|Photo C LoBuono. Words F LoBuono|
She was the last of them. The last of that line of LoBuonos. My father's youngest sister, Antonina Nina LoBuono-Hand, passed away late this week. She was the youngest of the LoBuono siblings, the children of Sicilian immigrants, Josafina Josephine and Francesco Frank LoBuono (the man whom I am named for but never met). My father, Joseph, the oldest boy, passed first, over 25 years ago. He was followed by his sister, and the oldest of the four, Rosalie Lil LoBuono-Safar, a few years ago. Then came my father's younger brother, Ralph. Now, it's Nina. And there are no more. All but my father lived well into their 80's, and in Lil's case, into her 90's. So, no complaints there. They were pretty damned hardy!!
Stella always thought that the family treated Nina like the youngest child that she was, i.e. spoiled. But that was an adult perspective that I never saw in her. She married a real Anglo guy named Bill Hand. I mean, you can't get more white than that - especially for my 1st generation family!! But, together, they were gracious hosts. They lived with their children and my 1st cousins, Christine, Frank (always a bunch in old, Sicilian families, LOL!), Gina, and David in a big, old house in Lyndhurst, NJ. They had a nice piece of property with an above-ground pool in the backyard. I had many a great time with my cousins in that little pool. Bill was a smoker and a pretty good drinker, too (one of the things that I liked about him!). But, in the end, it cost him and he died a fairly young man. Nina continued to live in that old house with her aging mother until it just got too big for them to handle and they moved to a retirement community in South Jersey. But, before they left and while I was commuting to college in Newark, I often stopped by that big, old place for a cup of coffee and some good conversation with my aunt and cousins.
After my grandmother died, the siblings squabbled over her estate and bad blood was, somehow, created. I never got that shit, life is too short, but it seems to happen in almost every family - and it happened with ours. Sides were taking and, especially after the death of my father, the family drifted. The last time I remember seeing my Aunt Nina, she was sitting in the back of the church at my father's funeral with my cousin, Gina. But we never spoke. And I never saw her again. I would occasionally hear things from Stella and others about her. I understand that she ultimately shared the fate of my father and, as he did, struggled with Alzheimer's in her last years. It's funny, in that "odd" sort of way, but I always thought that Nina and my father looked the most alike of all the siblings. They had these pale, hazel, cat-like eyes. But, equally odd was the fact that they never got along really well. My father was ALWAYS the oldest brother and Nina was the spoiled, little sister. It made for an interesting dynamic.
I am thinking deeply about all of them. My connection is strong. Nothing was stronger then family to my father. It's one of the things that I found so strange about the fact that we let ours drift so far apart. I think that I've seen my cousins no more than a handful of times in the 25 years since my father's death. This is unacceptable, especially since I have sired no living children of my own. ALL I have is my family, and it gets smaller all of the time.
I will see the last of her line of LoBuonos off for the final time at her funeral this Tuesday. And I hope to see my cousins again. And say to them, I love you. I missed you. Before it's too late.