Friday, March 22, 2013

My Grandpa.

St. Patrick's Day was very pleasant. Guess what we ate? OK you know what we had. There was actually only one Irishman present as he was out numbered by Italians. Before going to my sisters house we stopped at an Italian bakery in the center of town. It's biggest and best claim to fame is that it is a second location of the original in the North End, where as I have mentioned before there are a plethora of Italian bakeries and restaurants. (I can't wait to go back!) We got some chocolate cream filled cannolis and some St. Patricks Day themed cupcakes.

During the meal my sisters and I began reminiscing about our grandfather, my mothers father. He was still working his farm back in Italy in the late '70s but reports were filtering back here to the States, that Grandpa may be loosing it a little. My mother and her brother and sister decided that they should bring him to America so they can care for him. This, of course, led to squabbles over the property back in Italy but that's a story for another time. When he got here he lived for 4 months at each of his children's homes. He was a nice old guy but he was definitely not fully aware of what was going on. For instance you couldn't convince him he was in the United States. He still thought he was in Italy. He actually was in the United States in the '20s finding work as a laborer. My mother was born here in Boston. My other grandfather was here as well but he didn't bring his family. He also worked as a laborer and sent money back to the old country. The knew each other. For all I know my parents marriage was arranged. They only lived a few streets apart in Italy. When everything crashed in 1929 they went back.

As I said you had to keep an eye on Gramps because he would wander away because in his mind he was still in Italy. One day while he was staying with my aunt in a neighboring town he wandered away. The police were called. He was missing a good 8 to 10 hours. About 11pm he was found at the Logan Airport, about 7 miles from where he was staying. My parents, aunts and uncles and there spouses went to the state police station finding him holding court, talking Italian as he was surrounded by a group of amused state police. He was tired but none the worse for wear. He wasn't a big man but he was quite strong due to years of working his farm. He was in his mid to late 80's.

Often while sitting around the kitchen table Grandpa would brag about all the money he had. So somebody would invariably ask, "So let's see all this money." He would reach into his pocket and pull out all these old Italian bills, which were larger as the denomination was bigger. When he was done he would put it back in his pocket. You could wait several seconds and ask him the same question and he would take the money out and show you again.

As I said before you couldn't convince him he was in America. However when he went into the North End, where my Uncle Joe had a store, Grandpa would recognise the buildings and suddenly he was back in America. He even recognised where he lived over 50 years before. As soon as he left the North End he was back in Italy.

When you would try to convince him that he was in America he would say, in Italian, "What do you know about America? I was there!" It was all quite amusing. He would then say, in Italian, "I can even speak English." He would pick up a spoon and say, "Spoondala!" A fork, "Forksy". A plate, "Platesy".

One time, I was over for supper, my mother and her dad had a fight about something. Grandpa went out to the porch and was sitting on the steps. It was time to eat but Grandpa wouldn't come in so my father and I went out to bring him in. He wouldn't budge so my dad and I decided we would carry him in. Dad had him under the arms and I had him by the legs. We were laughing at the whole scene as we wondered how this looked to the neighbors. Grandpa started to struggle. As I said Grandpa was quite strong. He was kicking his legs and flailing his arms. We laughed trying to carry him up the stairs, laughing until one of his flailing fists caught my Dad right in the chops. For a brief instance I saw my Dad's mood quickly changed and I saw him make a fist like he was going to hit Gramps back, but he quickly regained his composure but I can assure you he was not happy. On the other hand my mother found it quite amusing. This did not help Dads mood.

Grandpa was really a gentle soul. When he stayed with my family he would spend his days during the summer puttering around in my fathers vegetable garden. By the way you have never had a more delicious tomato sauce than one made from tomatoes right from the garden. Grandpa made it to 94 years of age. In fact both grandfathers were the same age and died the same year, 1981.

When I get around to it I will scan some pictures from our first trip back to Italy in 1956. I think there are some pictures of my grandfathers farm and various shots of me sitting on a donkey (What else?)

Here's a shot I got from Google of the little town in Sicily, Cannicattini Bagni where my father lived. My mother lived there as well after her family left the States. I have been there twice, the last time in 1965. I have quite clear memories of that trip. The church you see in the picture was on the main drag of the little town. My grandfathers house was on the street behind the church. The back of the church was a few doors down from the house. The arrow shows where the house was. There was a little courtyard in the back and a stairway that led to another open courtyard upstairs where there were grape vines, a table and chairs. It was actually quite nice.
If you went down the street from the Church to the left you came to a beautiful little park. This picture I found online doesn't do it justice. I don't remember if there are any pictures of this park that we took.

  There are also Greek ruins on the island as Sicily has been conquered by a few different cultures besides the Italians. I have also been to Rome and the Vatican. There are pictures somewhere but at this time I don't know who has them.

OK this blog has taken forever and it's almost bedtime. I had a long busy day at work but it was productive. It's amazing how good things can go when a bad boss takes a few days off.

I'm outta here. 



  1. I really enjoyed this post Paul! Your grandfather sounds like a great old guy. I think it is wonderful that you got to visit your roots in Italy. Please do show us the pictures of your grandfather.

  2. I so enjoyed your post too. Great stories and photos.

  3. That was a wonderful post Paul! I really enjoyed it.

  4. Great Post Paul enjoyed it very much.