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Friday, July 27, 2012

The anarchist

    My great uncle Vito was an anarchist. He wasn't much taller than a kitchen chair. I always saw him in a suit and tie. His hand was always reaching into his breast pocket for one of the propaganda pamphlets he would pass out to anyone who would reach for it.
    An odd memory was of the whole family seated at the dining table at grandmas and grandpas one Sunday. My long hair fell down my forehead reaching my lip. I went to move the hair away from my mouth so I could continue with my macaroni feast. Then, my great uncle began to yell at me that I should not touch my hair at the table.

    When he saw me chewing gum he asked me if I knew that chewing gum was made of rubber.

     His wife, who was not a blood relation of mine was also strange. She and he would make the trip by train from New Jersey to Brooklyn to visit his sister, my grandmother. It was a four family home. My grandparents had one of the apartments on the first floor, my uncle and his family lived in one of the apartments on the second floor.

     My great aunt would yell from the base of the stairs on the first floor, to call my aunt on the second floor because she wanted my aunt to wash her hair. It was spring and time for her hair to be cleaned. I remember being in the bathroom when the hair was being washed, the water was almost black. I felt bad for my aunt, that she had to do such a terrible thing, to touch such filthy hair. She wasn't even related to my great aunt except by marriage on her husbands side, and she was not a blood relation to him either.

      When my great aunt and uncle would arrive, all the kids would run and hide and avoid both of them like the plague. There was nothing gentle or kind or nice about either of them and we did not bring out any of the best of either of them.

      He was the only one of my grandmothers four brothers that I knew, and I did not like him at all. He was a dictator, a little guy who wielded power within the family, just because the let him. Maybe it was a mark of respect or the weakness of those under the control of another. I was too young to really get a grasp of the hierarchy of the family. He was just a guy I did not like. Not because I did not fully understand his demeanor but because he showed no kindness to anyone in the family. He denied us all a good time. And he is not missed.

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