I bought a new piece of furniture for the living room: A buffet that's really for a dining room that fits perfectly in the small space I have for a TV in the living room. It's java brown and has two sliding doors that I can store my TV equipment and DVD's in and I think it's just adorable. I picked it up at The Door Store, a neat little place in Manhasset. And that brings me to this tale. While I was organizing I came upon a VHS tape my mother gave me a few years ago. She had taken what was left of the 8mm movies she and my father had made over the years and had them transferred to VHS format. I had never watched it because I didn't want to see things that would upset me, make me mad, or make me sad. Yesterday I decided to look at it. Maybe, but just maybe, I might not dive down into that spot of burning rage I carry in fifty compartments in my heart, primary among them how my mother turned from being a "mommy" into being "mommy dearest" after daddy died when I was ten years old, in 1966. Just seeing the BDD (before Dad died) mom could possibly set me off on the usual tirade I go into when I think about all we (my siblings, Carmen, Michael and Bobby) lost and how my mother turned into a partying, absent, mean and abusive bitch. So I went into this with a little trepidation. The guy who did the conversion used some tender, longing-type music as the score so I was ready to hit rage mode quickly. As I watched I felt a great sense of longing for those lost, happy, simple times. There were little snippets of us dressed up for Easter, my sixth birthday party, us kids playing on the beach, Carmen as a happy-go-lucky child smiling and acting silly, Michael under the Christmas tree playing with the PanAm plane he got from Santa, my father filming my mother right after she brought Bobby home from the hospital, Bobby's first steps, Dad kissing Bobby, my mother holding the baby so tenderly. And something happened that I don't understand. Some of the rage melted away. I realized what we all lost, including my mom. She didn't want him to die and she didn't want to be left with four kids under the age of ten, with no marketable skills to speak of and not a penny in the bank at age twenty-nine, not having worked for ten years. So I now understand emotionally, not just intellectually what his death, at the age of thirty-seven may have done to her, and it's a little bit easier to be nicer to my seventy-year old Mom.
My mother was born in 1935. Her mother was already on her second marriage and would go on to a third union. My Uncle Louie was the product of her first marriage; my mother and my Uncle Albert from the second marriage and Aunt Felice and Uncle Junior from the third union.
Getting information out of my mother is like pulling teeth. Getting information from my other relatives is not an option-most are dead and even if they weren’t, they were master secret-keepers, too. Here’s what I’ve pieced together over the years from my mother and Aunt Angie, Uncle Louie’s wife (now deceased).
My grandmother married my Uncle Louie’s father and had Uncle Louie. I don’t know anything about him. Then she may or may not have married my grandfather, but she had my mother and Uncle Albert. After that she hooked up with Juan Cosme, the father of Aunt Felice and Uncle Junior. One night my grandmother was cooking dinner. She needed to go down to the bodega to get milk and left my mother watching the food and the kids. When she didn’t come back my mother went upstairs to Uncle Leo and told him her mother wasn’t back, as she wasn’t allowed out on the street. He went to look for her. He found her dead on the stairs on a lower landing of the apartment complex. My mother was fourteen years old. This happened, as far as I can approximate it, in November 1949. Her stepfather killed her mother. I don’t know if he stabbed her, but this is my recollection. He may have strangled her. His nickname was “the Indian”, because he was dark-skinned. He was also “crazy” according to my mother. This may be true since both his children, Aunt Felice and Uncle Jr. are schizophrenic and have spent time in mental institutions. Of course, subsequent sexual abuse may have contributed to their psycological problems. Anyway, Juan went to prison and the kids were dispersed to the family. Uncle Louie was in the Army. My mother went to Uncle Leo and his wife, Carmen. Aunt Felice, who was about three years old, went to Uncle Cando and his wife, Lucy. Uncle Albert, age 11, and Uncle Jr., age five, went to Port Jefferson, NY to Saint Charles Hospital, which was a place kids were sent to when no one wanted them, I guess. I’ve asked my mother why no one took them but she never gave a reasonable answer. My mother says Uncle Albert was “hyperactive”, the term used then, and I don’t know why no one took Uncle Jr. He later contracted polio and is in a wheelchair. Maybe the boys were of no interest to the relatives? I know my mother loved Uncle Leo and Aunt Carmen and kept in contact with them, and after they died, kept in contact with their children.
Scant facts. I’ve tried for years to find out the details of what happened. I’ve used the internet to perform research, to no avail. I’ve asked my mother all I could. I have to be careful with my inquiries because she gets angry and wants to know why I want to dredge up this stuff. I know it’s painful to her, but maybe if everything wasn’t a secret in this family I wouldn’t be so curious. So I continue my search/research for the details of the murder of Felicdad Santiago Rosa Mejias Cosme’s death in Brooklyn in 1949.
The first thing I’ll say is I’m no expert. That being said….
I live on Long Island and we have an illegal alien problem here. I’m sure many places outside LI, NY can also make this claim. Everybody from the President, Congress and on down to your neighbors say they want to find a way to solve the illegal immigration problem. Many solutions have been and are being proposed; from building fences to keep them out to making everybody a citizen. I have absolutely no idea what the answer is and maybe I have my head in the sand, but I haven’t heard anyone offer this soloution:
Why not offer a chance at citizenship after a two-or four year stint in the military, or a number of hours performing community service or something similar in nature? I don’t believe rounding up everybody and sending them back is viable. They are not going to go away or stop trying to get over that tangible or intangible fence.
Being Hispanic, but not looking Hispanic has allowed me to hear unedited comments about what should be done and the most striking impression I get is that prejudice is alive and well in the United States. People think we are being overrun by illegals and have no qualms about using demeaning and derogatory statements about people who want to come here, work hard and have a better life, just like their parents or grandparents did generations ago.
By the way; I haven’t noticed that many white guys hanging out on street corners by the 7-11 waiting for the landscapers to pick them up for a hard day’s work @ $10 an hour…..
New York magazine has an article in the May 2006 issue about pedophile teacher, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, who has allegedly been abusing Brooklyn children since at least the 1970’s. It seems that the Jewish community is twenty years behind the Catholics in addressing sexual abuse of children in their care in schools, summer camps and the community at large. Twenty years behind the Catholics is pretty scary since progress on that front is minimal, at best. One of the major problems facing survivors of sexual abuse is that, often times, the statute of limitations for bringing the pedophile to the criminal court system expired many years ago. Although there may be no recourse through the criminal courts, filing suit in the civil courts against the alleged pedophile has been a somewhat viable alternative for some. Many survivors may feel, as I did, that things are better left unsaid and may figure, as I did, that at least they made it through. Remember the slogan about the AIDS crisis? Silence=Death? In sexual abuse, Silence=More Abuse. If you can, speak up. Name names. Help protect the generation of children who will be next in line to experience what happened to you and to me.
When I was on vacation my vacation mates kept saying "POW, POW", a reference to the movie "Waiting". John, Chris and Cheryl kept telling me and Denise we needed to see this movie. It's about a day in the life of the wait staff at "Shenanigans" restaurant. Really, it probably went directly to video, but they insisted we watch it, so they rented it at the local video store in Gatlinberg, TN, where we were staying in a chalet in the Great Smokey mountains. The jist of it is that the men have a game they play: Who can make the other waiters look at their genitalia in off moments. It has to happen naturally. If they can trick someone into looking they get to call them fags and kick them in the butt. (Juvenile boy stuff, right?) The kicker is that in the end, they ask the girls why they don't play and one of the girls, who is a crazy nut throughout the film, gets them, but good. POW POW-Meow-That thing is angry. If you want a good laugh, try it. Don't expect too much….