So I’m watching The Shining through a magnifying glass, after recently viewing Room 237, when my cell rings. It’s my sister. Of course I pick up. Family is everything. I’m expecting some update about my mom’s car or a status report on Oscar, our beloved beagle (recently prone to seizures), or simply a discussion about upcoming weekend plans.
Were it only that mundane.
“You know that James Gandolfini died.”
And she’s joking, right?
How many nights did we spend watching and rewatching Sopranos’ episodes in awe of what was happening on our screens? I mean, we’re Jersey Girls, and we’ve been peripherally associated with variations on Tony Soprano our entire lives. The tough guy. The family man. The proud peacock. The struggling soul. Here was an actor and a character for us. We recognized the swagger, trembled at the threats, and felt simultaneously safe yet awed in the presence. We admired Tony when he flexed his muscles, hated him when he came down on A.J. (the eternal adolescent in all of us), sat slack-jawed when he executed Big Pussy, and cried when his ducks flew away. This representation of so many fathers and grandfathers and cousins touched every chord. The “anti-hero” took center stage. We loved him, laughed with and at him, shook our heads when he tried and failed get back or just get on the right foot, and still always thought him a king in our midst.
And now he’s gone.
I can’t quite describe what I’m feeling. It is in no way like sitting at my grandfather’s casket or walking through the rooms at D’Arienzo’s on Skillman in Brooklyn. But it’s a loss just the same. I’m crying as I write this, but thankful that I, and so many others, had this character. Sometimes I wish that life didn’t imitate art. Gandolfini suddenly cutting to black seems too cruel. But it doesn’t have to end. You don’t have to stop believing.
I’m fortunate to have glorious recordings of my grandfather’s voice, singing his songs. A click can alleviate some of my pain when I miss him terribly. Some, but not all. But tonight, let’s take a moment to revel in another legacy left behind even as we’re stifling our tears. Take pride, Jersey Girls. In the good and the bad and the pride in all of it (you’ll have to go to YouTube after clicking on the first clip, but it’s worth it).