In addition to the great characters in my family, there are also some great characters. The greatest of all would have to be my paternal grandfather, a man who insisted on being called “Honey”.
Honey was the MADdest and most Catholic person I have ever known.
My father, Peter, spent much of his childhood attending church with Honey, during which time Honey would fart repeatedly, each time turning a pointed finger to my disgraced father while barking, “Peeda, you shood be ASHAMED of ya-self!”
When Honey got really mad, he’d resort to biting limbs (other’s mostly, but occasionally his own). As a boy, my dad worked at the family’s Progresso storage plant in the heart of the French Quarter – A 19th century building which has since been purchased by Brad and Angelina to store their tribe while in New Orleans.
Honey encouraged my dad to drive years before he had a legal license. One day, while my father was working at the storage plant, he accidentally drove a forklift into a wall of olive oil canisters. Honey became so enraged that he climbed into the vehicle with my dad who was covered in oil, and began screaming through his teeth as he gnawed alternately his own hand and my father’s shoulder.
In case you’re wondering if I’m in line as an heiress to the Progresso fortune, the answer is no. After my great grandfather Giuseppe died, Honey spent 7 years dragging his siblings to 11 states following a court battle to gain control of the company. Unfortunately in the end, he lost the family business for everyone.
I recall my typically positive and perky Grandmother, once gazing at the living room chandelier, shaking her head in regret while whispering, “We would’ve had an EMPIRE.”
Honey not only caused drama within the family, he created a scene whenever he left the house. Always rude with waiters, Honey once yelled across the restaurant to someone attending another table and said, “Ya gat a lease on that spot ova there-a? I’ll collect my Social Securidy by the time my gad damn lasagna gets here!”
There was one thing however that separated Honey from most mad men or bad boys… you see, my grandfather Honey, loved nothing more than to style women’s hair and design their wardrobes. In other words, Honey wore the pink pants in the family.
What I’m trying to say is Honey was a man who made Liberace look like Tommy Lasorda.
Having been raised in an old-world religious household, Honey remained repressed and miserable, giving new meaning to the term “flaming”. The only thing that wasn’t gay about my grandfather was his disposition.
Whenever I left the commune to visit my relatives in New Orleans, a typical greeting from Honey may include a kiss on the cheek followed by, “Come here Deli, let’s put a ribbon on that rat’s nest your motha’ calls a hairdo.”
While fluffing my rat’s nest to look like Marilyn Monroe on a homeless hair day, he’d inevitably ask, “Ya seen ya Mawmie yet this trip? You could land a helicopta on that ass!”
Honey’s insults were usually followed by a brief guttural laugh, most often a startling one-syllable, “HA!”
Honey’s trials and tribulations started at birth when he was born with a hemangioma (an abnormal buildup of blood vessels), that first looked like a small pink birthmark on his cheek. In the Sicilian village where Honey’s mother, Mawmaw was born (not to be confused with “Mawmie” mentioned above), this slight stain was considered by some a “mark of the devil”.
Mawmaw believed God was punishing her, and was therefore deeply ashamed of Honey. When Honey was a child, Mawmaw brought him to the family doctor and said, “Fix him.” – Great way to start a life!
Honey was then subjected to primitive radiation treatments, which caused cancerous growths, blinding him in one eye and permanently disfiguring his face. Unfortunately, Mawmaw’s shame of her son and his mistreatment didn’t stop there.
After noticing that Honey was served measly portions of food compared to the rest of the family members, Honey’s aunt, Cicina, concerned for his wellbeing, intervened and began to care for the child.
Regardless of Cicina’s efforts, Mawmaw continued to neglect her son. Night after night, like a saintly Italian mother, Mawmaw would tuck her children in for bed and kiss them all – except for Honey.
Throughout his childhood, Honey was brutally bullied, and often took refuge by running into the school’s church for safety. Similarly, outside of the playground, when Honey walked with his black nanny down the streets of the Quarter, children would tease repeatedly by yelling, “Look, it’s chocolate, vanilla and strawberry-face!”
As an adult, Honey became intent on transforming himself from someone marked by “The Beast” to that of a beautiful creature, but even plastic surgery couldn’t “fix” the damage done. Honey’s inherited fortune subsidized many secret visits to his surgeon.
Post-surgery, if someone remarked on Honey’s bruised and stitched-up visage, he would sound off like a Southern bigot, angrily claiming how he’d been “mugged” by one of those damn chocolate people.
Eventually Honey lost an eye from a botched operation that forced him to don an eye patch (along with too much powder and a platinum toupee).
As fate would have it, I too was born with a hemangioma on my nose (more on that later).
Thankfully, no one believed that I was marked by Satan’s stamp, but my condition required an extensive surgery when I was six weeks old.
Honey, who was otherwise notoriously stingy, offered to pay for the surgery – one of his few unselfish acts.
I spent many years being angry with Honey, mainly because he said and did horrible things to the people I loved most. In fact, I felt relief (and consequently, guilt) after hearing of his passing. Apparently I wasn’t alone. One of his own children unapologetically said, “Ding Dong the witch is dead”.
Now, I feel compassion for Honey. While there’s no excuse for his behavior, I realize how much pain he must’ve suffered to have caused such pain. I believe his gesture to pay for my surgery was not to “fix” me, but to give me a chance at the love he didn’t have. And for that and more, I’m grateful to my Grandfather.
With every part and all my heart, Adele.
Today’s tip is my new favorite lip balm in Honeysuckle. This fabulous product has the effect of a subtle lipstick, but with the benefits of an emollient.
Burt’s Bees offers six tinted shades, but I chose Honeysuckle because it’s a great neutral tone, that’s sheer enough to wear anywhere – and works with any skin tone.
I love Burt’s Bees products mainly because they’re affordable and made of natural ingredients, including honey. Honeysuckle tinted lip balm has botanical flower waxes, shea butter, coconut, olive and essential oils.
Keep one in your purse for a little touch of color on the go!