It is not my intention to start this off in a morbid way, but today marks the 4th year since my grandfather passed away. I would hope by this entry people who knew him will remember and those who didn’t would understand how special he was to everyone he knew.
I visited him in the hospital a few days before he was scheduled to go into surgery. I walked in the door and saw him lying there, sleeping and practically naked in those horrible hospital paper things they like to call gowns. Seeing him there he looked so vulnerable, so tired. I teared up immediately, but then his eyes opened and he laughed at me.
I sat down by his bed and he just started to talk, about everything. Somethings I already knew, some things caught me by surprise.
My grampy founded Tony’s Pizza, a restaurant chain down south that was huge in the 60’s…long before Pizza Hut and Domino’s…Cici’s and Papa John’s. I’ve heard a million stories from my mom about life in the pizza biz–I listened patiently.
He told me that when he got through surgery and out of the hospital, he’d help me start up a place of my own. I smiled.
"Or real estate, if you want. That’s where you can really make some money, Toni. I can help you find little houses and trailers all around this town–to buy and then rent out, if that’s something you want to do. You just tell me and I’ll get you going."
"You know, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea, Grampy," I say.
We talk some more, on and on. I tell him about the BB King concert Caleb and I had gone to a few days earlier. I had bought 4 tickets so our friends could come, but they bailed the day before and we couldn’t find anyone to take their place.
"I ought to punch you in the nose. You should’ve called me and your grammy to go! We would’ve loved it!"
"I didn’t know you liked that kind of thing! I wish I would’ve called…"
He went on to tell me that he loved jazz music, and that how when he met my grandma, they were at the equivalent of what would now be, I guess, like the club, jazz bands…how when he first saw her she was leaning against a pole…and he asked her to dance.
"She didn’t like me at first, but I like her. I was shorter than her, I think that’s why she didn’t like me. Or maybe it’s cause I was Italian. But I knew I’d get her to like me."
"So you met at a club kind of like me and Caleb?"
"Yeah, I guess that’s what it was like. Man, I wish you’d have taken me to that concert. You didn’t think I’d like that kind of thing–there’s a lot of things about me that you probably don’t know! Your Grampy likes to have fun, too!"
"Tell me about the time you adopted my brother."
Instead of shifting gears from happy to sad, my grandpa smiled and said, "Your Aunt was so young. We were going to give him up for adoption. That was the plan. But when we went and looked at him in the newborn nursery…said to your grandma, ‘I guess we could just keep him’, because we’ve always wanted a baby. And when you came along, there was just no question we’d be keeping you, too."
I was named after my grandpa, Tony Bucci, and I’m so proud of it. He was a giving man. He and my grandma had four children, 3 of them adopted. They were poor when they started out…but who isn’t? They made money, they lost money. Their children gave them plenty of trouble, but they were all loved, equally, no matter what. There’s so much that I wish I still had time to ask about. But perhaps any of the knowledge I stand to gain about my grampy would tarnish the image I have of him, that short, round jolly man, telling all us kids "ghost" stories every night with a flashlight, taking us sledding…candy stores, gigantic pumpkins and a branch of an actual cotton plant, making bread into funny shapes before every big family meal, Christmas lights at St. Anne’s. A big farmhouse in the country, a picture of Italy…There are so many things that make me think of him. And they are all good.