Louise arrived after noon and immediately went up to her father’s room with little said to anyone. It was the Fourth of July and most of the country was getting ready to celebrate our independence. I had found some things from the grocery stores around there Kathleen got her supplies the day before and was making dinner for the family.
Tony came down in the kitchen where I was working. I glanced at him carefully as he came over, put his arms around me from behind and hugged me, burying his face in my neck.
“How’s Papa?” I asked.
“He and Louise are visiting right now.” Tony replied. Then he looked at what I was doing. “Are you making lasagna?”
I chuckled. “I am.” I pointed to Kathleen’s little box of index cards and her many recipes. “I’m following her instructions carefully. I just hope it turns out alright.”
“No ricotta.” Tony reminded me with a smile.
“I got that.” I nodded with a smile. “Why is that?”
“Papa doesn’t care for it.” Tony shrugged.
“Okay.” I chuckled.
Tony turned me around kissing me gently. “You’ve been great these past few days. I know there’s been a lot going on…”
I held my hand up to him. “We’re family. I’m not doing what any member of this family wouldn’t do. I’ll do all I can.” I kissed him again. Then pulled back enough to see him better. “What did Nick say?”
“He’ll be coming at the end of the week.” Tony said. “He’ll be at Kathy and Al’s.”
I nodded. “It could be a while yet. Papa’s pretty tough.”
Tony nodded. “Nick will come. Stay a while and go back if he needs to. When the time comes, he’ll just come back.” Tony frowned. “You told your parents.”
I nodded. “They understand my place is here. They’ll miss all three of us.”
Tony nodded and then lay his forehead against mine. “I miss you.”
I looked confused a moment not understanding. “I’m always with you.”
Tony grinned, but there was no joy in his smile. “I don’t remember ever not making love. I don’t remember us ever going this long.”
I frowned. “We’ve been sort of preoccupied, baby.”
Tony nodded. “I know, but…I feel….a little disconnected.” He shrugged.
“Whenever you feel a need to reconnect, I’m there, but I don’t feel disconnected from you.” I assured. “You’re my husband. I’m part of you. We always will be a part of each other. I wasn’t going to demand you have sex. You’ve got a lot on your mind. We’ll be fine. We’ve got our lives together.”
He smiled kissing me. “Thanks.” Then he looked at the things strewn over the counter. “Mind if I help?”
I chuckled. “Better to have a real Italian help to make a real Italian dinner.”
“You’re Italian.” Tony smiled kissing me one last time. “Trust me.”
“So long you accept you’re now Scottish.”
Tony grinned. “Deal.” Then he cocked his head. “Does that mean I can wear the kilt? I think you’d look good a Roman soldier.”
I rolled my eyes. “Sure, you can wear the kilt next time if it fits.” I pointed at the Italian bread. “Get the garlic bread ready.”
We worked well together. When Melissa and David got there they helped get things together by setting the table and getting things in place. Then Al came. Fireworks were illegal in New York. But there was a display off Staten Island and the Statue of Liberty. We saw it all on TV. Then Al and his children went home with Kathy. Louise was going to help tonight with her father. Kathy had shown all three, me, Tony and Louise how to give the medication of it was needed for Angelo.
That night Tony was trying to reconnect with me. He tried to make love to me. It was a few minutes before he grunted frustrated and pushed away.
“I can’t.” He groaned as he rolled away.
I looked at him. This had to be carefully handled. “So that’s it?”
Tony was curling up. “I said I can’t.”
I frowned. “So, we call it quits?”
Tony looked at me surprised. “What?”
I waved at him. “Well, you’ve rolled away, started to curl up and just stopped. I guess we’re done.”
“I failed!” Tony said sadly.
I shook my head. “You most certainly have not failed!” I knew what the problem was. It was all the stress he was under. What better way to distract him that bring up other issues while he felt the pressure? Who could do it better than me?
“I can’t perform!”
I scowled even more. “Perform!? You love me, don’t you?”
“Of course, but…”
“But shit! I’m not somebody that needs to be entertained!” I spat. I almost never cussed like that which shocked him. “I don’t need you to perform.” I settled back down bringing him to face me. “I love you, damn it! You have got a lot on your plate right now. You want to connect with me, fine. But I can connect with you if you want. The advantage of relationship like ours is that only one has to be able to love the other. If right now you can’t, that’s fine. If you don’t want to do it at all, fine. But don’t give me that shit about performing!”
Tony was open mouthed, but not saying anything.
“Listen, Tony Delveccio.” I said firmly. “I’ll tell you again and again as necessary. I married you! I married you because I love you! I don’t give a fuck if you can perform or not. I could give a damn about the condo, the clothes or that stupid car! I’d love you if you came to me in dirty jeans and a torn t-shirt! I wouldn’t care if you were garbage man or a mechanic or if you had no job at all! I LOVE YOU!!” I slapped him. Now, understand, it wasn’t hard or much force, but it probably stung a little. I meant it to. Not hurt him, but catch his attention. “Somehow I’m going to get through to you.” I said angrily. “Traumatic events will always re-enforce memories, so listen. I LOVE YOU!! Say it!”
