We waited for Poppa to come home after work each night. My father sat at the head of the table, my mother at his right, always close and equal in all facets of their lives. The last one to leave the table would be asked to bring out the trash.
I remember the family sitting in the living room to listen our favorite radio programs. Someone always remarked, “last one to go to bed, turn off the radio and shut the light.”
I remember then and know now I was surrounded by love, and for that I am grateful. The loss of my mother as a young child was a great trauma. Memories of her remain in my own recollection and from the many recounts of vignettes passed on to me by my sisters and brothers. There were many happy times recorded and sadness that comes to all during a lifetime. It is the happy times I recall, especially those wonderful occasions when my sisters and brothers left our home to begin anew with a cherished spouse
I was four years old when the first wedding took place. My eldest brother, Tony, married Margie. This was my first recollection of a wedding. Margie was the first daughter-in-law and my first sister-in law. I adored her. Margie’s gown was made by Madame Josephine, and so was mine. This was really important. Photographs of the special day with that beautiful dress was taken and has a prominent place in my daughter, Barbara’s home. This first union was responsible for me becoming an uncle. I believed if it had been a girl, I would be an aunt. I wasn’t that bright at 5 years old. All the brothers and sisters followed suit and married, each of them starting families of their own.
Lastly, my own special day arrived, and I married Joe. It was my brother, Tony, who gave me away now that Poppa was gone. It was I who held him up as he blubbered all the way down the aisle. But, as I recall, Tony would cry at cowboy movies, so why not at his little sister’s wedding?
Why do I reminisce? Well here I am in the eighth decade of my life, and I have suffered the loss of brothers, sisters and all my in-laws. The memories are vivid of the wonderful years we shared as a family. There were the weddings, births, college graduations and all the special events to which we can relate. So many have left us, but the younger generations have come to start anew.
I have become more nostalgic recently, looking around and realizing how fortunate I am. I have led a full life. I have loved and have been loved and, most of all, I have learned what is really important to me. I have learned the value and blessing of a good family, the gift of good friends and the ability to deal with realities of life with its diverse stages.
The realization has become so evident today that I am the last of my family. It saddens me, although our legacy is one of which I can be proud. I am blessed by having my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and those dear friends who filled my life with their presence.
Through it all I can still hear a voice saying, “The last one to leave shut off the light.”
Linda Alessi is a contributing columnist writing about life beyond the younger years.