Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August and Everything After

Well, I stumbled into Washington Square
Just as the sun began to rise
I walked across the lawn to the cathedral
And layed down in the shadow of St. Mary's in the sky....

The weather forecast for 'NTSG and its surrounding environs today calls for partly cloudy skies this morning followed by scattered thunderstorms this afternoon. Pitch perfect weather for a funeral; right?

This morning I shall join Joe, Margaret, Frank and the rest of the family in what has sadly become as much a part of our summers as 100 degree days and sausage sandwiches on the boardwalk. Today we shall gather for the final time to say farewell to Joe's big brother Andy. Uncle Andy died Friday morning at age 93.

Uncle Andy's funeral mass will be held in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Somerville. While I could be wrong, I believe that when I walk into that building this morning that shall be my first trip across that threshold since a hot summer's night slightly more than thirty-five years ago when my brother Kelly and the Immaculata High School Class of '76 graduated. Admittedly, I have likely made only several handfuls of visits to any church irrespective of location since that night but I am fairly confident that none of them has been to this one.

My role today shall be a reprise of one that unfortunately I have had the chance to play with maddening frequency these past few years. I shall serve as one of Uncle Andy's pallbearers. This marks the third occasion in the past four summers that I have borne pall. I remarked to Margaret after dinner on Sunday night that when I die she will have to have me cremated. Not simply because given my oversized head it might be tough to find a regulation-sized coffin that can contain me but also because there will be no one left to carry the casket.

Andrew Bozzomo was drafted into the United States Army prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Having had a bit of a background working with tools and repairing things, the Army trained him to be a mechanic. He apparently became quite adept at his job. Amazingly, he almost never had the chance to do it. When he indicated (apparently either at basic training or shortly after its completion) that he was interested in being trained as a mechanic, he was informed that he had to successfully complete a written test in order to be placed in that training. Knowing that his strength did not lie in test-taking, he persuaded the examiner to allow him simply to take a "perfomance" exam. Uncle Andy was directed to repair a particular item and he did it. After enough passing "performance" grades, the examiner agreed that a written test was unnecessary. But for someone's understanding of the importance of substance over form, Uncle Andy might not have ever gotten his shot. As it was, he ended up as a mechanic in the Motor Pool for the troops that chased Rommel around the African desert.

After success in Africa, Uncle Andy and his brothers-in-arms were sent to Italy, where they had additional success. They captured a number of Italian prisoners, few of whom (if any) spoke English. Uncle Andy spoke Italian fluently. He became the soldier best able to speak to the prisoners and for his reward/trouble his assignment was switched. He was taken out of the Motor Pool and placed in charge of the prisoners of war.

He spent five years in the service of his country, becoming part of our World War II fighting force even before we became part of World War II. Joe told Margaret and me on Sunday night that his brother entered the Army as a Private and left as a "Top" Sergeant. I must confess that due to my lack of familiarity with most things military I do not know if that is an actual rank or merely a description.

Today, slightly more than seventy years after he answered a call to arms, he is heading off to answer another, hopefully more pleasant call. A peaceful rest comes to those who have earned it. Uncle Andy most assuredly has.

Another August. Another funeral. In August and everything after
You get a little less than you expected, somehow


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