My life has been filled with love from its very beginning. I had wonderful parents who loved me, sisters, aunts and uncles and many cousins who showed me love. I have a loving husband, daughter and grandson. There were even times when strangers were loving to me. I had experienced love, but I had never “seen” love.
My husband, daughter and I had traveled from our home in Texas to visit relatives during a summer vacation many years ago. We stopped in Indiana to visit my husband’s relatives and had a lovely visit, meeting my husband’s extended family for the very first time. Then we traveled on to Pittsburgh, where I was born and had lived for the first 14 years of my life. Most of my dad’s family still lived in the area. We usually stayed with Aunt Rose, dad’s sister, while we were visiting, as she had a spare bedroom to share with us.
One Sunday afternoon during our time in Pittsburgh, we visited with Uncle Tony, my dad’s older brother, and Tony’s wife Mary. There was a celebration planned and many relatives were invited. I don’t recall what the purpose of the celebration was, but then my family didn’t need much reason to celebrate. Anytime a group of relatives gathered together was a reason to make coffee and bring out the cake and cookies.
In my mind’s eye I can easily recall the setting. Uncle Tony and Aunt Mary had a very small home, but one that was filled with their love. There were two bedrooms, a bath and a small living and dining area. The kitchen was also very small and led out to Uncle Tony’s famous vegetable garden. Most of the adults were sitting in the living area – the children – our daughter included – were seated together in the dining area working a puzzle or playing a board game. Aunt Mary, Aunt Rose and Prudy, Mary and Tony’s daughter, were preparing the coffee and treats.
At one end of the room, in his recliner, sat Uncle Tony. There was a small fireplace between his and Aunt Mary’s recliner. Across the room, on the sofa, were Aunt Jennie, one of my dad’s sisters, and her husband Uncle Gasper. I think Prudy’s husband, Mel, was there in the room as well, though I cannot be sure. My husband and I were seated across the room either on chairs next to a TV.
We were all enjoying one another’s company, talking about everyday things, about our trip from Texas and our life there, when Uncle Gasper spoke up and asked Uncle Tony to tell a particular story. Uncle Tony, who was a retired police officer, was our family’s storyteller. From the funny to the frightening and even to the sublime, Uncle Tony had a story for every occasion. We all enjoyed listening and laughing with Uncle Tony as he wove his stories. The story Uncle Gasper had asked to hear again was one that I had heard often, though after so many years, I don’t remember what the topic of the story was.
Everyone listened with rapt attention as Uncle Tony retold his story. And as the story progressed, Uncle Gasper would ask questions about the characters involved. Tony and Gasper had known each other for many years, so I am quite sure that Gasper had heard this particular story many times before. But Gasper’s interest in the story, his attention to what Tony was saying and his “drilling down” into the motives of the characters delighted and surprised me. I remember thinking to myself at the time that I was witnessing “love”. The respect and kindness that Gasper showed to his brother in law, Tony, was so vast, so impressive, that it could only have been love which was born of shared memories, respect and the years that they had known each other. I was awestruck and speechless.
We all laughed together with Tony as he finished his story. The coffee was hot and the cake was ready to eat. The party ended after everyone had enjoyed the treats which were provided. Though most of the participants have now passed into God’s kingdom, I will never forget that moment in their company when “love” was made visible in a small and tidy home on the Northside of Pittsburgh.