My father and his siblings loved to play cards. It was a chance for them to get together after a long day at work. Sometimes the games were held at our house, but most often they were held at Aunt Helen’s or Aunt Rita’s house. My aunts Helen, Louise and Rita were my father’s younger sisters from his mom, who had passed away when my father was very young.
My grandfather, Michael Maratea went back to Italy to find a new wife. That’s what people did back then when a wife died. I guess it was something like a mail order bride. Grandpop had his family in Italy put their feelers out for prospective mates who were willing to take on the job of raising four children and working long hours in a grocery store, and all for the chance of living in America. Side note: My grandfather had originally joined a seminary to become a priest. Priesthood ran in the family and we had several Maratea men as Cardinals in Rome. I think the love bug hit Grandpop and he left the seminary and married my grandmother Maria.
Grandmom Rose and Grandpop Maratea
My Grandma Rosie not only took care of my father and his three sisters, but she gave birth to four children, and that’s how my father acquired four more siblings, Aunt DeDe, Aunt Margie, Aunt Rosie and Uncle Michael.
Aunt Louise and Aunt Rita before card game
This was my father’s favorite game and he and his sisters played this game all the time. My father knew how to count the cards and because he did, he could figure out what each person held in their hand at any given time. He wasn’t a gambler and never went to the casinos at Atlantic City, but it’s a good thing he didn’t do casinos because he would have been banned. He was that good.
My father was also a poor loser and I was witness to the many arguments that would break out when someone messed up the game. Whenever I heard my father ranting, “What are you stupid? Why did you throw that card, dumb ass?” I immediately knew who he was yelling at. My poor Aunt Louise was usually the poor recipient of these outbursts.
My Aunt Louise was also a recipient of one of my father’s more famous practical jokes. My father tricked my poor aunt into thinking that her husband Jack was helping my father care for pigeons that were kept in a pigeon coop on the roof of our home. Why? It was an excuse for Uncle Jack to sneak over our house and play cards. We never had pigeons. This went on for a long time before Aunt Louise found out. She read my father the riot act, but that never stopped Fred from orchestrating his long list of pranks on his family.
One time, my father was pissed off at a man who usually showed up at the card games over my Aunt Rita’s house. Ed was a business partner of my aunt and uncle and he was often invited to play cards at my aunt’s home. I never learned what Ed did wrong at one of those card games, but what I do know is that my father had found the perfect revenge. Ed hated pumpkin pie and my father sold pies at our grocery store. Fred would bring a pumpkin pie at every game even though Ed vehemently complained. Ed’s only salvation from the hated dessert was when the season for pumpkins had passed.
My father had taught all us kids how to play pinochle, and while he was alive and well, we played whenever we could all get together...but I haven’t played the game since he died. My grandsons wanted to learn the game, but I forgot some of the rules and how to keep score. Yes, I know I can download the information from the internet, but it’s just not the same.
My father and mother take turns visiting my home and my sister Lucy’s home. I should say their spirits visit us. The dead are always with us and my parents are both determined that I don’t forget this. I was thinking...maybe if I leave the deck of cards out...maybe my father will help me remember how to play the game.