“What the…” Tony held his hand to his face where I’d slapped him.
“Say it! Why do I love you?” I asked and yes, I was angry now. I had issues, too. “Do you even know?”
Tony was lost for words. “I…I don’t understand.”
I nodded. “And that’s a problem.” I said. “I love you because of who you are, not what you are or what you have!” Then I lowered next to him our faces inches apart. “You are the kindest most romantic man I have ever known.” I was waving as I said what I needed to Tony. “People are so jealous of me at work their eyes are always green with envy. Do you know why?”
Tony shook his head.
“I get a rose from you every single week. Why?” I smiled. “Because you love me! I know that you do.” I smiled. “You are the romantic man I married. You feel things so deeply. The condo, those wonderful trips to Scotland, Rome and the Caribbean were nice. Why?” I watched him shake his head. “Because you were there with me! YOU WERE THERE!!” I shook my head. “You are a brilliant man. But sometimes I can’t understand how you can behave so stupidly!” I turned to him. “Hear that? I didn’t say you were stupid, you’re not stupid at all. You are brilliant! You can turn a dollar into a lot of money. I’ve seen it. You’re gifted so much in brains and looks.” I looked at him fiercely. “But if you don’t understand that, you’ve called me a liar!”
His eyes grew. “I did not!!”
“Yes, you did.” I corrected. “And do, every time these doubts come up in you. I told you what I loved about you and when these things come up. You’re calling me a liar!”
Tony rolled his eyes. “I never called you a liar.” But now he was grinning.
“So why do I love you?” I demanded. “Tell me.” I slapped him lightly again.
“Ow!” He chuckled. “You like me. You love my romantic side. You love me!”
I grinned back. “I’ll hit you again until I get through your head which at times can be rather thick!” I said feeling the anger in me melt. “I love you, Tony. There’s something in you we need to get rid of. You’re….like…” I thought quickly. “…a girl with an eating disorder.”
“What!?” Tony shook his head in disbelief not understanding how I could see him that way.
“You are!” I nodded. “Whenever she looks in a mirror, all she sees is someone disgusting and fat when everyone else sees her as she truly is. Emaciated and sick to the point of death. You see yourself as this man who is a failure and poor. I told you before having all you do was not what attracted me. You did! I don’t give a fuck about the money. Give it to your family or charity, I don’t care. We could live in that house or one like it where I was living in when we met. I’d be happy as long as you’re there. Stop wearing those designers you know the names of that I can never remember. Wear jeans, clean or dirty and sneakers, I’d love you just as intensely as I do now. You are a wonderful person. Say it!” I pulled his arms up and pinned him down.
Tony was laughing, but not resisting. “I’m a wonderful person!”
I slapped him again. “Believe it, damn it!”
“Shit! I believe it!” Tony grinned holding my hand to keep me from slapping him again. “Please don’t hit me again.”
I smiled seeing he wasn’t hurt, he was laughing. “Don’t worry. If I hit too hard, I’m sorry. You can hit me back.” Then I grinned. “I’d be glad to kiss whatever you want to make it better. But please believe me and let it sink in good. I love you, Tony.”
Tony kissed me longer, more intently. “I really know you do.”
Arms just came together naturally, the kiss deepened and became longer as we both pulled the other closer. That body contact was magnificent.
We did connect again. Both of us. It was glorious!
I was down making breakfast when Louise came down. She grinned at me leaning on the counter getting her coffee.
“Things got a little heated between you and Tony.” It wasn’t a question. “I heard most of it.”
I nodded smiling. “Did you hear why?”
Louise nodded. “The walls aren’t that thick.” She grinned as Tony came in the room. “It’s about time. Someone needed to get through to Tony.”
Tony chuckled rubbing his face where I’d slapped him. “Yes. He got through.”
Louise handed him a mug for his coffee. “I hope he did.” She kissed Tony on the cheek. “I hope it sticks.”
I nodded. “I’ll remind him as many times as it takes, don’t worry.”
Nick came and visited, but returned with his cousin David to their house. Together Tony and I watched Angelo waste away. Kathleen had to tell her husband what was happening, because her treatments were rough. She was getting the antibiotics and steroids to prevent an allergic reaction to the chemotherapy. Kathy was keeping up with her treatment as well as her fathers’. I visited with Angelo every day several times a day. But he loved it when Tony would visit the most. That was as it should be. But what alarmed me was how badly Kathleen’s treatments were going. She was not responding well at all. She was sick all the time. We had to make her eat anything. As Kathy had said, the problem was Kathleen’s age.
