Last night proved to be my grandfather’s last night on earth. He spoke mostly a mixture of Spanish and Italian with the family, although his English was pretty good before the Alzheimer’s had it’s way with him. He was a musician first and foremost and the years that I spent at his house surrounded by him and his friend’s playing can possibly be the number one reason my lie has taken the path that it has. I’m thankful for that.
After 94 years, there is so much to say about a person like him. A man who grew up in Italy and raised his children in Argentina before finally ending up in Queens, NY where he would become a grandfather 6 times and a great grandfather 5 times. Besides being a musician, songwriter and teacher of music, he was a barber from the time he was very little. I have heard stories about him as a small child standing on wine crates in Italy to cut the hair of grown men and as a young man cutting hair while simultaneously scolding his piano student from across the room for their poor posture.
Without a doubt, my favorite story about my grandfather comes from his time in World War II. He left Italy for Germany when he was 18. He and my grandmother were still dating at the time. He was captured and placed into a Nazi prison camp. He spent nearly a year there before he and another Italian man were able to escape. The two men and their newfound freedom were far from safe upon their escape. They were found by a family of Germans who were against the Nazi regime and taken into their house for safe keeping. The two men lived in the basement for an entire year before it was safe for them to come out and make their way home. He came home to my grandmother, who didn’t know if he was a live or dead, and they got married. For next 65 years, they never left each other sides again. Until the day he died, he remained friends with the family in Germany that took him in and saved his life.
When I think about these incredible stories and about how many more there are, I can’t help but notice how they sound a lot like stories that you other people tell about their own grandparents. When a man or woman from that era passes, we are flooded with wonderful memories of wars fought, romances that last half a century or more, family vacations, morals instilled and lessons learned. It makes me think about myself and my own generation and whether we will have these same legacies. When my own time comes, will I be eulogized as a gentleman, a provider, a hero, a comedian, a father and a friend? Will I be remembered as a man who was worth remembering the way my grandfather is? I can only hope so and I am thankful that he, and the men and woman of his generation gave us something to strive to be.1 month ago • 144 notes