At my paternal Grandmother's house, Thanksgiving dinner lasted a good seven hours. This clocked time was only eating--not cooking, not setting up. We'd gather at a table we affectionately referred to as the Last Supper, which was set up in the basement, and ate course by course until we were ready to pass out. In the midst of the post-turkey lull, my Uncle Pat would gather up the kids--anyone under 25, and walk them over to the cemetery to play football. It wouldn't take much encouragement to get a game going.
My Uncle Pat was one of the few Italian men in the family who genuinely enjoyed spending time with kids. He was the one who would drive the "church mobile" on Sundays, gathering all of us and taking us to mass. He was the one I remember with us in the lake when we capsized, and he was the one playing poker with his grandkids, nieces, and nephews who would dare take him on. A big kid himself, he was a teacher, father, uncle, and ally.
The kids who came back from the cemetery games were all red cheeked and relaxed. They were part of a large family and could have easily gotten lost in the shuffle, but no one ever did with my Uncle Pat. You always got invited to play, and if you didn't want to go, you somehow got talked into it, past your inhibitions or reluctance. Because he knew you would have a good time.
His children have continued some of his traditions, including a weekly wiffle ball game throughout the spring and summer. I don't know if anyone has ventured into the cemetery without him leading the way, but the kids who ran for a touchdown in between gravestones remember him fondly. Uncle Pat reminded us that life eclipses death, that kids sometimes trump tradition, and that a cemetery is just another kind of park.