The Values of Adversity
|Photographed before their marriage, my grandfather is on the far left in|
the back row and my grandmother is second from right, back row.
My dad comes from a hardworking Italian family in Pittsburgh. His relatives were passionate people, devoted to their families. My dad’s mother died when he was just four years old, leaving his dad to raise him and his two sisters, aged two and nine. My grandfather never remarried, but my grandmother’s three sisters helped him when they could. My grandfather didn’t like his wife’s sisters all that much. He thought they were too talkative, highly emotional and into everybody’s business. They thought he was taciturn and non-communicative. My grandfather said that my grandmother was nothing like her sisters and that’s why he married her.
|My grandmother Victoria (center), with sisters Mary (second from left),|
and Maggie (far left) and friends. (Her sister Annie is not in this photo.)
|My dad and my grandfather |
in the 1950s.
During lunch my dad told me that my grandfather had painted the interior of their turn-of-the-century Catholic church building in the 1950s, painting the interior columns to look like they were made of marble. He painted heavenly scenery and an image of God on the ceiling dome. Photos of the church building today show a deserted building, ransacked by vandals with the work my grandfather had done painted over and now peeling. I hadn’t remembered my dad mentioning this tidbit of his story before and just looking at the pictures of the once-elegant church made me feel proud of my grandfather. He was a difficult man to talk to and I was always a little afraid of his gruff exterior.
My dad and I sometimes clash with our similar Italian temperaments. Conversations are sometimes difficult because our communications are heavy on emotion and light on logic. But his unflagging dedication to his family has never wavered throughout the years. Growing up, his concerns about safety seemed smothering to me. He insisted on driving me to countless Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games every summer, instead of letting me take the public bus with my friends, which seemed so much more adventurous to me. He would listen to the game on the radio, leave home in the seventh inning, drive 30 minutes to the stadium and wait in the parking lot for me to emerge when the game was over. Even in an era before cell phones, we never experienced a hitch in this transportation plan since he was always on time, waiting for me.
I don’t think it’s possible for him to say no to his daughters. If we need him, he’s available to help. When my sister and I shared a condo, we called him at 2:00 in the morning to remove a frog that was hopping up our kitchen wall. He drove the 30 minutes down to our condo to evict the frog, while we cowered behind our bedroom doors. Even now, he services my car, changes the filter on my air conditioning unit and never lets me pay for any meal when I’m with him. That’s how he shows he cares. And I am the happy recipient.
|My dad and me.|
To see photos of the church my grandfather painted, click here.