Grandpa was a man that could make you laugh and cry at the same time. A Brooklyn-born man from an Irish-Catholic family, he grew up in a two-room Brownstone near Coney Island, along with his two younger brothers and one sister. As a child, he loved to play hooky from school and stick-ball in the street. He lived through the Great Depression, a time that marked him for the rest of his life. He would always mention how he left home for WWII with all his belongings in a shoebox, and didn’t have two nickels to run together. When my grandmother and I would go shopping, we would have to hide the price tags and receipts, because otherwise he would snoop around to find out how much we had spent. Through his stingy ways, though, he managed to save up over $100,000 to leave my grandma when he died. That was saying a lot on his meager salesmen’s salary. He also always took us out for a steak dinner at Tony Roma’s when we would visit them down in Florida, and that was his way of showing his love for us.
He served in WWII, as a bugle boy, and it was a great source of pride for him. Being in the Navy, he loved ships and the ocean, and always wanted me to go to West Point. I remember he liked Yankees baseball, and St. Patrick’s Day, when he would wear an entire outfit in Kelly Green, and sing, “Irish eyes are smiling.” He loved to drink, and smashed up all the cars they had growing up, my mom had told me. At parties, he was the most fun, the life-of-the party, telling jokes and dancing. He never missed a day of work though, and he always got up at the crack of dawn.
Drinking was his source of joy, and it also led to his death from cirrhosis of the liver in 2000. It also made him very mean at times, and unable to express his true feelings. He bled for months, but refused to tell anyone or go to the doctor. He wasn’t a very good husband or father. He was a flirt, and cheated on my grandmother, which she would never let him forget in their later years.
I learned from him to never fail to tell people you love them, to not have too much pride —things he never could do. I also learned from him to work hard, and to have laughter above all else. To seize the day, and make the most of it, always finding a reason to celebrate. To sing, dance, and be merry even when times are tough.
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