Friday, June 17, 2011

My Uncle Louie

I've had a tough time when thinking about what to write about my Uncle Louie, who died last month. It's still hard to believe he's gone.

What do you say about the uncle you've known forever? Always smiling and with a sly look on his face, he was my godfather. Despite our living three hours apart, our families always found a way to be together.

When I was younger, my Mom and I would travel around the state visiting relatives. Our stops always included a stay over at the Trevino's house. It's not a huge house but it is a wonderful house. We didn't care where we slept and often found ourselves on the floor, the couch, any open space we could find. Warm and inviting is how I know their house to be. Many years ago, after I had moved to North Carolina, it was Christmas time and I was feeling a bit homesick. I hopped in my car and drove fifteen hours to Massena, unannounced. Upon opening the door, I was greeted with nothing but smiles and hugs. It was the way it was and still is anytime you visit.

He had been sick for a while although through it all, he never lost that characteristic smile of his. It would light you up every time you saw him. He had that effect on a lot of people as evidenced not only by the thousands of posts of goodwill on his Facebook page but by the hundreds of lives he touched throughout the years.

My Uncle Louis was a character. Attending just about every Massena sporting event over the past fifty years, he was known by all. Whenever I met someone from Massena, whether at a flea market in New Jersey or a mall in North Carolina, when I asked them if they knew Crazy Louie, everyone smiles and said yes. Even my friend Mark, here in Vermont, knew him from high school as the guy who carried a car battery & horn and blasted it whenever Massena scored a goal.

Wonderful with kids, his pockets were always full of candy and a quarter, half dollar, or sometimes even a silver dollar. My kids, Thomas and Kate, still have their money from Unca Wellie (as Thomas called him when he was three), on their dressers.

Uncle Louie was a really good bowler. It was something both our families grew up with and became a huge part of our lives. He would come to Syracuse often for bowling tournaments and when he called, we would go watch him bowl. Even out of his hometown of Massena, people knew him and he had celebrity status.

He was also quite the smooth dancer. At every family wedding, we couldn't wait to watch him as he escorted Aunt Etta out to the dance floor. They were wonderful to watch. Many times, he had his maracas with him too, shaking them to the delight of all.

And tears! I'll always remember him for his tears. Not sad tears, but tears of joy. Whenever our families got together, he would cry tears of joy; just for us all being together.

Cheering for his beloved Yankees, which was the only bad thing he did in his life (go Mets!), I remember him sitting in his chair in the living room, hour after hour watching them on TV.

He could always be seen on the roads in and around Massena. You could see him bowling or later in life, keeping score for friends at the Seaway bowling alleys or sitting at the local McDonald's having coffee with his buddies.

He had a whistle, too. Ay caramba, yes he did. He would pull it out at quiet times during a wedding or family gathering, blow it and yell, "Everybody out of the pool!" It never got old and we looked forward to it. One year, we were all headed to a family wedding and I packed my own whistle in my camera bag. I pulled it out at a quiet time, blew it and yelled, "Everybody out of the pool!" I looked over at Uncle Louie. He smiled, came over and gave me a big hug.

Although a bit hard of hearing, wherever you were, you could just look over at him. He would look at you and smile, giving you that wink which said, "I'm glad you're here."

I know, now, that he is up in heaven with my Mom and his brother and sisters. After all the hugs are over, with tears in his eyes, they are all smiling and laughing together.

We will miss Uncle Louie, but it does make it a little easier knowing that the memories and love he gave us through the years will live with us forever.