Friday, September 22, 2006

About Nonno

Much of what I know about my grandfather is the stuff of legends, such that you start to wonder what parts are myth and what parts are actually true.

Adriano was born to a very old and wealthy family in Rome, Italy. In his teens, he served his obligatory service in WWII for Mussolini (aka: the wrong side), and was stationed in Southern Italy. Anyhow, when his unit heard that the Allied forces were on their way, they immediately took off their uniforms, borrowed clothes from the locals, and sat themselves down in the local bar as if they had been there all day. When the liberators arrived and asked which way Axis forces had gone, “the soldiers” winked and said “what soldiers?” The Allies understood that they were all on the same side. They sat down for wine and celebration with my grandfather’s platoon and with the locals, like old friends.

When my grandfather married my grandmother, it was a HUGE scandal. In those days, people of my grandfather’s status did NOT mingle with working class families. He lost his inheritance, his status, and was disowned by his parents, all for marrying this woman from the wrong side of the tracks. They had a daughter (my mother), and worked hard for everything that they owned. When the job situation became difficult, they decided it was time to emigrate. My grandfather sent applications for work to two countries where his skills were in high demand: Australia and Canada. He told the family that the first country to reply would be where they would go.

I can’t imagine how it felt, holding that envelope…wondering where the new life would begin. Of course, Canada replied first, which is why I am here and not down under! They sold everything and flew across the pond to icy Quebec City. They had never seen snow before, and it was 4 ft. deep when they arrived. My grandparents thought they had entered arctic hell. But my mother, who was 6, loved it!

My grandparent’s journey took them to Ontario, where they lived to celebrate 57 years of marriage. And yesterday, my grandfather died of complications from emphysema.

My grandfather was a master garage-saler, buying old, worn-out & broken furniture, restoring it in his workshop, and selling it again as the heirloom it once was.

My grandfather loved to collect, and had an odd assortment of collectibles from antique dulcimers to novelty singing fish, ancient roman coins to plush skunks.

My grandfather told me there were trout in the hot water tank. (I believed him until very recently.)

My grandfather loved sweets, played Claudio Villa (*above) records at Christmas and was the crankiest old bugger with a smile in his eyes that you could ever hope to meet.

I think the best thing about my grandfather is how he always called Nicky “Il Professore” (the professor). My grandfather adored that little boy because he recognized that my son had a special kind of intelligence. I like to think Nicky reminded him of himself when he was a kid, with those ears that stick out and that unusual way about him. Nicky raises his eyebrows as he watches the world, waiting for something funny or unexpected to happen. He laughs out loud when it does.

So, I will think of Nonno when I look at my little boy.


At 9:03 PM , Blogger Mildanka said...

Sweetie, what a wonderful tribute! It is always amazing to have people touch our lives who had the courage to follow their hearts and their dreams, take chances and shower us with love! My thoughts and prayers are with you, I wish I could be there for you now. Hugs.

At 9:14 PM , Anonymous Kim Denarde said...

Great tribute! My thoughts are with you and your family. May tender thoughts of your loved one live forever within your heart and blossom into the most beautiful of memories.
Kim D.

At 10:31 PM , Anonymous Linda Basso said...

Dear Miss Franny & Family:
Thank you for sharing your memories with us. Your Nonno will live on through you, little Nicky and your other beautiful children. My deepest sympathy to you and your family at this very difficult time.

Linda B.

At 10:19 AM , Blogger Cat said...

The one thing that I enjoyed about going over to Nonno's house was how welcome I always felt. Sure, there were issues and family politics at times, but he always greeted me with a smile, before he would start telling me stories about the old country, which I really enjoyed listening to, and then yell at me for not visiting more often. And he taught me something about my little boy, Nicky. Through Nonno, I learned that just because my youngest has autism, it doesn't mean he's autistic. He helped me alot, and he helped Nicky even more. He would do things for "Grandpa" that he wouldn't do for anybody else. They were kindred spirits. And now, I have the responsibility to pass on the stories from Nonno to my kids, even though I'm not much of a story teller. Nonno will be sorely missed by all. Ti amo, Nonno, from all of us.

At 11:00 AM , Blogger Kimberly said...

Franny what a heartfelt and wonderful remembrance. Thank you for sharing the life of this wonderful man with the rest of us.

My thoughts are with you and your family.

At 5:10 PM , Anonymous Lisa said...

Franny, so sorry to hear about your grandfather's passing. It's wonderful to hear he lead a very full and colourful life and took the time to share it with the ones he loved. Hold your memories close to your heart and share them with your children. May God's peace be with you and your family at this very sorrowful time.

At 5:30 PM , Blogger jellyhead said...

Franny, I'm very sorry to hear that you have lost your grandfather. From this post it is clear you will never forget him.

Fond regards,

At 7:18 PM , Blogger Mark Leslie said...

What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. So sorry to hear about your loss. I am very glad that you shared special memories of him with us. And how very lovely to be able to see your grandfather in your son's eyes. Beautiful.

And, for what it's worth, I think he was speaking the truth when he told you there were trout in the hot water tank. I never had the pleasure of knowing him, but I believe him.

At 6:52 PM , Blogger Alipurr said...

Man, that was just beautiful. Thank you for such a nice picture of your grandfather. Thank God they took off those uniforms and went to the bar! There wouldn't be a you if he hadn't! I hope you find lots of comfort as you remember him.

At 9:50 PM , Blogger Abandoned in Pasadena said...

I'm so sorry to hear that your grandfather died, but I'm glad that you can still see him in your son's eyes.
That song was beautiful, just as your grandfather was and I'm so glad that he shed his uniform & went to the bar. Otherwise we wouldn't ever have known you.


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