Today would have been my grandfather’s 105th birthday. He died 26 years ago from cancer. I still miss him and I know I’m not the only one. He was not a perfect man but he was a good man and his family was the most important thing to him. And he showed it in very many ways.
I am the oldest of his 7 grandchildren and always thought I was his favorite, but he really didn’t have any favorites. I did live closest to him when I moved to Florida and so I spent lots of time with him Not only did I spend lots of time with him, but my children did too. He and my grandmother took care of our son the first year he was born and even after that, Nonno Gino took care of him often. Taking him on long walks, chasing pigeons in the park and probably feeding him things I didn’t. When our daughter was born he was there, happy to welcome his great-granddaughter.
In my grandparents’ house, Nonno had his chair. It was where he read and watched tv from and probably took naps in there too. He also had a canister of cheese balls right behind the chair. Of course, my children knew where those cheese balls were and how to get them. Just ask Nonno! And they did. As long as they asked first, a few cheese balls were theirs. It was their little ritual.
In 1991, on my daughter’s 3rd birthday Nonno died. I explained it as best I could to them. The funeral was in New York and, so I went on my own. After a time, my grandmother came back to Florida. And as we did, we went to visit. The first time we went over, I recall reminding the kids that Nonno would not be there. But at 3 and 5, well, were they thinking he’d be back soon, like when he went to the store? We walk into the house and they see his chair. They go over by it. They walk around it. No Nonno Gino. I don’t recall what they said but they were sad. My grandmother has an idea and goes to the refrigerator and gets out some, yep, cheese balls! Yea for cheese balls! Not so much. They weren’t where they usually were and the kids were not having any of that. Cheese balls belong by Nonno’s chair, not in the refrigerator.
Cheese balls are no longer made by Planters and the chair is still around, at my son’s house, which seems right, doesn’t it?
A silly story, but one that I hold dear in my heart. There are more stories, but I’ve used up half a box of tissues already so I’ll stop for now. Nonno Gino loved his family and would do anything for them. But for me, the most important thing he did was love me, just the way I was, no matter what. And I hope he did that for all 7 of us. Happy Birthday, Nonno!