Condolences to my Aunt Rosie, Pat, Tony, Andy, Chris, and Sally and all of the grandchildren. May the Lord lift you up through this time. Most of my memories of my Uncle George are from about 1978 when the Bruno family re-located to New Jersey for about two years. I would have been about 8 when they moved to Bridgewater, about 45 minutes away. It was the only time in my youth when we had cousins living in the same state with us. And it seemed the families took advantage, in the Italian tradition, getting together for every holiday, most birthdays and other occasions, always with great food. George´s wit and humor at the head of the table always enthralled me, perpetually with that semi-serious grin.
George and Rosie´s home was a fun house for my brother and I. My cousins (usually) would let us get in on whatever sports were going on in the yard, but if George was involved we definitely got to play. I can remember getting to first base in a whiffle ball game once. George asked, do you want to see how they hold a runner on in the Major Leagues? Before I could get a lead he stepped on my foot so hard I couldn´t move. I tried to contest, but the pitch was thrown and well, I was never going to make it to 2nd on time.
I remember a lot of time spent watching sports in the living room, decorated with reminders of Colorado including some Broncos paraphernalia. I took an interest in the old style Broncos phone while we were watching a Thanksgiving day game. He told me, "that is a direct line to the Broncos sideline. Here, watch." - he picked up the phone and said "Hey Red, lets get an interception on this next play". Even at that age I knew that calls from New Jersey weren´t going to help the Broncos that season, but he was so confident, it did seem possible.
I´ll miss George´s cartoons. My favorite was the one he drew to commemorate the time my mother managed to knock the door off the family car while backing out of the garage. I probably would have forgotten that incident, but for that vivid cartoon. I wish one of us had saved it, but I don´t think my mother kept it around very long.
In December 1979 we took a long weekend to visit Cooperstown, Niagara Falls, and then took in a Broncos-Bills game in Buffalo. It was a less than ideal time to tour northern New York, but that only made it the more memorable. I probably still have that Rich Stadium ticket stub if I look around hard enough.
Some time that winter during a family dinner, from the head of the table, George announced that the next Summer my Father would no longer be allowed to do cannonballs in their backyard pool. I waited for the punchline but there would be no chuckles this time. When the school year was over, the house would be sold and the Brunos would move back to Colorado. I was momentarily devastated. It was unthinkable that my cousins would leave us after what seemed like such a short time. But soon I understood that their hearts had remained in Colorado, and everyone deserves the opportunity to go home.
I always appreciated that George and Rosie attended my wedding in Pittsburgh, bringing my grandmother as well. At the opening dance of the reception, who else to escort my grandmother than my Uncle George. George and Rosie even helped us pull off the wedding gift gag the morning after. Fond memories.
Fifteen years ago George and Rosie came to visit us in Raleigh for a week ahead of my Mother´s 70th birthday. She had no idea they were coming until they walked through her front door. Keenan was visiting for the week as well so they got to meet all of my mother´s grandchildren. We did a variety of things that week, but the highlight for George was a visit to Durham Bulls park to watch a baseball game. I remember him looking around the ballpark and remarking, "not a bad seat in the house". I can still picture a full grin on his face behind home plate enjoying the game. I don´t think I´ve ever seen him happier.
It was a gut punch that Saturday morning when I heard that George had departed this world. My mind went back to that dinner time announcement so many years ago. We grieve at the separation with tears of sorrow, but quietly rejoice that the pain of this world is no longer, confident that his soul has found a new home. So long sweet Uncle. I hope in Christ to see your semi-serious grin again, in a place where all tears have been wiped away.