My uncle was a laid back happy-go-lucky guy. Nothing ever looked like it bothered him with a smile on his face all the time… even when he was sick. It is true that I did not know him as well as I could have, but I did know him well enough. Well enough to know that everyone loved him. Well enough to know that he made everyone around him feel comfortable. Well enough to know that he cared very much for his family, friends and everyone who worked with him. I say worked with him because when I saw him interacting with employees at the restaurant, he didn’t treat them like he was the boss… it was more like they were family. He was always working in the restaurant, but by no means was he in the restaurant business; he was in the people business. He loved people and people loved him.
We had gone to see him at the Restaurant. I remember watching him in action and admiring how he worked the room and interacted with all the customers that came in. You would have thought he was making the rounds to all the relatives at a big family function. It wasn’t forced it just seemed natural. As we ordered our food we were introduced to all the waiters as if they were cousins. It almost seemed instinctual for him to make us all feel connected. They were not his waiters… they too were his family.
When I last spoke to my uncle he was in the hospital looking frail, but still cracking smiles. We were talking about my honeymoon to Italy and his eyes lit up as we spoke about the trip. He recounted stories of when he was younger and drove with a friend from Parma through the Amalfi coast. He said the streets were so narrow that they drove very slow. I can imagine cars impatiently driving behind him and him saying to his friend with a cool smile, “Ehhh, they will go around us.” He told us stories about holidays spent with my grandfather, grandmother and the whole family. “The food”, he said, “The food was unbelievable.” He told us about great times spent around the dinner table. “My sister’s cooking (my grandmother) was amazing and your grandfather really knew how to have a good time”. He spoke with a big smile as if he was living those memories as he was speaking. I could see in his eyes that he was replaying those moments.
Nearly around the time we were getting ready to head out, my uncle said, “Things…. I don’t need things. People have too many things.” Those are the last words that I am left with from my uncle… and those are the first words that came to mind when I got the call that he had passed away.
“People have too many things” if you surround yourself with too many things it clouds your perception and blocks your view of the family you have around you. Stuff will not be there when you need a smiling face, a helping hand, an open ear, a hug, a pat on the back, a shoulder to lean on, someone to cry or laugh with, someone to pick you up when you’ve fallen down, or someone to pull you down when you’ve gone too high. Family will be there. Treat everyone like family and you will never have to look far.
Thank you Zio…