Thursday, February 16, 2012

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

I reference my Grandpa on my mother’s side a lot.  He’s the one that was the Storyteller, although his siblings were no slouch at spinning a yarn either.  The fact that the whole family was nuts certainly proved to be fertile ground for good stories. 

Back in the early 1900s, it was common for Italian families to have some of the kids continue to live at home, even after they got married.  My mom’s uncles Ants and Meek were no exception.  (Ants was short for Antony and Meek was short for Amilcare.  The latter came from when his mother would call him in for dinner, “AMEEEEEEEEEEEK-A-REE!”  All his friends could hear was the MEEEEEEK part, so it stuck.)
L to R: Uncle Meek, my Grandpa, Uncle Ants, Guy I Don’t Know, and my Grandma, at my grandparents’ 35th anniversary party, circa 1966.  Yes, they wore ties even for parties held in the basement.  Grandpa wasn’t particularly tall but you can see how big the Uncles are.  It’s from them that I get my size. 

As the oldest, my Grandpa was generally more responsible, but the brothers were real rascals who liked to drink and tussle and carry on.  Meek was a Pittsburgh cop, one of the last to walk a beat in the city, without a gun.  Nobody messed with him or they were likely to see the business end of his nightstick.  In fact, no one messed with my little 5-foot nuthin’ mom, either, when she’d walk through town on the way to and from work, because they knew they would stay healthier that way.  Officer Meek didn’t play.

Sometimes, Meek would have to referee the fights between his own parents.  He’d come home from a long day on patrol and they would both run to him, each shouting their own version of the day’s quarrel over top of the other, in Italian of course.  One night it got so bothersome that he took out his handcuffs and cuffed them together.  He told them he’d unlock them when they worked it out, then he went upstairs to have dinner with his wife and daughter.  They worked it out by the time dinner was over.  I suppose it was just a matter of motivation.  Moms says she thinks they secretly liked each other… I mean…  they had 13 kids after all.  But I’m not so sure.

Back when my Grandpa was a boy, shortly after they’d immigrated to the US, his mother yearned to return to Italy for a visit.  His dad, Guiseppe, agreed and paid for a ship to take his wife and my grandpa back to the Old Country.  But shortly after she got there, she changed her mind and wanted to come back home.  Through friends and relatives, she got her request back to her husband.  He send word that it would take a while before he could earn her return passage.  But that wasn’t exactly true.  He figured, she wanted to go to Italy, he sent her to Italy.  So she’d better stay there for a while, to make the trip worth the money.

Of course, his ulterior motive was that he got be a Man About Town, loaf with his friends at the firehouse and generally be free from family obligations for a while.  OK, it was more than “a while.”  He left her there for more than a year.

Meanwhile, my Great Grandmother, pissed off to beat the band, earned her own boat-fare back by various means, including stealing eggs.

Then one afternoon, Grandpa Guiseppe was having coffee on his neighbor’s porch when he spotted his wife striding up the sidewalk, with his son in tow.

Startled, he exclaimed (in Italian), “Ai!  The Devil has returned!

I bet not even a grown up Uncle Meek, nightstick and all, could have calmed the storm that night.

She got even with her husband in other ways.  He had a natural way with musical instruments and could play almost anything.  He’d go from banjo to flute to bass violin…  Then one day he hit on the kazoo.  Great Grandma did NOT like that one bit.

One evening Uncle Ants came home and found his mom busy stuffing little pieces of rag into his father’s kazoo holes. 

She said, “Come Ant-no-ee, help me before he get home.”

That night when his dad came home and picked up the kazoo, all he could produce was a big PFFFFFT PFFFFFFT POOOOT.  He snapped the kazoo over his knee and tossed it out the window.  Problem solved for both parties.

But anyway, this is the story I really wanted to tell.  (Those others just kind of jumped out.)

One night Ants came stumbling into the house after a long night at the bar.  He tripped over something coming in the door and knew it was his brother Meek, drunk and passed out on the floor.  Being a good brother, he decided to take him upstairs and put him to bed.  As he picked Meek up, he began talking to him…

Fer Chrissakes, what are you doing on the floor, Meek?  What, you can’t even make it up the stairs?  How much did you have to drink?” 

Grunting and sweating, he dragged him up the stairs.

Goddamn, you’re heavy.  You putting on weight?  What’s with the beard, Meek?  Didn’t you shave this morning?  You can’t go around looking like a bum… you gotta take a shave in the morning.”

As he wrestled his load to the top of the stairs, he saw someone standing in the hallway, laughing.  It was Meek.  Only then did he realize that he had not, in fact, been carrying his brother, but a rolled up carpet, just back from the cleaners.

