Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Uncle Joe Sbaraglia

First, let me apologize about the picture transfer for the BLOG. I'm not really good at doing this, and am just doing what I know how to do to get the pictures copied. I can't seem to "clip" them and make them nice and even. That said...

Uncle Joe Sbaraglia, my mother's only brother, spent what I would say was a lot of time in Runnemede. He and his family -- Aunt Rita, Robert, Joan, and Lynn -- lived in South Philly in a house on Juniper Street. It was near where the Mummer's Parade starts. I loved that house for more reasons than one. But that's another tale.

Uncle Joe came often to visit. Now, I have to say, I didn't like the smoking. I'm not a smoker, have never had a cigarette, and frankly the smell really makes me ill -- gives me a headache. But I loved Uncle Joe. Who wouldn't? He always gave me a quarter when he came to visit. He had the most adorable children -- my cousins -- Joanie being my favorite. Robert and I played together when we were younger, I know because I have the pictures, but I don't remember enjoying times with Robert. With Joanie, I could say, we had some very good times when we were growing up, and into our teen age, boy crazy (she for her husband, me for mine) years. And the years when we LOVED Frankie Avalon and other male bee-bop singers. I still have sweet communion with Joanie and she is as sweet today as she always was then. There's just a sweet spirit in her.

Back to Uncle Joe. He came to take us kids (with his two oldest) to places we never would have gone had he not taken us there. He had a car. He came to visit to help my mother do things around the house that she couldn't do by herself, like paint the ceiling, wallpaper the living room, fix a window. It's not that we couldn't get someone else to help with those chores, the point is, Uncle Joe looked to find things he could do to help his sister. I recall several years he came to help my father replace the storm windows with screens, and vice versa.

Uncle Joe was married to Aunt Rita -- the lady who was the best cook in the family in the opinion of ME, and since I'm writing this, that's all that counts. Her spaghetti sauce (gravy) was the best. Micki's was good, too, but not as good as Aunt Rita's.

Uncle Joe encourage me so much when Alan left for Africa. I was devastated when he left, even though I knew it was inevitable. I just knew he would forget about me and I'd never see him again. Uncle Joe told me that first, he wouldn't forget. A guy doesn't forget his first love. But second, he told me that if Alan and I were to be married, he would return to me and we would be married. Of course, you know the end of that story! 42 years ago we were.

I know Uncle Joe loved the Lord a lot. Other spurts of memory come to me -- his asking my father questions about the Bible, his singing hymns, or humming them.

Uncle Joe could play the piano in such a jazzy style, I really envied him. It was a skill that took me a long time to learn, and it wasn't until I was in my mid-20s that I got a hold of the bluesy/jazzy type playing he did on the piano. He played the ukulele as well (Robert has his Uke now) and would sing silly songs along with his plucking.

I might say that all the Sbaraglias were musical in some respect. My mother, Uncle Joe, Aunt Annie, and Aunt Fran played the piano WELL -- it must have been part of the training their mom wanted them to have (I BLOGged that a couple of weeks ago). Aunt Diasy I don't know about, but here is Micki. She sure had a talent.

The last time I saw my uncle was the day of my sister's wedding. We were all gathered at the house afterwards. I had recently become pregnant with my first child and was so proud of my almost protruding stomach (three months, first pregnancy, you look for things like that). And he was very happy for me and we talked about my being pregnant and how I was feeling. We talked the way I would talk with my father, actually. He listened to me, and we enjoyed the back-and-forth chatter for quite a while. Anyway, when Uncle Joe was getting ready to head home after the wedding, I said, "Well, Uncle Joe, have a good trip home, if I don't see you again here, I'll see you There." Little did I know that would be the last time I would see him. But I shall see him again.

I'm bringing up Uncle Joe Sbaraglia again because, first, I recently had a visit with Robert, his son. And we rehashed what little we remember of our lives intertwining when we were young. But because a dear friend of the family recently passed away, and my cousin Joan was telling me about her mother and how she died.

These are Joanie's words she said I could use them: My Dad had just come from upstairs, after getting ready to pick up my sister and her girlfriend from their part time jobs at Gimbel Bros. It was at the bottom of the stairs (corner in the living room) that this happened. My father NEVER forgot how Mary Ricci's mother (Mary Ricci is the friend) went to be with Our Lord. He brought it up numerous times, as it impressed him immensely!!! He said she loved God so much...a second before she passed; she smiled, looked up and followed something around the ceiling, she then fell on her knees into a praying position still looking up..and took her last breath. Do you know that's exactly how my father died? I couldn't believe this when my mother and the funeral director told me. In a split second, that's all it took!

I loved all my Uncles and I miss them. On of my biggest regrets is that I wasn't the kind of Aunt to my neices and nephews I had when I was growing up. Physical distance puts a damper on that kind of relationship. Be thankful if you have family living nearby. Enjoy each member of that family and get together as often as you can. The remembrances are wonderful.

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