Thursday, October 16, 2014

Family Context for the Boomer

The Oreo Generation

Long ago a promise was made here to attend to the Boomer experience; to reflect upon the relationship of this generation, a generation in or entering retirement, to the slice of population born before them, the younger generations that follow them, as well as the social and cultural reality in which they live.

The image of a sandwich has been used as metaphor for the experience of this generation in between. I prefer the image of the famed Oreo cookie. What is the experience of being the filler in this generational alignment while surrounded by a contextual  smorgasbord including technological revolution, economic shift, constant war, realities of aging, global warming, the ebola virus, etc., etc., etc.?

Why propose the image of the Oreo? The filler in an Oreo does not rest between two yielding slices of soft bread. The filler attempts to meld two unyielding firm and demanding cookies. In addition, its sweetness is to soften the more blunt flavor of chocolate striving to assert itself.

This is a vision of the Boomer reality experienced by many these days. Many are trying to be lovingly, responsibly and appropriately in relationship with the generation that came before us (parents and other older relatives or friends) and the generation which came from us, now our adult children. As in the Oreo cookie, we either take on or have cast upon us the task of supporting or holding together this generational mix. And like the cookie filler we are to be a sweet, pliable, and present and wise element of the structure.

Most recent posts touched upon the cause of world peace, issues in the Church, history, social commentary and more. However, the events of my personal life in last five months call me to ponder this Oreo phenomenon. As Boomer well into the last years of my life the experience of the Oreo filler is mine. The most recent episodes follow all too rapidly on the heels of placing my mother in an assisted living facility, supporting Hospice care for my father in his home, experiencing his death, selling the family home and dealing with the collections of their life time.

Future posts will tell the story in more detail. The story is presented at least in part as a cautionary tale for the Boomer and for the generations that surround them. But here I will merely post the remembrance/obituary piece I wrote two weeks ago upon the death of my mother's brother.

In Remembrance of Joseph Milazzo

Joseph Milazzo peacefully slipped away in the morning of October 3, 2014 at Putnam Ridge Nursing Home, Brewster, NY following a brief but serious illness. He was 82 years old. Following a physical collapse in Florida on July 20th and hospitalization, he was moved to Brewster on August 13, 2014.

Joseph was born on December 1, 1931 in Brooklyn, NY.  His parents were Rosalia Galante and Frank Milazzo, both natives of Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. He is survived by his older sister, Matilda Nimke, widow of Helmut Eric Nimke. Matilda now resides at Putnam Ridge Nursing Home. He also leaves his nieces Sister Hildegard Pleva, OSsR of Beacon, NY and Commander Rosalinda Hasselbacher, US Navy Nurse Corps Ret., of Shelton, CT as well as four grand-nephews Jonathan, Matthew and Andrew Pleva and Erich Hasselbacher, their spouses and five great-grand nieces and nephews.

It has been arranged with Halvey Funeral Home, 24 Willow St., Beacon, NY 12508, that the family will gather at the funeral home at 10:30am on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. At 11am there will be a brief prayer service at which Fr. Richard Smith, pastor of St. Joachim and St. John’s Parish in Beacon will preside. Immediately following we will proceed to St. John's Cemetery, 80-01 Metropolitan Ave., Middle Village, NY 11379) in Queens. Uncle Joe will be buried in the grave of his mother who died in 1932 at the age of 29 just three months after his birth. There is something very touching in this reunion of the two of them.

My Uncle and all his Brooklyn buddies who I remember from my growing up years are in many ways like characters from a Damon Runyon story but with a Sicilian/Brooklyn accent. My Uncle began life in the Depression with many strikes again him so he was not what I call a 'straight line kid.' Did not finish high school; went from one unskilled job to another; was drafted during the Korean War and served in Germany. He did get a GED and finally, through a friend of my parents, began a job working as an apprentice in the carpet trade. Slowly and with much hard work he rose through the Union ranks and became a skilled carpet mechanic with the ability to lay intricate designs in wall to wall carpeting. He would come home and talk about doing work for the likes of Claudette Colbert and Lena Horne. After his retirement he took on the pattern of a snow bird, living in Brooklyn during the late spring and summer months and returning to his condo in Margate, Florida to enjoy being on the beach with his many friends every day. He eventually took up permanent residence in Margate.

He was only 15 years older than my sister and I so he was the young gay blade who taught us how to dance the cha-cha and how to let the man lead on the dance floor. When my sister went off to St. Vincent's Nursing School in Greenwich Village in 1968 it was an awful neighborhood and he knew that sooner or later she would be out and about in a threatening neighborhood and meeting with friends at the local hangouts. She recently shared that before she left for nursing school Uncle Joe said that if she ever had a problem or got into a fix she did not want to drag her parents into she just had to call him and he would be there. This was the type of presence he offered in the family.

He had a beautiful girl friend before he was drafted and kept to his death an album of all their pictures while dating. I believe he received a "Dear John letter" from her while he was in the Army and it broke his heart. He always had a woman in his life, women he could bring home, but he never married.

He worked very hard, enjoyed life, loved good food and had many friends. But he saved money and played the market. When he knew the market had gotten beyond him he placed his money in wise investments. So his generous gifts in life will be matched by bequests in death leaving a legacy which will enrich the lives of those he loved.

He was known as "Joey Blue Eyes". He was a generous friend, treated his ladies with dignity and respect as a gentleman. He loved his sister and her husband, my parents, and called them from Florida every Saturday. And he loved his nieces and their children.

After his collapse on July 20th of this year, even in his dismay at his deteriorating condition in hospital and nursing home, he remained concerned about others and grateful for care. He was always inquiring as to what or where I had eaten and if I was a feeling comfortable in his condo and finding everything I needed.

We did everything we could for him but something else was winning the race and finally he just slipped away.

I see now that the act of writing has been the creation of a more intimate obituary than is usual. I share it with you to give a sense of the man.

There will not be a Mass because he was only a weddings and funerals type of church-goer. But he was good and loved by God and conquered many demons in his life, I am sure. And "now he knows." The prayers offered at the funeral home and cemetery will be as much for those he leaves behind as they are for him as his ‘awareness’ expands to all eternity.

1 comment:

Marsha B West said...

What a beautiful tribute, Hildegard. Moved me to tears even though I never knew him. You made him very real to me. God comfort you in your loss.