Saturday, March 20, 2010

Has it really been 39 years?

Certain dates tend to stay etched in my mind. Not to sound morbid, but this is often the case with anniversaries of deaths. Not that they are constantly on my mind. Rather, like a macro lying dormant on a hard disk, they self execute with the arrival of the date.

March 20 is one of those days. Though I look forward to it as the first day of spring, it also marks the day my grandfather, Nonno Pietro, passed away. It was my first experience at losing a loved one. It has been 39 years and I was only a child at the time, but I can still remember the day clear as a bell. My dad was at nonno's bedside in Italy when he died. (On and off over an 18 month period, one or both of my parents spent weeks and months at a time in Italy, having dropped everything to show undying devotion to their parents during their final days--something else I will never forget.)

The news during those months was progressively getting worse as Nonno Pietro was losing his battle with cancer. But I was refusing to believe it, because I always remembered him as full of youthful energy. As a child I was astounded how a man in his seventies could have so much stamina and strength. He probably would have bested me in a foot race.

I also remember his smile; the way he humored my grandmother, Nonna Nella, who despite her side-splitting sense of humor, could also be difficult at times. But he took it all in stride. He also had a photographic memory, which served him well at playing cards, one of his few passions that bordered on a vice.

I still remember when my grandparents were living with us when I was a pre-schooler. I did not yet know how to read, but I had a concept that letters combined to form words. I made my first attempt at putting words together by randomly arranging some letters on a scrabble board and asking, “Nonno, could you please read what I just wrote?” On cue, he read my literary masterpiece out loud without missing a beat: “Once upon a time there was a prince, and one day he went to take a walk in the country….” He actually had me believing that I had written something coherent.

These memories are few and scattered, yet for some reason Nonno Pietro had quite an impact on me. He was respected, looked up to and loved. To my father and his siblings, to my brothers and cousins, he was larger than life. He was also our nonno, and we still miss him.


feeno said...

What a great tribute and great memories.

That's funny how you say he was a card player. I often will meet in the back of warehouse where I will play cards with 8-10 guys who are all Italians. Mostly father and sons and cousins and uncles etc. They are wonderful people and some of my greatest friends. But their card playing is definitely a vice.

Nonno was a cool lookin' dude, maybe I'll get to play cards with him one day?

Ciao amico, feen

Trac y said...

Beautiful tribute.

May we each leave a positive legacy to those people in our lives