My grandfather is going to be 88 years old this weekend. He is a remarkable man, and I love him very much. I thought I'd share him with the world, or at least the tiny fraction of it that reads my blog. As if the title of this post didn't give it away, his name is Pasquale. My great-grandparents were from Italy. They came to the United States when they were young adults, but my grandfather was born here. In a scenario straight out of a movie, he was forbidden to marry my grandmother because she wasn't Italian. He defied his parents and married her anyway. Awww. Go, Pop-Pop! They've been married for 63 years.
Like most men of his generation, he fought in WWII. He talks about it matter-of-factly if asked. "A guy right next to me had his foot blown off." Stuff like that. He has shown me things he brought back from France and Italy while he was there. He was only 18 when he was sent to Europe to fight. His best friend was sent to the Pacific. His best friend didn't come back. I can't imagine that.
After the war, my grandfather became a mailman. This was the perfect job for him, because he loves to talk to people. As a mailman, he could walk around the neighborhood and talk to everyone! It's not just neighbors. Pop-Pop can carry on conversations with perfect strangers like he's known them for years. I wish I had his gift of gab. My grandfather also used to repair fishing reels for several shops at the Jersey shore. Sometimes I would sit with him in the basement while he worked on them, and we'd chat and listen to big band music. Occasionally, I made the trip down with him to visit the various places, drop off the fixed reels, and pick up the reels to be repaired. Of course, my grandfather knew everyone in every shop and could talk to them all day. The trip always ended with a stop at Mack and Manco's for pizza. Yum.
I spent a good deal of time at my grandparents' house when I was younger. My cousin and I must have watched The Neverending Story and Willy Wonka and danced around singing like Oompa Loompas a hundred times. My grandmother cooked big meals for the extended family, and holidays and family birthday parties were often at their house. Yet after decades of knowing them, they still are able to surprise me. The family was gathered at my grandparents' house for a party (sometime within the past year or two), and the subject of opera came up. My love of opera is common knowledge among my friends, but I don't think my family is aware of it. What does my grandfather come out with? "Grandmom and I like opera! We used to go to operas together." WHAT? They did?? How did I not know this? The next time I was at their house, my grandfather had something to show me. He had found programs, dated before I was born, from when they used to go to the opera. Cool.
I'm sure I'll think of a million things I want to say after I publish this post. Here's something that almost slipped my mind. I went to college in Rhode Island, and my grandfather drove himself and my grandmother up from South Jersey to visit me every year. It meant a lot to me that they would come all that way each year to spend the weekend with me. They saw my friends. They wanted to go to restaurants that I liked. One time we went to the movies. They fit right in. That's because they are awesome. My grandparents came up for my graduation, too. Here's where my grandfather's boldness and ability to talk to anyone really paid off. Pop-Pop cornered John Glenn at my graduation and talked to him. John Glenn. My grandfather went right up to John Glenn like he was Joe Nobody and started a conversation. I love that!
Pop-Pop is a good man. No, more than that. My grandfather is a great man. He will do anything for his family. He is friendly and caring and smart. He's a nice guy. He still dotes on my grandmother like they are newlyweds. I'm grateful to have had them both be such a big part of my life. Happy Birthday, Pop-Pop!