As promised, here is the photo from the DeGrezia reunion. Just about the middle of the sea of humanity is yours truly.

Just another reflection from the day. Everyone I spoke with — whether it was my second cousins or their families — remembered Aunt Lou and had a story to share. My first cousins and I remember her, of course, as Grandma. She was one of the stars of the reunion.

Grandma was the most remarkable woman I ever knew. Despite being handed a life of lemons — my grandfather was gassed in World War I and spent most of the rest of his life in a veterans’ hospital — Grandma truly turned it into lemonade. She raised three sons on her own during the Depression … and they turned out pretty good. I never heard her complain about the “raw deal” but rather saw her live her faith.

I think her strength came from her connection to family and her strong faith. There was always someone at Grandma’s house, checking on her, helping her out and just visiting. And she welcomed them with a pot of coffee on the stove and cookies and fruit on the table.

When I think of Grandma, I remember a woman who was always there to listen to my horrid jokes … to put up with my schemes and dreams {I can still hear her say, “Put out your hands. Wish in one and shit in the other. See which comes first!” before giving me that big grandmotherly hug} … to “solve” problems with a cookie break.

I’m sure Grandma had her faults – we all do – but I honestly couldn’t pick one out. As a youngster, we lived next door to Grandma so I spent a lot of time at her house. As a teenager, we had moved a couple of miles away, but I still had a lot of friends from the neighborhood so I still managed to spend a lot of time at Grandma’s.

Even after I got married, visiting Grandma was part of the routine, not only for me and my clan, but my cousins, as well. Truly, we all loved Grandma, not only because of the cookies, but simply because she was a great woman.

At the cemetery, my cousin wept on my shoulder, “I lost my best friend,” and all I could say was, “I know what you mean.”

You wonder how one life touches others. Well, Grandma’s life was intertwined in the lives of her three sons, her then eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild. For a woman who rarely left her New Jersey home, there were people from all over the country paying their last respects – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas. She had that kind of an effect on you.

It was her strength and will that probably stands out most in my mind. Sure, she needed help, but how many 92-year olds do you know were still running their own household?

One of the things I sacrificed when I moved my family first to Illinois and then to Ohio was a loss of connection with “family.” One tragedy of modern careers is the loss of that connection. Phone calls and periodic visits are no substitute for being there.

I was fortunate; I was able to visit Grandma just before she died. I was able to hold her hand and thank her and whisper in her ear that I loved her.

When I was a kid, after Sunday Mass, we would head to Grandma’s house for donuts. She would never count how many we had … but prod us along to “take another … go ahead, eat.”

I know when my days are done, Grandma and her protégé, my wife Karen, will be waiting for me in heaven with a plate full of donuts. “Come on,” they’ll say, “Eat!” as I view a table of pasta with a meatball sauce … juicy capon and stuffing …cookies …espresso … a never-empty bowl of fruit and nuts …

And there will be a crowd of friends and relatives sharing in the feast.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Character needs no epitaph. You can bury a person; but character will beat the hearse back from the graveyard.

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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