Okay. So this one is a tough one. It is filled with family intrigue, fighting among the clans, evil parents, mental illness, and loving relationships. It aint' no "Game of Thrones", folks. It's "The Cerone Family Chronicles". Strap yourselves in, it's gonna take a little while.
I want to start by explaining that the picture below is of my gorgeous, sweet, loving yet very damaged Uncle Michael on the left. And truly, this post is about him.
You see, he recently died. Recently, meaning, March 15th. Just found out this morning. (Hang in there, it will get clearer.) The guy in the cowboy hat is my Grandfather. My Beautiful Father's Dad (and I use the term "Dad" loosely, take away the "ad" and add"ick" and that's about what you get.)
I suppose this is a good time to write the disclaimer to this piece. THIS IS MY OPINION. It is shared by a couple others in my family, but I AM WRITING IT!!! Because any of you that know me, know this writing thing is a catharsis for me. Oh, and I clearly DO NOT give one sweaty fuck if if whoever reads this doesn't like it. It is MY truth. He was my Uncle too. And the old man was my Grandfather (wooooooo hoooooo hit the jackpot on that one!!)
I also want to state, for the record, that the Grandfather "Frank The Plumber" did 2 GREAT things in his life. Super Duper, off the chain GREAT things. He created my Dad and married my Grandmother (I hate to call her "STEP" because she was so much more than that).
He married my Mimi. (The mother of the gorgeous, one on the left, Uncle Michael in the stylin' tux.)
My Dad and my Mimi, together, create enough, swirling, loving, kind, forgiving, inspiring energy in this universe and beyond, to cure famine, end war, and get the Beatles back together.
Unfortunately, we lost Mimi quite a few years ago. But she's around me a lot any way. She was a better Mom to my Dad than his own fucked up Mother who split out on him when he was seven. As the years went by, my Dad loved Mimi more than most anyone. She was so fucking special. She was just.... I can't find words. I CAN NOT FIND WORDS! That is sayin' something.
I think she could've done better than Frank The Plumber. But, she loved him and he made her happy, I guess. So that is all that matters.
Uncle Michael is the youngest. My Dad's half brother. I say "is" because "was" just doesn't seem real yet.
I was a SUPER SHITTY niece. NOT when I was younger. I was GREAT then. I would say by age eighteen, I had checked out on Uncle Michael.
You see, he was very, very mentally ill.
Can I make light of how mentally ill he was? No. But I can make it clear through comedy. He was the "No, you do not understand I AM GOD!" kind of mentally ill. The "Smoking Angel Dust is soothing to me." kind of mentally ill. "When the word splits open, and the beings from the core come out to take over, I will lead them." kind of mentally ill.
Living in Pilgram State most of his life.
In and out of other institutions.
And, more importantly, he was utterly, and completely the most kind, sweet, loving man ever.
And, I became a SUPER SHITTY niece. I gave up on him, when it got too much to visit. I didn't want to be around all those nutsy people. I didn't want to drive all the way there. I had a Springsteen show I had to see.
And, when Mimi died, it got worse. I just lost all will to even TRY and make her proud. Although, she would've understood. She was like that.
Over the years, I thought about maybe writing him. But see, we didn't keep in touch with any of the other family members that knew anything about his specifics. The people closest to him broke my heart terribly. They hurt my Dad and Mom because of money and "valuable things" and I guess they felt they were in the right. I don't and will never understand why it happened. But, in a way, it made it all so easy for me to forget about my Uncle Michael, who as you can clearly see was FUCKING HOT!!! (Sorry, I mean c'mon just look.)
Uncle Michael was creative, he had artist's heart and mind. He was the sensitive one, in a family group of very rough and tumble men. (Although, I know now how sensitive my Dad is. How he needed to put on that act to survive.)
He had 3 other brothers that were superstar athletes. My Dad, was recruited by the New York Yankees for Chrissake!!! His three brothers all received sports scholarships!! (Daddy left Troy Alabama to play for the Yankees.)
Uncle Michael, it had been whispered, could have been the best athlete out of ALL the Cerones ! But he threw it away on drugs and music.
