Monday, 3 November 2014

Remembering Grandpa

It's been a very sad week for our family as my wonderful Grandpa passed away a few days after his 88th birthday.  For the past few years he has been living in a Nursing Home and suffering from Dementia.  It's been a struggle, mostly as we all knew and loved him for his fun, spirited personality.

I was unable to travel home to say goodbye, so I did what I could by writing a Eulogy as I did for my grandma.

My heart aches. Not only because I couldn't be there with my loved ones, but because I didn't have the past few years to spend with him - I know he wouldn't have known me if I had been there - but I still wish I could have been there.

I am presenting this eulogy that was written by my sister Jennifer in England who is taking care of Carmelo’s great-granddaughter, Emma Rose.

This is one eulogy I never thought I would have to write. Carmelo Garofalo - my grandpa - was the strongest man I’d ever met. Even into older age, he was made of tougher stuff than the rest of us. I know no one is invincible, but that's how he always appeared to us grand kids. Strong.  While his strength was noticeable, his heart - his love - for his wife, children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren is what I - and I’m sure all of us - remember the most. 

Over the past few years, we have spent a great deal of time clinging onto these moments, but more importantly remembering Carmelo for who he was.  It has been five years since we started to watch my grandpa slip away - we were heartbroken, dementia left very little of the strong Italian we all loved so much.  

We aren't saying goodbye to Carmelo today, as his spirit and spark faded a long time ago - and while his body put up an incredible fight, he is able to rest, whole once again. I know for me, it’s the memories - those fantastic stories about Carmelo from years ago - which remind us what a headstrong, funny man he really was. That is the way I want to remember my grandpa.  

Carmelo was the second oldest of nine children born and raised in Novara, Sicily and that’s where he became the man we all knew and loved - Husband, Brother, Dad, Grandpa, Chief, Papa and friend.  When he was 18 he joined the Italian navy and from there he met and fell in love with Emma.  He was the only one of his family to leave Italy but still kept those Italian beliefs even though he was miles from the place where he grew up.  He believed that you respected your elders, you always cleared your dinner plate and you never put a bare foot on the ground.  He had a strong will and knew what was best.  Cut off jeans?  Inappropriate (even though my mom dared to challenge that rule).  Scruffy hair (or in our case, curly)?  Forget it - it should be brushed.  Loose tooth?  Don’t go anywhere near grandpa…he’ll knock it straight out.  Men clearing their plates at the table?  That’s women’s work.

Most of us remember him as a walker - he used to walk five miles every day around the North end of Painesville.  He was once bitten by a dog while walking, and when he hid behind a tree he found $10.    It may have been the event which fostered his fear of dogs, but at least he made some money out of it.  He was also once caught in the rain - so he did the only logical thing one could do - waited the rain out on a stranger’s porch.    In spite of inclement weather and dangerous canines, it wasn’t his commitment to his walks which impressed us, it was the treasures he collected while he was out and about.  Items ranged from small toys to rap CDs (there were over 900 random keys in his garage).  One day he came home with a dry wall measurer.  You never did know what to expect following one of Carmelo’s walks.

One of his other passions was food.  When he emigrated and came to America the whole ship suffered from terrible seasickness.  Not grandpa.  He was in the dining hall.  Eating. All by himself. Maybe because of his navy experience.  Sundays were made for spaghetti, meatballs and pasta sauce. The whole family piled into the kitchen for the feast - the same feast every Sunday after church. The family meal became an extension of our religion in itself.  If you wanted to learn how to cook the infamous sauce, you needed to be at the house early - and grandpa meant early.  By the time anyone got there to learn, the meatballs and sauce were already done.  Another lesson we learnt was that the wine was the first thing to go onto the table and the last thing to come off - it’s called “The Light” so named as it was the guiding light to the table, conversation and family. 

I think Christmas will always hold the most treasured memories of Grandpa.  Christmas Eve we would gather together and feast upon the traditional Seven Fish.  After, he would always play Santa Claus and lead us in rounds of carols before a single gift could be opened.  He would say “TO Brian , from Santa Claus” “TO Hallie, from Santa Claus.”  Then, he would watch each present be opened, followed by an exclamation of “Ohh lala!”   

In true Carmelo fashion, he celebrated his 88th birthday last weekend surrounded by loving family and excellent food.  Grandpa always used to say “It took my mother nine months to make me.  I take my time.”  He always had something to say - if we ever asked where he was going he would tell us “I go Dancing!”  

Last September, we lost my grandma - Emma - and in spite of this wretched disease, I truly believe Carmelo felt her absence.  We know that he enjoyed himself - he wanted one last meal with those who meant the most to him before he joined Emma.  They are meant to be together, and we can now rest in the knowledge that they are where they should be.

Goodbyes are never easy.  Especially when you feel as though you didn’t and couldn’t have a proper goodbye.  With heavy hearts, we don’t say goodbye, but rather “See you soon.”

Go on, Grandpa. Grandma is waiting for you.   I hope you are both dancing.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories Jen.