And there are her two sons! In our pool. Invited specifically by Papa. And Dad invited another boy who was Jewish!”
“That was nice, but what she said was so…horrible!” I really was mad. “Tell me she’s not still next door.”
Kathy shook her head. “She died a while back.”
I hadn’t expected that, but I nodded. “Good. I’d probably go next door and slap her!”
Kathy laughed when I said that. “Papa is a good man. Remember when…the Nelsons moved into the neighborhood?” She asked Tony.
Tony nodded. “They were black!” He smiled wickedly.
“God forbid! There goes the neighborhood.” I said sarcastically. “What the KKK has affiliations up here, too?”
Tony nodded. “They do. But there were a few neighbors that didn’t like it. A man came by with a petition to have them leave.”
“No way!” I said in disbelief. “What good would a petition do, it’s a free country!”
Tony nodded. “Way!”
Kathy grinned at her brother. “Papa handed the man his petition, walked the few houses down where the family was moving in. Welcomed them to the neighborhood and even helped Mr. Nelson with moving in as the man with petition watched!”
“Not only that, but Mama went and invited the whole family to dinner! That night!” Tony said proudly.
I smiled at the warmth they both had for all their father had done in the past. Angelo didn’t just tell his children what they should do, he showed them by example. “That just makes sense. I wish I knew you then.”
Tony smiled at me. “Well, you know us now.” He shrugged. “Besides, I wasn’t gay back then.”
Kathy rolled her eyes and I just grabbed him in a kiss.
“Oh, I forgot.” I smiled. “You just weren’t ready for me, yet.”
Tony chuckled. “That was it.”
I opened the yearbook again. “And I see you were hairy chested back in high school.” I pointed to a picture of him getting ready to dive in as he prepared to race on the swim team. “How old were you then?”
Tony smiled. “I had just turned seventeen.” He pulled his shirt open a little. “I have more now.” His eyebrows waggled.
I chuckled as I ran a couple of fingers of the hairs I could get to. “I know.”
Kathy grunted. “He was always showing it off. Wearing those shirts open when not in school uniform. He always wanted to be sexy. He was thirteen when he got his first chest hair, he was so proud!”
Tony chuckled. “And you weren’t proud of what you had? I remember many times where the skirt was higher than an inch above the knee.” Then he bumped her. “I remember the push up bras! The nuns were always holding the ruler to her knees and asking her to button her blouse.”
She was good at faking expressions. “I don’t know what you mean.” I was convinced she was innocent. Then she leaned toward me. “Louise got the…” she hefted her breasts.
I loved how they got along! I loved that I was now included in this family. I just wished we weren’t here for the reasons we were. But I loved the family and now I was loving them even more. The Delveccio children were remembering fondly memories of childhood and growing up in north with warmth and feeling all about love. I turned to a picture of Kathleen on the beach.
“You’re Mama passed on some good things to you.” I smiled pointing at a picture on the beach with Kathleen much younger in a….well, while not quite a bikini, but you saw she had a figure and long black hair. “She’s a beautiful woman.”
Kathy nodded. “She is.” Then she turned to another picture album and went to a page she knew was there. She pointed to a very dressy Kathleen and Angelo. Kathleen was wearing a evening gown and Angelo in a tuxedo. “Remember this, Tony?”
Tony was already remembering as he laughed. “I do. She comes down, does this little spin….”
“Can I get away with it?” Kathy said in a good imitation of her mother, even doing the fluffing of hair I knew was Kathleen.
Then Tony imitated his father perfectly in that gruff voice. “We’re late! Get in the car!”
Then Kathy nodded putting her index finger and thumb nearly together. “The things I go through….”
Then Tony said it with her as they went down the well-traveled road. “…to get a little compliment!” He said with her, his fingers doing the same thing. This was something they knew well and was said often.
“God, I wish I had your memories!” I said smiling at them. “I knew your parents were caring and fun to be with, but they sound like really fun characters.”
Tony nodded. “They always were!” He smiled kissing me.
Kathy grinned looking at the two of us as our foreheads touched again. “You two just belong together! Anyone with eyes has to see that.” She patted Tony and me on the cheek. “But there will be more you’ll find out about Kathleen and Angelo Delveccio when Louise gets here tomorrow. Count on it.” She rose. “Well, I’m checking on Mama.”
“Papa’s asleep, but you can look in.” Tony said smiling at his sister.
“You have a great family, Tony.” I said to him.
He nodded. “I do.” Then he kissed me again, a little more intent, but full of love. “To which you’re a part of now. There’s no turning back.”
“I wouldn’t if I could.” Looking at him, he looked better. “Are you okay?” Then I realized what I’d said. “Well, of course you’re not, but…”
Tony smiled nodding. “I’m okay. It was just all a shock to me, that’s all.” He sighed. “I wasn’t lying when I said I need you.”
I ran a hand over his face. “I promised. I will always be here with you.” Kissing again tenderly. “I love you, Tony.”
He smiled at me. “I know.”
We promised someone would stay with Angelo during the night. So in watches we took turns sitting by his bed. Looking at Angelo, I was looking at Tony. They had the same profile with a slight variation of two, but they were father and son. It was about three in the morning when Angelo stirred. I was instantly at his side.
“Hi.” I greeted Angelo quietly as he tried to focus on me. “It’s me, Mitch.”
