A few weeks ago I told my mother about a bodega near my job. I said we'd try it out so today, after we went to the Attias Flea Market so she could buy my Grandfather a pocket watch for Father's day, we went went there and picked up some lunch. You can't eat there so we brought it back to my house.
On the way home I asked her why Aunt Felice went to live with her cousins, Uncle Cando and Aunt Lucy. We always called our older cousins "Aunt and Uncle". She said that at first, after her mother was murdered, they all lived with Uncle Cayo and Aunt Carmen in their large apartment in Brooklyn. In the same building, I guess, where they lived when her mother was murdered by her boyfriend, the father of Aunt Felice and Uncle Jr.
Uncle Jr. was a wild child. He wet the bed and was unruly. In those days they didn't know about ADHD or even that the trauma of their mother being murdered could cause a child to act out. Aunt Carmen would make him wash his own sheets and generally punish him-all to no avail. He was probably about five years old at the time.
Uncle Albert, who shared a father with my mother was also wild. He would stick his fingers in electric sockets and he burned my mother with an iron.
My mother probably acted as the mother of the other three kids. She was fourteen. Uncle Albert was eleven. Uncle Jr. about six or seven, and Aunt Felice was three or four years old.
Uncle Louie, my mother's older brother was in the Army. When he got out he went to live with Cayo and Carmen also. He didn't like it that my mother would go out with her friend, Elsie once a week, and somehow they all were sent to the country, out on Long Island. My mother lived with Uncle Augie and Aunt Marcel in Smithtown. Uncle Cando and Aunt Lucy took Felice to live with them in Farmingville. Uncle Albert went to Saint Charles and Uncle Jr. went to Maryhaven or a place like it.
I asked my mother why Cando and Lucy took Aunt Felice and my mother said probably so he could molest her. Many years later, Aunt Felice had a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. She said Cando had molested her for years. At the time we didn't know whether to believe her or not because she had never said anything and because she was crazy. My mother and Aunt Angie debated it for years. I didn't know if it was true or not but wondered why she would lie about something like that. But then again, she did have a vivid imagination. When she lived with us, my sister and I would hear her talking to people who weren't there while she played music and danced in her room, which ajoined ours.
My mother said that Aunt Felice's friend, Peggy, told the story of how Cando and Lucy took in a foster daughter and how she complained that Cando was touching her and she was removed from the home. They also took in my "cousin", David. He and Felice stuck together. David doesn't talk to Cando anymore, but I don't know what happened. He and Felice have remained close through all her travails with mental illness.
My mother wondered why Felice never told anyone and she and Peggy wondered why Felice continued to live at Cando and Lucy's until she was in her early twenties. Who knows? Maybe she felt like she couldn't get away.
I asked my mother why Aunt Felice didn't come to live with her and Daddy? She said that they tried to get Felice to live with them when my mother was pregnant with my sister, Carmen. We were stationed in MA. at that time. My mother says Cando asked how my father could be trusted around a young girl and he wouldn't let her go. Even though I came to believe Felice's story a few years after her hospitalization, this, in itself, was proof enough, I told my mother. Then I told her how I knew Cando had molested Felice all those years ago.
After Aunt Lucy died Cando sold the house in Farmingville and moved to a smaller place in the same town. The house sat atop one of the highest places on Long Island, off Blue Point Road. It was pretty secluded up there. One day as I was passing through I decided to stop and see Cando. I pulled in the driveway. I honked my horn but got no response. I walked up the two steps to the front door, leaned over to look in the window to see if anyone was home and Cando was laying on the couch. He was being given a blow job by his fourteen-year-old great nephew, Peter. Peter's mother, Hilda, who was slightly mentally retarded, had died of a heroin overdose a few years before and Peter stayed with Cando occasionally. Peter has been in and out of jail. The legacy continues.