It was the second week in July when Tony’s phone rang. Seeing it was Kathy, he answered it instantly. “Kathy?” Then he grabbed my hand. “We’ll be right there!” He looked up and shouted. “Louise!”
Louise came down the stairs.
“Mom’s in critical condition.” He said shaking. “She’s having a reaction to the chemo Kathy said.”
I squeezed Tony’s hand, while Louise looked up to her father’s room, then back to Tony. “What’ll we do? We can’t leave him!”
I shoved Tony forward. “I’ll stay with Papa. Go! I know how to give the injections and I know how to call 911!” Angelo was DNR, do not resuscitate. If I called it would be to notify the authorities Angelo had died and they would pick him up. It would be more for official reasons.
What happened was the longest few hours I’d ever been through. It was late or really early when Tony came in the room with a sleeping Angelo as I sat trying to read quietly. I had no idea what page I was on or even if there was a plot. When I looked at Tony no one had to tell me. When Tony came in the room slowly, his face said it all. It was a lead brick in my gut.
“Oh, no.” I said crying now.
Tony nodded as tears came down as they had before that day. “She died.” He said to me as I got up and hugged him tightly.
Kathy came in with Louise, they were both holding each other as they were crying.
“Mama had an anaphylaxis reaction to the chemo.” Kathy said as she hugged her sister. “The steroids premedication she was taking didn’t help.”
“How do we tell Papa?” Louise asked us all.
“You just did.” Angelo said sadly and more weakly than I’d ever heard from his bed, but he didn’t look unhappy. “I heard the whole thing. In fact, I think God intended for her to go first.” He chuckled. “She’ll be waiting on me. She’s my get into Heaven advocate to argue my case to let me in.” He smiled. “That woman is in Heaven, because if she couldn’t get in, none of us stand a chance.”
“Oh, Papa.” Kathy wailed. “I’m so sorry.” She said coming to her father’s side with Louise.
Angelo just hugged them both as Tony came over. Now, I felt like I was intruding, so I turned to give them time.
“Mitch, where are you going?” Angelo asked which I barely heard. “Go if you want to, but you’re a Delveccio, too. The only reason Al and Mike aren’t included is they’re not here. You are.”
I smiled and walked back to his bed sitting beside Tony, my hand on Angelo’s still moving chest. “I want to stay, Papa.” I said not bothering to wipe the tears I knew were coming down my face. “I love you, Papa.” I watched as he smiled and I knew this was the last conversation we would have.
The will to live is great, but there is also the will to die. Angelo just…gave up. It was five days later when Kathy came out of Angelo’s room. She didn’t run, she didn’t cry. She just came down stairs where we were in the kitchen and living room. Mike had flown down from Montreal. Drew and Erin, Marcus and their baby were there. All Delveccio descendants and those married to Delveccios were there. “He’s gone.”
This time, no one got hysterical. Tony just nodded. “Should I call 911?”
Kathy shook her head. “Al’s up there now. He’s taking care of that.”
Louise handed her grandson to his mother. “Well we can make some plans now. I’ll call St. John’s. Get Mama’s dress she liked and Papa’s suit ready.”
I learned later that St. John’s was a huge cemetery in Middle Village, Queens. There were a lot of people there. Meaning there was everyone from politics to stage and screen. The Delveccios had a mausoleum there and all their relatives were buried there.
Tony stood up looking at me. “We need to get a suit.” He said to me.
“For your father?” I asked. “Louise said…”
“We didn’t really pack for this.” Tony said. “I meant for us. Dad’s is upstairs. Just a nice black suit for us both I think.” Then he smiled sadly. “I won’t be looking at the designers.”
I nodded with a smile, but just patted his chest. “You should be yourself. Just remember I love you and why.”
Tony nodded with a kiss to me. “I do.”
In many ways, it was better. Okay. I’m not cold, but we were burying two people that loved each other. Who could ask for better? Neither one would have lived too long without the other. I truly believe that was the reason Angelo died so quickly after learning his wife had died. He was in a hurry to see her again. Angelo was not the Mass going Catholic. But Kathleen was. So we had the visit from priest a day before Angelo died. The priest sort of looked with wide eyes as Tony answered the door. I don’t know where the priest expected Tony would be. Tony directed the priest up to his father’s room, but told the priest it was too late. His father was no longer awake and would not wake for him. But the priest stayed, blessed Angelo and gave him last rites and then prayed with the other Catholics in the house. But Tony and I had Rev. Pat come at that time. She was there and let’s just say, when she saw the priest, she smiled, but just talked to Tony and me. The priest was still trying to work it out in his head as he left. You could see it. There would have been times I would have enjoyed this, but not now.