No one understood mental illness back then. I mean look at him. Women flocked to him. He had a psychedelic painted van!! He played guitar. His hair....oh God it was long and blonde and shiny and smelled like apricot. He broke all the rules and lived to the beat of his own drummer.
And finally, the beat got wayyyy too loud and maybe that's when the voices started to yell in his head as well. And well, that was when he was done living in this reality.
My Mimi tried everything. She would bring him home to Hicksville for parties with his friends from the hospital. Some shook uncontrollably from the meds. Some smoked pack after pack of Marlboro Reds. Some just rocked back and forth, their arms clutched across their chests. And Uncle Michael would introduce each one of them, by name, to Sissy and I. We were young and knew they were a little different. But they were Uncle Michael's friends. So we just sat with them and talked. It wasn't so bad.
Sissy, in particular, LOVED Uncle Michael. Since we were little, he would always be on the floor with us playing "Don't Break The Ice" or "Barrel of Monkeys". I just remember Sissy always hugging him. Sitting on his lap. Just talking to him like it was another 7 year old. She would braid his hair and make him sing songs to her while playing guitar.
IMPORTANT: NO this story does not go south into a weird PEDO way. Uncle Michael was wayyyyy too good of a man for that. You have to be a special kind of evil fuck up for that kind of crazy.
So days, months, years go by. I get less and less guilty about not seeing my beautiful Uncle. Mimi passes. I don't give two shits about Frank the Plumber for my own reasons. And family gets weird about, as I've written earlier "valuables" And, my Daddy basically feels that Mommy, Sissy, Me, Julian, Kenny, M.O.M. (My Old Man) and his cousins and Aunt and Uncle are his family. (And Dad will be the first one to admit, he isn't good at keeping up with his truly beloved cousins. And when Uncle Jim and Aunt Alice died, Daddy went to that quiet, sad, place he goes inside himself, because of all the hurt and abandonment he has experienced in the past.)
And now, I know Uncle Michael is gone. March 15th 2013. And yes, I feel douchey.
I swear on my nephew I thought about him so much in the past. I had a job interview down Broadway in Hicksville in December of 2012, about 2 blocks from The Cerone's old house in Hicksville (it was one of the "valuables" I spoke of earlier.) It didn't look all that valuable sitting there on the corner. No trucks or vans in the driveway. No Mimi smiling, waving.
I glanced across the street at Lee Avenue school where Uncle Michael would take Sissy and I to play on the monkey bars. I showed him how I could do a drop dismount, and spin like a pinwheel. Sissy chased him around screaming, "Uncle Mikey, you can't get me." And he would say, "My girls are so fast and and talented!!" And then we'd walk, all holding hands, back across the street and eat chicken soup and swim in the pool.
I wonder how he kept the demons away during those times. Because he was pure joy. The Big Kahuna, The COOLEST UNCLE EVER!!!!
And I gave up on that. And that is something I have to live with. Because Goddess as my judge I loved him. He was so beautiful, and sick, and could be a huge pain in the ass to Frank The Plumber (which I get a sick kinda' glee out of). But he drove Mimi crazy too, which she never deserved, but she hung in there. And my Dad literally had to pull him off Frank the Plumber during one of his more rambunctious episodes, I mean really. Dad almost knocked Uncle Michael out, almost HAD too!
(Personally, I would've let Uncle Michael at Frank, but I'm a pretty demented fuck, and lord knows THAT isn't healthy.)
So that is the tale of my beautiful displaced Uncle. Who struggled, and loved, and laughed, and cried, and lived the best he knew how, pretty much like the rest of us.
He just did it with all those voices in his head and feelings most of never have to experience (lucky us.)
I am sorry Uncle Michael. I should have tried harder. I was fucking scared out of my mind of what I might see had I gone to visit. That is no excuse.
In my mind, I still see the gorgeous, blonde, tan, vibrant, free spirit that was my Uncle and friend. I know that once again that makes me a selfish cunt. I can live with that. It won't be the last time I accuse myself of living up to that moniker.
You see, it makes this all much easier. Even if it is the truth only to me, in my mind, in my memories.
I love you Uncle Michael.
Rest In Peace. You deserve it.