Ladies and Gentlemen: The Scratching Stilloes

Dad and two kids
The Cobbler and His Kids

When my father passed away in 2012, one of my uncles brought over a DVD with home movies from the 50s spliced into one long film that we watched together. It was fantastic. I loved seeing my old man and his eight siblings when they were teens and younger, teaching my grandmother how to dance The Jerk, wearing their 50s’ style clothing, so full of life.

I need to mention that some of my family members are plagued by allergies–to animals, dairy, peanuts, fish, tree nuts, tomatoes,
wheat–you name it. I remember as a kid watching my grandmother sit at the kitchen table constantly scratching a patch of eczema on her wrist. I now know it comes from food allergies, because over the years I’ve developed my own; if I eat corn or barley, I get eczema on my wrist.

Watching the movie is poignant. My father, thin as a rail, sporting a pompadour and dress clothes, shoots craps in the hallway at his parents’ house with my uncle Louie, who sports an even swirlier pompadour. Every time my father, who’s about 17, throws the dice, he scratches his neck. Then his nose. Then his ear. His chin. He has asthma and allergies. Louie, as far as I know, has none.

My uncle Jimmy, who’s about six in these movies, has curly hair poking from beneath a cowboy hat. He is covered in eczema. He plays the banjo and sings as though nothing is wrong. He stops every few seconds to scratch his ear or his face or his neck. The show must go on!

My son Vincenzo is allergic to dairy and corn. His last name may not be Stilloe, but I think he can be part of our club. We’re both allergic to cats and are taking allergy shots, so maybe some day we can have a kitten. The good news is we are not allergic to dogs. And so we have Gus and Ginger, our adopted dogs. No word on their allergies.     VinnyandGussy



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