As I may have said, I had only been to a Catholic service once or twice in my youth with a friend. What I observed for this… and it was a double funeral. I was just watching in awe. Say what you will, the Catholics pulled out all the stops! The church was decorated very ornately and grand already. The wake was amazing. We, those raised Baptist came to pay respects, but…well. It was nice. But this!? There were hundreds of people that showed up that Angelo or Kathleen touched, or both! Men from where Angelo worked on the loading dock, from his Knights of Columbus, Kathleen’s friends from groups I lost track of. Make that thousands of lives touched! They literally kept coming. And I was told I had to be in the receiving line! That was for family! Al and Mike were there with their wives and children, I couldn’t just not be up there. Nick between his father and me. It was just a few minutes to an hour when Kathy let out this grunt and blew a breath, then walked over to a podium where she stood.
“All right!” Kathy cried loudly. “I’m getting tired of answering the question over and over again that none of you are brave enough to ask my brother! That man beside Nick is Mitch McKenzie! He is my brother-in-law! He married my brother Tony!” There were some voices of shock from the people. “Yea, yea…I don’t care if you think it’s right or wrong. He is a part of the Delveccio family! I love him. All of us in the Delveccio family do! We were at the wedding, for crying out loud. No, he was not the one to take Tony from Jean.”
“I like Mitch, too!” That’s when I saw Jean in the receiving line, but she had not gotten to us yet. “He’s a great guy and a wonderful step father to Nick as well as a good match for Tony.”
“See!? From the woman’s mouth!” Kathy waved her hand at what was her sister-in-law. “My mother and father were also at the wedding. In fact, they both gave Tony in marriage to Mitch. Mitch’s parents gave their son to Tony. They love Mitch! Get over it!” She yelled to be heard. “You’re all good at talking amongst yourselves and spreading rumors. Do it!” Then Kathy stormed down from the podium.
I leaned closer to Tony who was looking less stunned than I was. Tony was not surprised. “Now I understand where Melissa gets her chutzpah.”
Tony looked at me and laughed. “Chutzpah, yep. That’s the perfect word for it.” He kissed me. “And you haven’t seen the last of it, I’m sure.”
Then Kathy was back on the podium. “And another couple of things. He’s from the South, raised on a farm and was raised Baptist! And he’s Italian by marriage! And he can speak fluent Italian!”
Tony grinned at me. “Told ya.” Then he grinned at me again. “Where’d you learn chutzpah?”
“We don’t have people that speak Yiddish in the mountains? Come on.”
Tony looked surprised. “Do you?”
I rolled my eyes. I was a Delveccio. Then I nodded. “I should never piss her off.”
Tony nodded his head. “That would probably be for the best.”
Then to prove her point Jean came over, bypassed Tony and hugged me! Then she hugged Tony. “I’m sorry they’re gone. I really loved Angelo and Kathleen.”
I smiled at her. “They were great people and will be missed.”
The Delveccios found humor even in the worst of times like now. The interesting part was all the people that kept saying they were sorry Angelo and Kathleen passed. Each time they did, Tony would grin a little, but kept his mirth in check. Then someone else did the same thing and this time I turned to Tony.
“Let me in on the joke?”
Tony gave a shrugging nod. “It’s just keep remembering something Papa would say. When anyone would say that someone passed…he’d go. What did they pass? The bar exam? They died! Say it, their dead!” Tony said with all his father’s bluster and indignation. I could see his father say it.
I chuckled. “Looks like I still have a lot to learn about them.” I nodded. “I look forward to it.”
The Nick moved from between us throwing an arm over both of us. “Okay, Dad, Pop!”
I grinned at him. “Are you’re leaving.” I said knowing what he was going to say.
“Yep.” He jerked his head to Kathy and Louise. “Me, Drew and David are going back to the house. Kathy’s house.” Then he grinned at me. “That was quite a sensation you’ve caused Pop!”
Tony smiled. “It was your Aunt Kathy made the scene! Don’t blame him or us.”
Nick grinned. “That you caused, Dad! How dare you love a guy!” But he was grinning the whole time. He kissed me on the cheek. “Love ya, Pop! See you later!”
Tony shook his head. “Remember you’re underage still! This isn’t a party! So is Melissa!” Tony called as his son disappeared with his cousins. Then he looked at my grinning face. “Well, they are.”
“Did that stop you?” I asked.
Tony shook his head. “No, but I’m to tell him as his father.”
It was an hour or two later when we arrived back at the house. Tony and I got ready for bed. I watched him carefully.
“How are you holding up?” I asked.
Tony turned and nodded. “It’s hard to believe, but….” He nodded again. “I’m good.”
I smiled walking over to him. “Your parents didn’t want to leave.”
Tony nodded. “I know. It was just…hard.”
“Well, I’m here for you.”
Tony grinned kissing me. “I know. I love you, Mitch.”
I smiled kissing him more. “Yea? Prove it.” I pulled him on the bed on top of me.