Miles From Fenway

Getting to Know Uncle Arthur
July 3, 2006, 3:13 am
Filed under: family, Rhode Island

The last time my mother saw Uncle Arthur, he was on the local news. There, standing behind an on-the-scene reporter, was my great uncle, holding a picket sign, protesting the release of The DaVinci Code. Mom called me, laughing. Sure, we didn’t agree with his politics, but you had to respect a man who was still fighting for what he believed in, when most men his age we sitting at home wasting away in their recliners.

And then, last Tuesday, my grandfather was at his apartment, about to take him to the doctor. Arthur hadn’t been feeling well, and had called his older brother to drive him to his appointment. As he went to lock the back door he said three words; “Joe, catch me”. And that’s exactly what my grandfather did. And just like that, his brother, my Uncle Arthur, was gone.

It’s amazing how much you learn about a person after they’ve died. Arthur never married, never had children. What little is left of his family could be counted on my fingers. Before arriving at the wake, I was afraid. Afraid that no one would be there. That it would be even MORE depressing than a wake always is.

But instead what I found were dozens of mourners. Mainly people from his church group. It was astounding how many lives he had touched. And then, well, a little creepy.

Throughout the course of the evening, I learned just how religious my uncle was. As head of a group called the Legions of Mary, Arthur was more than devout. The man had nothing in his bedroom but a small twin bed that he slept only on top of, not in, and a prayer bench. At the end of the wake, approximately 15 members of the Legion knelt before his body and recited the rosary. The entire thing. All 50 Hail Marys. In a weird monotone not-quite-unison kind of chant.

The next day, at the funeral, it got even weirder. The two priests that eulogized Arthur, spoke of his willingness to stand in front of the “abortion mills” with his pro-life group. The term was used multiple times throughout the day. And then I looked around, and realized that there were people in the crowd, quite a few of them actually, that were wearing these large pins with pictures of fetuses on them that read; “I once looked like this too”. It got to the point that when my little brother and I took up the gifts, I had to wonder if Uncle Arthur was looking down at me from wherever he was, and asking why in the hell these two heathen children were participating in his mass!

In the end, what turned out to be the hardest part of the day came after the mass. The cemetery in which Arthur was being buried happens to hold too many of my family members. Before going over to the lunch which followed the mass (which, just for you RIers, contained every bad stereotype from Federal Hill. Remember, this is the side of the family that has more than a passing connection to the mafia), my mother, father, brother, and grandfather, drove to the plot which contains my grandmother and my sister. It was the first time I had visited since my grandmother had been buried there. And as I looked at the headstone, and saw their names, I felt the tears starting. Tried to hide them behind the sunglasses. It only got worse when my aunt and uncle arrived, and my uncle walked off at a swift pace in search of his son’s grave, which was right nearby.

I felt guilty for crying only after Uncle Arthur’s funeral was over. I had cried for him when I heard the news, but as the days passed, and I learned more and more about him, I realized that I barely even knew this man. And I still feel the same way I did when I heard about him protesting the movie; I may not agree with his politics, or have his level of faith, but you have to respect a guy who lived his life exactly the way he felt he should, right to the very end.

RIP Uncle Arthur. Put in a good word for me whenever I meet you there. Lord knows, you’ve probably got the most pull of anyone in the family.


1 Comment so far
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It’s always strange to learn a lot of details about someone only after they’ve passed away. But if it helps you understand the person a little bit better, even after they’re gone, then I think it’s a good thing. Even as the “heathen” :-).

Comment by Esther

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