Picture from

I’m just glad he didn’t try to shave it.


Mary Ann said...

Vince Parou is the middle guy in your picture. The Uncles got their height from their Mom, your egg stealing Great GrandMa. She was almost 6 feet and weighed nearly 200 pounds in her prime.
Grandpa Ed was born on Cedarville St. in Bloomfield. He was about three when Grandma took him to Italy. He remebered the return voyage since he was about five, running to meet his father and throwing his arms around his leg.

Christy said...

I come from such a straight laced family there would be no hauling anyone up the stairs. Hell fire and brimstone would have been more like the conversation.

It is cool you have those stories.

Unapologetically Mundane said...

This last story was VERY confusing to me, because I somehow read that Ants came in, stumbled over Meek, and decided to roll Meek up in a carpet to carry him upstairs.




Cassie said...

You, too?

I need more sleep.

Whitney Soup said...

it's common with chinese families too! (and i would know. i'm related to a lot of chinese people. both my parents are chinese.)

bluzdude said...

OK, now I don’t feel bad about not knowing the Mystery Guy, because I’ve never even heard of him. Man, Uncle Ants was a really big dude.

Grandpa’s lucky his dad didn’t spill his coffee on his head.

Thanks again for helping out with the details, pre-posting.

To all: I knew the gist of the stories, but not enough to frame them correctly so I had to go to Mom for the background details. And of course, Mom reminded me of the kazoo story, so that was a last-second addition.

bluzdude said...

It’s no wonder people get burned out on hellfire and brimstone.

bluzdude said...

Well, it was difficult to write… I wanted to maintain the illusion that it was really Meek there but without actually saying so, so that I didn’t step on the big reveal.

bluzdude said...

Then I hope for your family’s sake that no one has ever mistaken your uncle for a rolled up carpet. Or left your Grandma in China!

Judie said...

OH MY GOD!!!!! I simply adore you and your fantabulous stories! No one I know can tell a story like our Italian Bluzdude! And he is a DUDE! Just check out the photos on my post about KIDS!! If only I was not old enough to be your MOM, I would try my darndest to give Pinky a run for her money!!!

bluzdude said...

I swear you're only old enough to be my older sister, tops!

Jessica R. said...

Fantastic stories! Marrying into an Italian family, I've learned that those sorts of stories seem to be present no matter the family.

I can't believe he shipped great g-ma off without bringing her back! I hope she laid into him when she made it back. Yikes!

Thanks for sharing these gems. Fantastic.

sherry stanfa-stanley said...

All I can say is Ants must have had one hell of a night out at that bar...

And other than the height difference, you look exactly like your grandfather!

Have you seen the video "Shit Italian Moms Say?" If not, look for it on YouTube. Fabulous!!!

bluzdude said...

If you have stories to top that, by all means, bring'em on! I dare you to top sending your wife to the the Olde Country and not bringing her back. lol...

Oh, I'm sure there was WWIII when she got back. Meek wasn't born yet, to cuff'em.

bluzdude said...

Haven't seen it... I'll have to check it out.

I think my brother looks more like Grandpa then I do, but then, I rarely look at me.

Ashley and Stephanie said...

AHAHAHA A rolled up carpet! I did not see that one coming. Also, I appreciate your Steeler's flare. My dad's family has lived in Pittsburgh since the late 1800's and we're all Steeler's fans till the end.


Cher Duncombe said...

Gotta love those 'old world' stories, Bluz! Some of the best times I can recall from my childhood were the times when my grandmother lived in a predominantly Italian neighborhood. They all took care of each other in those days. If a neighbor was sick, the rest of the neighborhood cooked for them. There was a trail of well-intentioned friends who brought the best food. Ah, for the good old days!

bluzdude said...

Yeah, that was the idea… I had to set up the carpet as the surprise.

I’m always glad to see Steelers support in far off places. The Black n Gold runs deep!

bluzdude said...

OMG, the food situation was unbelievable. Whatever happened, people with dishes showed up.

My favorite was at Christmas… In my Grandma’s neighborhood (in Coraopolis) they everyone would bake their own specialty cookies and then send them all over, so that everyone had this huge assortment of incredible cookies. Great place for Grandchildren!

But that’s how it is with Italians… whether it’s a celebration or a tragedy, we show up with food.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, awesome! I love great family stories like that. Hilarious! :)

p.s. Hey there, Bluz! Missed ya'!

bluzdude said...

Thanks Cristy. Glad you're back!