“I love you too,” he said as I ran my fingertips down his cool, pale, frail arms. That night I left my grandparents house knowing that the inevitable was rapidly approaching and there was nothing I could do about it. I prayed that night. I prayed for it to happen, I felt like a terrible person praying for a thing like that. The next day my dad called me and told me the news; he was gone.
My grandfather died on September 7, 2007.
We were that huge Italian family who sat down over lasagna and screamed across the table to carry on a conversation. We always talked about everything. Whenever I had a problem we would always talk it over with some orange juice and toast at breakfast.
He taught me to never give up. “Shoot for the stars” , he would say. Many of my cousins did not attend college. Knowing that I could be on that path, he encouraged me and told me that I could do it. I’m currently a chemistry major in pursuit of my dream of attending medical school where I will desperately yearn find the cure for cancer.
He was the typical loud, round, friendly Italian man. He talked to EVERYONE and anyone he saw. “Everyone has a story”-he says- “you just have to be willing to listen to it.” I never really understood what he meant because I was a shy introverted child who never talked to anyone I saw. He loved to cook; hence why he was so round. The one thing our family looked forward to was Christmas, not for the presents, but the food.
He loved life. He loved everyone in his life and everyone loved him. He loved to talk. He was one of those people that you could just talk to for hours and hours, and feel like you were there with him “live” as it was happening.
In 1999 he was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer of the mandible caused by a condition called Lichen Planis. He had extensive reconstructive surgery of his mouth. He talked with a slight impediment but kept his positive attitude. He was in the clear until 2001 when he was diagnosed again, this time in another area of his mouth. This happened two more times. At the end of it he could barely speak, but God did he try! Not only did he lose his ability to speak well but also to taste. He lost two of his biggest loves at the same time. If nothing could get worse, in 2006 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and another case of oral cancer.
The amazing thing about my grandfather was his spirit. Even when he was in an immense amount of pain he never let the family, or anyone for that matter, see it. Even at the very end, eight years later, he still held his head high.
He lived his life to the fullest. He fought in Korea, he visited Pakistan, he lived in Alaska and Germany, and he was a spy for the government. He said that he would have done it all over again if he had the chance. He taught me the meaning of life and how not to take advantage of it. I believe in living life to the fullest because you never know when you won’t have a life to live.