Thursday, January 16, 2014

"When Michael Calls...": Posting Uncle Freddie's Grandson's Comments on My "Ridiculous" and "Self-Absorbed' Tribute to His Grandfather

Sorry, I couldn't resist this as the lead image for this entry. I thought of adding "Uncle My Freddie" but just didn't seem right. You can watch this whole, creepy 1972 thriller movie (at least for now) on YouTube. Alternatively, just read the IMDb summary.


Below is a comment that Uncle Freddie's grandson Michael posted in the Dec. 29th, 2013 entry (link embedded in title) "Some Reflections on the Passing of My Great Uncle Frederick V. "Freddie" Acerra Sr."

Uncle Freddie was his grandfather, which because Uncle Freddie was my grandmother's younger brother, make Michael and his brother (Anthony) my second cousins removed twice. (At least I think that's how it works. I get confused with "removed" part.)

I posted the comment in that entry and I'm posting here in full with a few thoughts.


Michael's comments ...

I am unsure as to why you chose the words that you did. I am not sure how or why my grandfathers obituary reads that way to you. You only get so many words, and to try and sum up such a long rich life in a short amount of time is no easy task. That being said, aside from it telling the simple story of my grandfather, I do not see any hidden undertones of dislike towards anyone. The fact that you do is a little ridiculous, and more than likely self absorbed.

I lived with my grandfather for 17 years, and ill be honest I do not know who you are, and I do not remember your visit here although that is a picture of my home right after the construction was done.

Anyone who knew my grandfather well knows that he was a man of forgiveness and he did nothing but welcome people. His immediate family (including my mother)reflect that. And even if not on a daily basis, it was most certainly reflected at the services celebrating his life where several people who may not be the best of friends were welcomed with open arms and allowed to pay their respects to my grandfather. Doing it any other way would have been a disservice, as my grand father was never known to turn anyone away from his doorstep. Anyone who knew him well knew that. Heck, anyone who knew him for more than five minutes knew that.

My grandfathers obituary and services were just that, my grandfathers obituary and services. Nothing more and nothing less. They were about him, remembering him and celebrating his life.

The fact that you jumped on the internet speaking ill of his family (and by the way I am reading this your family as well) and with your closing remarks made this entirely about you only shows people that you did not know him very well at all. If you did, you would have chosen a different way to honor him that didn't involve accusing his immediate family of hiding messages about you in his obituary.

I am reading that very short obituary and trying hard to find that place between the lines where you saw something about you and I just can't. How you made any of that about you is beyond me.

I am glad that you knew my grandfather, and that in some way he touched your life. I can only pray that whatever bitterness you have that taints those memories is washed away with time.


A few thoughts (and old scanned pictures) ...

The Tradewinds Beach Club of Memory (old postcard from my grandmother circa 1985)

First, Michael would not remember me because he was in the mid-1980s just a baby and then a very young child when I was going to the late, great, much missed Tradewinds Beach Club at that time. My grandparents and I had a cabana next to Michael's parents. Michael was just a little baby in a diaper seated on beach towel on those wooden benches on the upper row of cabanas. The following couple summers, he was just a little blond-haired boy running around in his pastel green bathing suit.

One of the black-and-white pictures that my friend Jonathan took on a bright, chilly-looking day in November 2002 in Sea Bright, N.J., shortly before Tradewinds Beach Club was finally razed. I posted this and other pictures in this entry back in Sept. 2012.


As for Michael's mom, my cousin Donna (come to think of it, she is my second cousin removed once and Michael would be my second cousin removed twice), I saw her and we spoke briefly at Aunt Babe's 100th birthday party almost one year ago. I saw Donna fairly often back in the summers of the 1980s.

A view of the row of second (top) tier cabanas on the northside of Tradewinds Beach Club, Sea Bright. N.J. This was in the Summer of 1977 -- a full decade before the time to which I am referring. I was 7 years old.

For reference, my grandmother is the thin woman seated at the table. Aunt Babe is the lady in the white sweater. As I mentioned, she's still going strong at just about 101 years old. The others (all deceased) are Uncle Joey, Aunt Rosemary, and Betty Lu. In the background were my best friend Jonathan's family and friends at another group of cabanas.


In particular, I recall in the Summer of 1987 when I would join her and her family (again, Michael was very young) for dinner nightly.

Aunt Bunny (wife of my late Uncle Jimmy, one of my grandmother's younger brothers) and my grandfather at Tradewinds Beach Club in the very first summer the "new" part opened, August 1976. (There was an older part of Tradewinds that dated back to at least the 1950s, and quite possibly to the 1940s or even the 1930s.)


As context and background, by the Summer of 1987, my grandfather was already a hypochondriacal basket case, home in bed all the time, leaving my grandmother (who did not drive) trapped in the apartment with him (recall she contracted ulcers and it was complications from surgery for those that killed her in January 1988).

Yours truly in my Summer of 1987 Tradewinds Beach Club membership card. I was 17 in this picture.


As for me, I was staying with my grandparents (as I had for the previous five summers in their senior citizens apt. building in Long Branch by the ocean (about 5 miles from Tradewinds). I had no car, yet I was still going to the beach club -- in the morning / early afternoon taking this silly bus trolley that was running up and down Ocean Avenue that summer while staying with my grandparents in Long Branch (about 5 miles away). I would stay late and Donna and Tony -- then in the cabana next door (#20) -- would drive me back to Long Branch nightly. This was after inviting me to dinner nightly.

As a teenager (16 to 17 years old) I didn't appreciate that, but in retrospect I certainly do now. It was very kind of them.

The interior of Cabana 21 looking out, Tradewinds Beach Club, Sea Bright, N.J., August 1987. I took this picture along with another one below. I must have had a camera for a period of time.

