Thursday, January 19, 2012

The End of an Era

As a fickle story teller, it occurred to me that when I actually get around to posting something to this blog, it should probably be something worth reading. I assume there's no need to go over the warning I gave in my very first post.... again.

My childhood was filled with going to my parents many activities.  This included, but was not limited to bowling, golfing,  family cook outs, poker games and Dad's bar band gigs (yes, in a bar,  it was a different time then and frankly,  it gave me a healthy appreciation for drinking in moderation).  Most of the time, these activities were with my dad's five siblings; Ronnie, Doug, Clovie (CJ), Tovie and Patsy.  There was a time in my life that I just assumed I was related to every new person I met.  All my friends were also my cousins.  I think the only ones that weren't were Twyla and the Batiato girls.  Every adult I knew had "Aunt" or "Uncle" before their name.  The Grow boys were infamous on the south side of Indianapolis.  Over the years they've owned a few different bars, all of them were Free Masons, it was odd to be cool in the 70's and 80's in Indy (setting aside the handicaps of it being the 70's, 80's and in Indy) and NOT know the Grow family.  My sister and I used to tell our school friends that they were the Indy Mafia.  They knew people, they had connections.

I see movies like Casino and mash it up with the bowling alley scenes of Pleasantville and somehow that's how I've always viewed the Grow side of family.  (Though I should note that if my Dad and Uncles were 'whacking' people,  I never heard about it nor saw any evidence.)  But I do have this great picture of the lot of them with Frank Sinatra (save Patsy),  signed by the man himself.

There were all kind of ladies' men as well.  For one,  my Dad was married five times, I am the youngest of seven siblings, only two of which are whole siblings, not half (My oldest half-brother, Richard, is two years younger than my mother).  Patsy I think is the only one who wasn't married multiple times.

Ronnie was the first of the bunch to pass away.  He was also the smallest.  I would show you a picture,  but I don't need to,  go google Notre Dame's mascot.  He looked exactly like that.  He's been gone since I was 11 or so,  unfortunately,  I remember very little of him at this point other than he liked to shove his bottom dentures out of his mouth to scare the crap out of us kids.  And his last wife, Betty,  I was not a big fan of and last I checked, she never put a tombstone on Ronnie's grave.

The next, and of course the most shocking for me,  was my dad, Harvey.  It was sudden and hit my sister and I like a ton of bricks.  My dad was like the PR guy of the Grow Boys.  Everybody loved him (even if they wouldn't stay married to him).  He was the one who organized the annual family reunion.  After he was gone,  I know it went on for at least one more year (because I actually attended), but who knows after that.

Here is where I lose contact with that side of the family.  By the time of my high school graduation (two years later),  not a one of them attended and only two even sent a card.  Sad to say, I'm the type of person who holds a grudge, and have fairly well done so over the years.

Dougie was next,  and arguably,  my favorite of my dad's siblings.  I went to his viewing and took my then boyfriend (now Husband the Great) with me.  This was the first time Joe had met this side of my family and all he could say was "These guys are humongous."  (Speaking of CJ and Tovie, which they were,  they were huge.  This is especially funny when you realize that the only family of mine that Joe has met is my mom's family and we're all fairly short save my sister, my cousin David, my Aunt Diane and cousin Danielle).  Dougie was simply hilarious,  very quick witted,  tall and lanky,  my sister and I were very close with Jessica and Brandy, his girls. (they might have been step-daughters, but I never really wondered nor cared, they'd been there for as long as I could remember and so it didn't matter).

Tovie went next,  and I'd heard nothing of it.  Tovie was just cool.  He'd spent some years as a body guard at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas,  was body guard for Sinatra (that's how they ended up with the picture) and when he was in town,  he was always nice to my and my sister.  I'm not even sure how he died.

Then Patsy,  which was only three or four months ago.  She was the glue that held the boys together.  She was a matriarch and her house was always one of my favorite places to visit. She had excellent taste and had this really cool rec room complete with a Ms. Pac Man arcade console.  I'm sorry I missed her funeral,  but I only found out about her death perhaps a month ago.

Then finally,  CJ.  CJ was the smooth-talker. He was the wheeler and dealer.  Growing up,  I was always sure he was working some sort of angle.  But that didn't stop him from being awesome.  As I said,  I'd pretty much lost touch with my dad's side of the family after he died.  But since my mom was still friends with some of the people they were all friends with,  we kept running into CJ over the last few years.  And I was simply shocked at the change in him.  It was good change.  It was the same kind of change my dad went through when he finally realized that my sister and I weren't going to just ignore him after he divorced my mom.  I was glad to see it.  I was glad his current and final wife Joyce was able to inspire that change in him.

 So, at his viewing yesterday,  I got to meet a cousin I never knew I had, as she was born after the last time we'd spent any real time at all with him.  The viewing was bittersweet, to say the least.  I saw people I haven't seen in fifteen years. And all we could talk about was how an era had ended now that all six siblings were gone.  I assume the five boys have the best bowling team of the afterlife now and Patsy will be there to keep them from getting kicked out.

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