Ten years ago, Michele DeSimone lost her best friend and brother, Eddie during the evil 9/11 attacks. After the unimaginable shock and grief, she struggled to honor her brother’s memory both for herself, her son and his young children.
What she ultimately created was a beautiful, loving, spirited children’s book “If You Went Crabbing with Uncle Eddie” a universally relatable book about the special moments we share with family and friends. [more below]
I have never cried during an interview for this column until DeSimone and I spoke in her Farmindale kitchen last week about her book and brother Eddie DeSimone. It has taken eight years for her to be able to share her story publicly and I was so honored that she chose to share her story with you and I.
TBP: After reading your book, I know a lot of us have been blessed to have an “Uncle Eddie” in our lives.
DeSimone: He was the funniest, most compassionate person. If he imitated you it was an honor. He was inclusive to everybody. He loved to throw big parties and have a houseful of people, cooking ravioli all day. He was a great cook but the only recipe he ever wrote down was for Play Dough – he didn’t want to get it wrong for the kids.
Eddie was 36 when he passed. His birthday would have been September 15. We always were close.
TBP: Eight years ago, I lost someone close to me very suddenly and I have not healed. I still cannot comprehend someone walking out the door and never coming back. It just doesn’t compute for me. How do you manage?
DeSimone: My family and I miss Eddie on a regular day. I will walk outside and it will be a beautiful day and that will remind me of the fun times. It is very hard. It took me years to realize how hard it was and will be.
I was in a 9/11 bereavement group for siblings at St. Catherine’s in Spring Lake and that helped a lot. This book became my outlet. “Crabbing with Uncle Eddie” is what I did when the house was quite. [more below]
TBP: How were you able to create the book, which is at the 9/11 memorial in New York and Middletown?
DeSimone: When the first Christmas season came after 9/11, I made his two children and my son blank quilted fabric scrap books that we could work on together. I wanted the books to be soft so they could sleep with them. I didn’t want the kids, who were four and six at the time to forget even the simple things about Eddie, especially the sound of his laughter. Months passed and my arrival to work on the books with the kids became a chore for them and my heart ached.
It occurred to me that I was the one who had something to say. That was when I began working on this book. The premise and words came pouring out in a few days. The art (beautiful watercolors) took two years. This is the story of one adventure out of all the adventures he gave us.
It was important to me to make it visual, writing about the slicing of garlic and that everyone was included in the party instead of just saying he “made sauce after going crabbing.”
The illustration (in the book) of the river and bridge was where, on September 11, 1999, he tried so hard to fly a kite for the kids near the Navesink.
I could not paint Eddie’s face, though. I was stuck with that one illustration in the kitchen. I made the walls vibrant red to capture his energy but cropped the painting to not include a face.
TBP: For friends and family who know someone who lost a loved one ten years ago, what do you want to say to them?
DeSimone: I think that the most healing thing is talking about Eddie. It is all I want to do. I need to announce that he lived and breathed and walked on this earth.
We were all supposed to grow old with him. People think they are stepping on my toes by asking about Eddie but the painful part is to not talk about him. I don’t want anybody to forget the nuances of the people we loved.
Email DeSimone for more info: UncleEddieBook@Yahoo.com.