I want to recognize the fact that my grandfather would have been 100 years old today. It is kind of surreal to think such a thought. The would-have beens, could-have beens, and should-have beens are normally a waste of time and energy. But, I'd like to pay my respect to a person who had a positive effect on my life.
My grandfather, whom I called 'Pepa' (pronounced 'pee-pah') was the most down-to-earth and 'real' of all my grandparents. Born and raised in Stamford, Connecticut, he was a sickly child. I'm not sure what happened to his father but I know that my grandfather was the only man in his household. He had to leave school at a very young age (seventh grade), go to work, and support his mother and sisters. He worked as a machinist in factories most of his life. He was a hard-working blue-collar man.
He married my grandmother, whom I called 'Baba' (pronounced 'bah-bah'), and raised his two daughters (my mom and my aunt). He was a faithful and devoted husband. He was happy with just the basics in life. While he didn't make loads of money, he was able to offer my grandmother a nice retirement in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They moved when I was only four. We would make our annual visit to them or they'd come up north to visit with us. Then my Baba got sick with breast cancer. My Pepa was by her side the whole time.
After her death in 1976, we started a ritual of sorts whereby my Pepa would come up north for the summer and stay with us for a month or so. These are the times that I remember most. Yes, he was retired but this man had unending energy. Every year he planted a garden consisting mostly of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. He nurtured it, watered it, and inevitably picked the fruits of his labor. My dad wasn't much of a caretaker so Pepa would cut our lawn during the summer and do the weeding. Pepa really enjoyed a good sweat. And, I remember him equally enjoying the rewards of a nice, cold beer afterward (Pabst Blue Ribbon, usually).
During the day, Pepa would 'hang out' with my brother and I. He taught us how to play pinochle, a card game that I still play to this day. He would walk with me to the tennis courts at the high school for my NJTL (National Junior Tennis League) practice sessions. During the summer evenings he would sit and watch the New York Yankees (he was a die-hard fan of baseball). Occasionally, he'd indulge in his favorite ice cream, butter pecan. On some days he would walk about seven miles to downtown Stamford to see if any of the 'old-timers' were still around. My Pepa could strike up a conversation with anyone on the street. He was approachable, friendly, and had a wonderful sense of humor. In July of 1989, just before he was to fly up north, he passed away.
About six months later, I met my future-husband David. I saw so many similarities between Pepa and David. It was the simple things like: being a good person, having a sense of humor, working hard, and loving me unconditionally, that made me see how blessed I am to have had them in my life.
David never met Pepa. I'm not sure how my grandfather would react but based on the times that he grew up I think initially he would have a problem with me being with a black man. But, I think Pepa would have given David a chance. And, once Pepa realized how much he and David had in common like: pinochle, the Yankees, work ethic, and me, I think Pepa would enjoy David's company.
I still share these stories of my Pepa with my husband and sons. I want them to know how special my grandfather was to me. I'd like to think that if my Pepa were alive today, at 100 years old, he'd be proud of me, my husband, and his great-grandsons.