The big news in my family right now is that Poppy has gangrene covering his foot. I don't feel sorry for the stinky old bastard. I mean really, if he wanted me and my sisters to give a shit when his feet were all brittle and dead, he probably should have given a shit about us.
The fact is, however, that he and Nonny never really did give a shit. They didn't show up at the hospital when any of us girls were born. They never missed the boys. The day I came into this bright and snow-fucked world, my dad called to tell them the news, and they were all, "A granddaughter? Congrats. We'll talk to you later, we're going to Jay's ball game."
My dad's first child, born just miles from their house, and they blew me off for a ten-year old's basketball game eight towns over.
We're girls, after all, and were never much use to him. It mattered more to us as kids, wondering why Poppy and Nonny never came to our softball-soccer-basketball-swimming-karate competitions, and hit up every single game of our male cousins.
Visiting the grandparents was always boring at first. I think the feelings were mutual, there: Poppy and Nonny would hug us, say hello look at how big you are how's school --- Oh, Little Tony! You're growing up to be quite a man. I hear this about baseball, and stuff about art, and let me show you a bunch of bullshit, here's five dollars, come with me into the other room…
But then it got exciting, because their house was full things that we weren't supposed to touch that we totally touched anyway, and there were off-limit rooms and a sweet park down the street.
Coincidentally, the park was named after Poppy Coach, for his fine services on the police force and to the community.
The grandparents were never violent, never mean to us. They didn't hate us. They just didn’t need us.
Recently, this was brought to the attention of the entire family during the Great Rossi Brawl of Christmas '08 (oh, there's one every year).
You see, me and my cousin, Rob, carried Poppy down the stairs together and placed him in his chair. Poppy thanked us, blatantly gave Rob twenty dollars, and rolled away. I just shook my head. It's pointless to start arguments about it, because you're not going to change the mind of an eighty-six-year old diabetic man, a local hero, a man who played for the Chicago Bears for four months, a man who talks about World War II like he was there (he was in the army, but never left the States).
I spent half my childhood trying to be a boy for that man, wishing he paid more attention to me. I know there's no convincing him. At this point in my life, I wouldn't take it from him anyway.
But this time, people noticed, and then there's a two-hour argument, and my uncle learned that this has been going on for years, and Poppy called The Girls "ungrateful snots," and eventually Uncle Dick slapped the diapered, wheelchair-bound patriarch. I don't think he ever sided against Poppy before.
And then there was a family discussion, where we had to tell stories, like about that one time Poppy handed a fiver to Rob, kissed Katsisch on the forehead, and handed five dollars to each of the boy twins. Katsisch started crying, silently, and Rob ripped his cash in half and shared with her. Like I said: Nonny and Poppy loved and encouraged us as much as they thought was necessary.
Anyway. So now, his foot is rotting away. I saw him on Easter. I'll visit him again, out of respect for my dad, who is freaking out.
Poppy let the gangrene spread, because he believed he was man enough to will it away. This is a man who knows fully well when he pisses all over himself, but refuses to admit it, and furiously denies the fact that his chair is soaked in urine. This man was too proud to use a walker, so for ten years Nonny would walk next to him, head bowed slightly, Poppy's hand pushing on the back of her brown wrinkly neck like it was his cane. I blame him for her shrinking.
Oh, I could write so much more about their fucky relationship. Even though I know they're addicted to each other, completely devoted. I'm pretty convinced when one is gone, the other will be soon behind. They've been together since they were eleven and twelve.
But I don't feel sorry for him, and I don't give a shit about his foot or how he feels about it. Nonny's completely senile and doesn't know who anyone is anyway. I just feel like a complete ass, because in the back of my head, for the sake of my dad's sanity and mine...I hope the bastard dies soon.