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Friday, November 18, 2005


Originally uploaded by atb20.

this month my fiesty, old grandpa would be turning 108. it's easy for me to keep track of how old he would be because he's exactly 80 years older than me. he was married to my youngest, and only living grandparent, the glamorous and spry grammie, who was a mere 62 when i was born (i'll let you do the math since ms. g would not be cool with my revealing her age -- even in a relatively anonymous forum like this).

grandpa died just before my 13th birthday. he had been in and out of hospitals since he was 55, suffering from maladies as benign as shingles to such killers as colon cancer (i think that was circa 1960), so it was a surprise to us that he went off with such little fanfare. one moment he was on the couch, needling my grandmother for not making his sandwich fast enough, and the next he was gone.

for as long as i knew him, he would croon in his gravelly voice: you'll miss me when i'm gone, baby. apparently, it was actually a song, but my grandpa wasn't much of a singer. he just wanted to make sure we appreciated his acidic wit while he was around. now that i'm older, i wish that i'd had more time to talk to him. he had such stories to tell. born in 1897 to immigrant parents, the youngest of 18 (or 17, depending on where you look) kids, he would tell stories of sleeping head-to-foot in his tenement apartment. apparently his father counted their feet when he came home to make sure they were all accounted for. i heard another story about the lickin' he got for stealing a nickel from his father to go see a movie. (he always claimed that my brother and i were lucky to have my "easy-going" dad around, because we'd have a lot more lickins if we were his kids. i always thought that was funny... "lickins.") we never heard much about his service in world war I and II, but he was there for both. (i wonder what he'd have to say about the sorry state of affairs that currently exists in iraq... hard to say.) later in life, my grandpa owned an italian restaurant in foley's square. he and his young wife were the lives of the party as they entertained famous judges, politicians, and scandal-ridden defendants from that day. i was most excited when he said that salvador dali came to his restaurant one day... "weird-looking guy" was the only quote i got out of him. as a younger man, my grandpa gave up on formal religion and lost touch with much of his family in the process. this came in handy, though, when he later met my grammie, a catholic-school girl gone bad. despite his distaste for religion, grandpa lived by the ten commandments ("that's all the religion i need."), and was quick with the lessons for us young folk "be a leader, not a follower," "listen to your father," and mil's personal favorite: "ugh, get that d*mn bird out of your mouth."*

happy birthday, grandpa. you were right. we miss you.

* author's note: the bird was never in my mouth.

1 comment:

Cartooniste said...

Hey A,
Wow! He sounds like an amazing guy.
Good luck with finals and all kinds of crazy work. Will we see you in H town?