I'm Not Tony

(This is an excerpt from my newest book)

Everyone in the church was crying, everyone but me . I looked over at my dad and even saw a tear rolling down his cheek. Maybe he never got Pops’ memo. “Crying’s for pussies. Suck it up, breathe deep, never give in to emotions, kid. That’s what will keep you strong.”

My mom and my younger sister Katie were puddles.  My mom was trying to keep her sobs quiet, but Katie liked to put on a show. She looked a lot like Pops, big brown eyes that olive skin, a total Italian. She was his princess, and she knew it. But she didn’t really know Pops, not like I did anyway.

Then there’s the whole issue with Dad. Pops was my dad’s father. You couldn’t have met two more different people. Dad never really understood Pops. I guess Pops never really understood Dad either.  Pops loved sports and Dad, well Dad never really cared much for them. He would try, but he would say the wrong thing.

My Pops was a huge Boston Bruins fan. He would always talk about his favorite player, Phil Esposito. “That’s when the Bruins were great,” he would say. When they had a real Italian on their team. Sure, sure, Tuuka is a great goalie, but you shoulda seen, Jerry Cheevers. Orr and Esposito, no one will ever replace ‘em.”

One-time Pops, Dad, and I were watching the Bruins play the Rangers. Dad is sipping his wine and yells, “Come on get a score, get a score.”

Pops just sighs and says, “It’s goal Joe, you want them to get a goal, just go back with the girls and talk about the latest episode of General Hospital. Anthony and I will keep you up to date on the score.”

My dad just got up and happily went into the kitchen. It was always awkward when Dad and Pops were together.

Pops was Italian. His name was Anthony Joseph Delgado. My dad's name is Joseph Anthony Delgado. His grandfather, my pop’s dad, was also named Joseph Anthony.  Guess what my name is? Anthony Joseph just like Pops. I think I have to name my kid Joseph Anthony. It's a weird family thing.

Pops was always Tony, and I was always Anthony. I hate it when someone calls me Tony. Usually, a coach will try calling me Tony until I correct them.

Teachers never make that mistake except for this awful Science teacher I had in seventh grade. His name was Mr. Davenport. He was one of those “try to be your friend” teachers. I hate that kind of teacher. I don't want to be friends with my teachers.

He gave everyone an annoying nickname. Even when I told him I preferred to be called Anthony he continued with Tony. He didn’t just call me Tony he would use this weird accent like, “’Ey Tohny”, he would try to sound like an Italian guy I guess, spreading out the o sound. It was so annoying. Soon some kids I didn't really know well started calling me Tony. I pretended it didn't really bother me. I didn't want to come off as a jerk, but Pops is Tony.

Pops laughed when I told him about it. “What's wrong with being Tony? It's better than Dorothy,” he said putting me in a headlock and rubbing my head with his knuckles. He then mimicked me in this whiny voice, “Oh it’s horrible my teacher called me Tony. It’s the worst thing in the world.” He finally would stop with the headlock and gave me a hug laughing making me realize it was a pretty stupid thing to be upset about.

For weeks anytime I would complain about anything, he would say, “Must suck to be you, Dorothy.”

I started laughing at the memory before remembering we were still in the church at Pops’ funeral. One of dad's chorus kids was singing Ave Maria. My mom kind of punched my shoulder and mouthed, “What is wrong with you?”

I straightened myself out, adjusted my tie and tried to imagine my life without Pops. I guess that's what everyone else was doing. That's why there were tears. Life without Pops is going to suck.