It took a few minutes, but he finally looked at me and smiled as he recognized me. “Mitch, my favorite son.”
I smiled at that, but I was thinking it was partly because of the medication, which was pretty damned powerful. “Thank you, Papa. But I think Tony is your favorite son.”
He chuckled. “No. He’s my favorite son, because he was born to me. But you…” he said touching my face. “…are a son one of my children brought to this family.” Then he grinned. “Don’t tell Kathy or Louise, but I like you the best. If you do, I’ll deny it.”
I smiled, he was coherent. “Al and Mike are nice guys!”
He nodded. “They are, but Tony needs you.” He said. “Louise and Kathy love their husbands, but Tony needs you. He loves you, of that I know without a shadow of a doubt. Louise and Kathy are very independent and would do well with or without their husbands, but Tony needs you.” Then he smiled very comfortably. “I’ll tell you why you’re my favorite. You call me Papa.”
I was surprised by that. “But that’s who you are.”
Angelo nodded. “For several years I was Mr. Delveccio after both Al and Mike married into the family. Later it became Angelo.” His hand ran over my face. “But you began calling me Papa before you had even said I do in front of everyone.” He smiled bigger. “That made me very happy you thought of me like that.”
I shrugged. “You didn’t seem to mind, so I kept doing it, but Tony did well before me.” I argued lightly.
Angelo shook his head. “Not really.” He smiled again at me. “I love my son.”
I nodded. “I know that.”
“He did well financially, but he always had this need.” He tried to explain. “By now you’ve noticed he sometimes isn’t that confident.”
I remembered the times he had been unsure I’d love him when he got older, his need to get more and have more. “I have. But I assure him all the time, I love him. Not what he’s got or how old he is. In fact,” I grinned at Angelo. “I’m thinking he’s got nothing to worry about where his looks are concerned. He got his good looks from you.”
Angelo grinned and rolled his eyes, just like Tony did!
“I’m serious!” I smiled sitting on the bed next to him. “I saw pictures of you by the pool…which I heard about. I mean, all of it.”
“He told you about that?” Angelo smiled.
“Kathy did. Tony added things.” I explained. “You have a lot to proud of, Papa. You’ve got some great children who love you and Mama very much.”
I saw tears form in his eyes. “I hope they always do.”
“Believe me when I say, they told me some things…that you did with the pool, the Nelsons…you helped shape who they became.” I said touching his hand outside the covers. “They’re good people. Now, about you…I saw a very handsome man at the beach with his family. You must have had a lot of ladies.”
Angelo laughed when I said that. “To quote Kathleen…there was….”
I smiled and finished with him. “…a long line waiting to get to you.” It was a line often spoken by Kathleen.
Then he smiled nodding. “But there were a few, but…” he sighed. “It took one look. I saw Kathleen. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” He shrugged. “I was in love instantly.”
I smiled at that, but I saw he was blushing. That was the sign that all Delveccio men gave when speaking from the heart. “She’s an amazing woman.”
Angelo nodded. “I’ve not regretted it one single moment.”
I smiled. “Tony’s a lot like you in many ways.”
Angelo’s eyebrows rose. “Is he?”
I nodded. “He’s having the hardest time with this. He loves you so much.”
Angelo nodded. “But I know he’ll be fine. He’s got you. You’ll take care of him.” He said confidently. Then I saw his face contort.
“Are you in pain?” I asked.
“A little.” Angelo confessed.
“I’ll get Kathy.” Knowing she would be the one that could give him medication.
Angelo’s hand grasped mine. “No, wait.” He sighed. “It’s okay for now. Just stay a little longer.” Then he smiled at me. “How’s Kathleen?”
I frowned. “She’s in the other room. She should be in here by morning.”
Angelo looked out the dark window. “It’s late, isn’t it?”
I nodded. “A little after three in the morning.”
Angelo looked at me. “She’s sick, too, isn’t she?”
This was not a question I wanted to answer. Kathleen had not wanted to tell him. Who was I to do what she didn’t want to have happen? “She’s asleep. You can ask her yourself.”
Angelo nodded. “That answers my question.” He chuckled. “If she was okay, you’d just tell me she’s okay. The fact that you dodge the question is telling. I know you can’t lie.”
“Please don’t put me in the middle of this.” I begged.
He patted my hand. “Of course not.” He sighed again. “Just sit a little while longer with me, okay?”
I took the hand he used to hold mine, raising it to my lips and kissing his hand. “As long as you want me to.”
He did drift off to sleep again. Kathy came in about four in the morning. I told her that he had some pain, but was sleeping now peacefully.
“Louise will be here this afternoon. She’ll help.” Kathy said patting my arm hugging me. “Go to bed. Be with Tony.”
I came back in Tony’s bedroom and quietly undressed and then slid in a carefully as I could so I wouldn’t wake him. I should have known better. As I lay down, Tony rolled over, his arm around me and his head coming to rest on my chest.
“I need to hear you heartbeat.” Tony said sleepily. “I don’t sleep well without you.”
Inside, that made me feel so good. “You don’t want a pillow?”
He shook his head. “Your heartbeat is comforting to me.”
One of my arms came around him as the other hand played a little with his hair. “You stay as long as you need to. I’ll be here.”
Tony sighed as he was finally beginning to rest. “I love you, Mitch.”
“I know you do.” I kissed the top of his head. “I love you.”