Many people have experienced a rush of knowledge upon the death of a now distant person. It comes from a momentary sign which announces the event but not the person. We learn later the details but knew then we had lost someone we knew intimately.
Often it happens to us alone, seldom announced to other persons in the same room.
But such an event happened to a couple, my father, and me many years ago.
My aged father and I were visiting equally older relatives in their New Jersey shore house. It was a Saturday afternoon and we were talking about the odd events they experienced when first coming to America.
There was much laughter because their hardships had led to the pleasant cabin we were enjoying on that October day.
Suddenly, a cold wind whistling through the room. To all of us in the room, the sign portended the death of someone known to us all.
We looked at each other, stopping our tale about a larger-than-life relative named “Zinna Net” and her daughter, Rosalie.
My mother’s mother was a twin girl. She and her sister, Zinna Net, had married twins. Zinna Net was hell on wheels. It was said her husband died early to get away from her.
In my father’s immigrant days, marrying a non-Italian was seldom done. But Rosalie in the years before decided to marry a man of Polish extraction. Zinna Net refused to go to the wedding and forbade her husband and other relatives to attend. Defying her, my parents went and so did I. Because the couple needed to pay for everything, my mother sewed up the wedding dress and most of the food and drink was donated. It was one of the best events of my childhood. Everyone had a great time and the story was legendary in our Newark, NJ neighborhood. Despite bright grandchildren, nothing ever fully heal the estrangement.
This was the tale we were laughing over the coffee and anisette until that wind came through the closed windows. We stopped talking for a few moments. The wife changed the subject and we spoke no more about Zinna Net or Rosalie.
That week we heard Zinna Net had died that Saturday afternoon in one hospital and her daughter in another almost at the same time.