By this point, I was just going there by myself.


I guess the strongest memory I have of Donna was at my grandmother's funeral on a very cold winter's day in Long Branch, N.J., just about 26 years ago to the day (she died on January 11, 1988 as I wrote on the 25th anniversary of her death last year in this entry). There was a lot of snow on the ground. But it was at Damiano Funeral Home just after the service but before her burial. Everyone had left the viewing room.

My grandma's Tradewinds Beach Club membership card in the Summer of 1986.


I remember being annoyed because the old priest that was brought in to preside over the service had said the 50 Hail Mary's as if he were a flippin' stockyard announcer. But at this point, everyone was gone and I was just looking at her in the casket, and I started to tear up. Suddenly, Donna was there next to me and very comforting.

I always remembered that as well.

The view from the northside "lanais" overlooking the seawall and Atlantic Ocean toward the north, Sea Bright, N.J., August 1987.

The ocean was turbulent that day and rather polluted (it seems to be a lot better now -- this was back when there was still ocean sewage dumping by New York City). At night when the weather was clear, you could easily see the lights of Brooklyn and Queens on the northern horizon about 25 miles away and -- from the beach -- see the Manhattan skyline including the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center. Farther north on the Sandy Hook peninsula and atop the hill where the Twin Lights stand, the Manhattan skyline looks reach-out-and-touch close.


As for making the entry about me in self-absorbed fashion, well, I suppose there is some truth that. I really was going on limited information and was simply trying to post some of my own interactions with Uncle Freddie, in particular the one that I thought was funny.

Another one of the black-and-white pictures that my friend Jonathan took in November 2002 in Sea Bright, N.J., shortly before Tradewinds Beach Club was finally demolished for beachside condos (which were damaged or destroyed in Hurricane Sandy anyway).


I should have mentioned that when I stayed there in the summer of 2000, I just showed up unannounced and Uncle Freddie immediately welcomed me and let me stay there for several days. I went to either Edgewater or Driftwood Beach Clubs -- the next two south of Tradewinds, but I can't recall which one -- during the day where Betty Ann was a member and I recall Donna once driving me back to Long Branch to Uncle Freddie's place. Uncle Freddie even made me breakfast one morning. I should have noted that was well.

The full Acerra clan from Tony to Louie -- representing the 15 who made it or make it to adulthood (another two did not) -- as well as the parents (my great-grandparents) seen on the stairs to a TWA prop plane at Newark Airport circa 1937 after they won a contest for New Jersey's biggest family.


Also, I should mention that I am in a weird situation vis-à-vis the original 15-sibling Acerra clan -- of which my grandmother and Uncle Freddie were two members, and which included the all-brother baseball team -- as well as their children (my second cousins removed once) and all the cousins (even more removed) thereafter.

The Acerra Brothers baseball team circa 1948.


As you can imagine, there are literally scores of second cousins from multiple generations and I know few of these people. I live this fairly isolated life in Washington, D.C., wholly cut-off from any past and with no identifiable future -- just an eternal now. And my immediate family are just my parents, both geographically removed from me and neither one of whom I interact all that much. Yet I appreciate the fact that I come from such a large family.

This combination of lack of real connection in the present yet long-ago rich history makes it hard to write in a way that is NOT self-absorbed.

So there you have it.

A postcard that Jonathan sent me from Australia in 1998.

He was in Australia touring with the "stoner" band Monster Magnet for which he was the drummer at the time.


Back in my D.C. Life ...

The view looking east along K Street from Washington, D.C., with a rising nearly full Moon, 6:38PM January 14, 2014.

I had gotten off at Foggy Bottom Metro and was walking to the new Stoney's to meet AP and company.


In self-absorbed fashion, I had a good gym workout (almost an hour of jogging on the treadmill, almost an hour of mostly light to occasionally moderate machine-based weight-lifting, and a half hour of swimming). My weight was at 143.5 pounds, which is pretty much where I want to be (still down 40 pounds from my awful peak).

Interior view of the new Stoney's on L Street, Washington, D.C., 8:20PM January 14, 2014.

Chris H. also works at this Stoney's but was not there last night.


Last night was kind of a sh!t showy in that I went to the weekly Tuesday night group happy hour. We went to the new Stoney's on L Street near Washington Circle. I then walked to Larry's Lounge to meet Gary -- and there I had a few too many vodka soda (seltzer water) drinks.

I was trying to explain lunar orbital dynamics to bartender Scott -- as a segue from a reference to the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse across the United States that I've discussed before and intend to see on the coast of South Carolina. I must have gotten home around 1230AM, and I ended up going into work 2 hours late this Wednesday and felt like crap most of the day.

I keep meaning to turn over a new leaf.

Tonight is a cold, cloudy one with scattered snow flurries, except the bands of light snow keep missing frickin' D.C. on either side.

Partially frozen Niagara Falls looking from the Canadian side to the U.S. side during the "polar vortex" deep freeze, January 8, 2014.


Of note, Gary and I are going to Buffalo and Niagara Falls in about 8 days precisely to see snow since it just doesn't happen in any meaningful way here in D.C. proper, at least not in recent years. It looks to be quite cold with lake effect snow (although Lake Erie is nearly frozen over, which shuts off the wintertime lake effect machine). In the meantime, he is going to Aruba to a Boston friend's wedding party.)

OK, that's all for now. I'll try to update this blog Friday night, though it may not be until Saturday.




к.нео.физ.де.му said...


liked the response!

as far as the entry, dedicated to the passing of your uncle being a bit self-absorbed, it is your blog, it is about you and how you view the world and feel about events - not a some impartial wikipedia entry.

the rest is just a bit of misunderstanding...

Regulus said...

Thank you, Mike, I appreciate the comment.

We need to meet up in the next few weeks.