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Sixty-three

November 24, 2018

I’m only a few miles out from the cemetery and it begins to rain. The day is gloomy, so this isn’t quite a surprise, but I question myself and why I hadn’t thought to check the weather before I left the house. 

 

I glance over to the floor of the passenger side of the car and notice an umbrella slightly peeking out from underneath the seat. I feel relief. I know there will be some waterworks when I get to Mommom’s grave— it would’ve been her 96th birthday today—and I don’t need the rain to add insult to injury.

 

I get off at the exit at Conshohocken and realize I’m facing the opposite direction of how I normally come into town. Instead of trying to figure out how to get to the cemetery on my GPS, I sit in silence at the red light at the bottom of the borough. 

 

Over the bridge is where several generations of my family once lived. They came to this country, settled in Philadelphia, and made Conshohocken their home. They had small businesses, helped other Italians get established, and built a life with a family. 

 

 (Photo: The former site of DeMedio Keystone Realty on Fayette Street in Conshohocken)

 

I had never lived in this town, but it felt like a home to me. I remember racing over this bridge countless times to meet my dad in his office on the main stretch of Fayette Street. I could point out the church where I was baptized and the street where my grandparents were born.

 

Here I am, the fourth generation, and I’m the only person of our lineage left bearing the DeMedio name.

 

I let instinct kick in and guide me to the cemetery, weaving through the steep hills and diagonal cross streets. The rolling acres of tombstones and trees appear in the distance just as Betty Who’s cover of “I Love You Always Forever” begins to pump through my car speakers.

 

“Feels like I’m standing in a timeless dream, 

of light mist, of pale amber rose.

Feels like I’m lost in a deep cloud of heavenly scent, 

touching, discovering you.”

 

I know the song is about a never-ending love, but all I hear is timeless, mist, lost, heaven. My car turns into the misty hills of the cemetery, and I take a journey into heaven to discover my deceased family at their timeless home.

 

And lost. I end up lost. 

 

I pull up to the area where I thought my family’s plot was located in the front row. I don’t see DeMEDIO on any of the tombstones. Are you sure it’s the first row? Maybe it is the second, I say to myself.

 

I look around and know I can figure this out. History repeats itself, and I have been here far too many times before. 

 

I close my eyes and I imagine coming here as a little girl. There were times I was too little to get out of the car. I stretched my seatbelt as far as it would go so I could peer out the car window at Daddy to see what he was doing.

 

Crouched over at the tombstone, one hand on the top of the stone, he cried. 

 

Later in life he would ask if I wanted to join him. I’d nod. We’d walk a few steps from the car to the grave, and he would tell me stories about his father, my grandfather who I never met. He would tell me how much he missed him. 

 

Crouched over at the tombstone, one hand on the top of the stone, he cried. 

 

These memories reinforce how close the tombstone is to the road. I quickly scan this section of the cemetery, and see an entrance to another road that is close to the first row of graves. I begin to drive over. The music continues.

 

“I love you, always forever

near and far, closer together

everywhere, I will be with you”

 

 (Photo: my family's tombstone at Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken, PA)

 

I see it. DeMEDIO. As Bold as it’s ever looked to me. It is now not only the home to my great grandparents, great uncle, and grandfather, but now my grandmother and some of my father’s ashes. 

 

I start to reach over for the umbrella but am stopped in my tracks.

 

My father was 63 when he died. He told me before his death that his father was 61. When I cleaned out Mommom’s things, I found my great-grandmother’s death announcement that confirmed she was 63 at the time of her death. This in itself is very strange, but that outlying number, 61, made it a little less ominous. 

 

That all changed. 

 

1921-1984 is written underneath my grandfather's name.

 

“SIXTY-THREE!!” I yell out loud to myself . “He WAS 63!!” My stomach turns and I can’t tell if I am angry or devastated, or some horrible mix of those emotions that doesn’t even have a name yet. I grab the umbrella and sit with this feeling for a minute.

 

“Say you’ll love, love me forever

Never stop, never whatever.”

 

My anger grows. An entire bloodline in my family died at the SAME age, of the SAME thing. How am I supposed to love you, when you all hid this from me? I think to myself. I feel as though I’m uncovering some hidden family secret, but it had been there, etched in stone, all along.

 

I leave Mommom’s gift and tell her I miss her and that I hope she’s at peace. I think about Daddy. 1954-2017. I re-read the dates on the stone.

 

Angeline, 1900-1963

Anthony 1921-1984

 

Crouched over at the tombstone, one hand on the top of the stone, I cried.

 

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November 24, 2018

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Rittenhouse Square

Philadelphia, PA, USA

©2018 by Gianna DeMedio