My Grandfather John

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I wanted to write a story about my Grandfather John, but this is very difficult for me. I did not know my Grandfather John very well. He lived in Des Moines Iowa and I lived in San Jose California. He and his wife Mary moved to Sacramento California after he retired and after he suffered a major health problem that almost ended his life. The move to Sacramento California was a good idea because his daughter, my Aunt Grace, and his son, my Uncle Jim, lived in Sacramento.

His oldest son, my father Frank, lived in San Jose California just 110 miles away. My family, Frank and Rose, could and did drive to Sacramento many times to visit my Aunt Grace and her husband, my Uncle Jim. Before my Grandparents, John and Mary moved to Sacramento the families of Frank and Rose, Jim and Grace visited each other often. My dad, Frank, was the brother of my Aunt Grace. My mom, Rose, was the sister of my Uncle Jim. In addition to these family ties each set of parents had four children consisting of two boys and two girls. The eight children were close in ages with cousins just about one year apart. (see below for the family chart)

However, by the time my Grandfather, John and Grandmother, Mary moved to Sacramento California I was married and starting a family of my own. All I knew about my Grandfather John was what my father, his son Frank, told me about his father. I knew that my Grandfather John was born in Italy and that he was poor. Prior to immigrating to the USA he was a field hand that cared for sheep, goats and cows. He was from southern Italy in the province of Calabria and the very small town of Terraivecca. In Italy he was called by the first name, Batista, which denoted John the Baptist. In the USA he was known instead by the name, John.

Once in the USA he found work as a cement finisher working on roads throughout the USA. He lived in Des Moines, Iowa and would travel to the road sites. He was away from his home working for days, weeks, and sometimes months. However, his family received most of his pay and along with their home garden survived the great depression. He was a good man with the hope that one of his grandchildren would graduate college. My father knew that I would never be able to make a living with my hands so he always told me to study hard and get a good education. That way I could attend college and work with my mind instead of my hands. I thank my Grandfather John for his dream that his grandchildren go to college. Without the dream of my Grandpa I may never have had the desire to attend and graduate college.

My dad told me that my Grandfather John fought in the First World War. He was a member of the Italian army. Grandpa John did not talk about the war. He did not like to be in a car when it was being filled with gasoline due to the smell of gasoline. I was told that the smell of gasoline reminded him of the smell of the gas used to kill troops in the First World War. We never filled the car with gas if Grandpa John was in the car.

I remember that I did visit my grandparent’s house but that memory confused me. The reason for the confusion is due to the fact that as a child I never visited Des Moines Iowa. Yet I remember visiting a house with a big backyard. And in the middle of that big yard was a very large chicken coop. I can still remember seeing my grandma Mary enter the coop and check for eggs or find a plump bird for dinner. I wish I could remember more.

I also remember that my Grandfather John was not a very tall man. However, he was a very strong man with a large chest and a small waist. He had a smile that always warmed my heart and he never had a cross word for me on his lips. I love my namesake Grandpa John.

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Family chart.

 

My Grandpa Sam and Grandma Jessie (the F Family)

Had seven Children

Connie

Sam

Dominic

Charles

James – married Grace; My Uncle Jim and Aunt Grace

Rose – married Frank; My father and mother

Leonard

My Grandpa John and Grandma Mary (the G Family)

Had three Children

Frank – married Rose; My father and mother

Grace – married Jim; My Uncle Jim and Aunt Grace

Jimmy

My Uncle Jim and Aunt Grace (an F family)

Had four Children

Anna Jean

Leonard

Janet

Gary

My dad Frank and my mom Rose (an G family)

Had four Children

Marianne

John

Sam

Jessica

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Our last day in Italy

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Monday was our last day in Rome and we started the day on the Vatican Museums tour. It would be impossible to see all of the Vatican Museums in just one day. We then decided to limit our tour to the Spiral staircase, Gallery of Tapestries, Gallery of the Geographical maps and of course the famous Sistine Chapel with its magnificent fresco of the Last Judgment by Michelangelo. The tour was one big eye opening event. As soon as one item was viewed another item as beautiful or interesting would appear. The mystery and beauty of the museum was dwarfed by the Sistine Chapel. We were allowed to stay inside the chapel on our own for 25 minutes. We found a place to sit and just looked at the beauty and felt the holiness of the chapel. We left the Vatican tour and went shopping for gifts. Lucky for us, our guide again took us to her special gift shop and we were treated to her now famous sells pitch. Marti and I left this shop and ventured next door were we selected gifts.

With our gifts we returned to the hotel. We laid down for a little rest time and then went out to eat lunch. We found a very pleasant place to eat that was filled with Italian business men. The food here was the best we had in Rome and we had trouble eating all that was presented to us. We returned to the hotel and bragged about the place we found and how good the food was. We were a little tired so we went up to our room to prepare for our exit from Rome the next day. After packing all three suitcases we reviewed our items of dress for the following travel day. We took a short rest and went out for our last enjoyable meal in Rome. We went back to the little family run place across the street from the hotel. This time Marti had the soup and I had antipasto. Ten it was back to our hotel to await our car and driver for Tuesday. I know that I will be sad to leave Italy.

Tuesday, what a day! Our first plane is late by six hours. That of course makes us unable to connect and we find ourselves in Chicago for the night. It would have been nice to be home but is nice to be with Marti for one extra night. We will be home sometime Wednesday.

Marti and John In Rome

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Rome

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Saturday was the first formal vacation day in Rome. We started the day early and were picked up by the tour company before 8:15 am. Then it was off to see the sights. The first stop was the “Trevi Fountian” a little less crowded than yesterday but still very enjoyable. Yes both Marti and I tossed coins into the Trevi fountain and hope to return to Italy in the future. Next we were off to see The “Piazza Barberina” with the Trident fountain, followed by the “Piazza Nabona”. An interesting point is how many obelisk we found in the city of Rome. It seems that there is one before each main church, an obelisk at the end of major streets and sometimes we could see one just there in front of us. Then we were off to see the Pantheon. It is very special both as a spiritual shrine and as an historical edifice to the early Roman days.

Departing the Pantheon, we were taken to Vatican City. Once inside the Vatican City our first stop was a special gift shop and our guide pointed out the special items carried by this shop. It seemed to me that our guide must do a lot of shopping at this place because she was wearing a lot of the items. In fact, she would remove an item from her body and use it as the subject explaining why each person would consider owning the item. After we finished shopping in this gift shop we were taken to St. Peters Square and allowed to stand in a very long line so we could see both the “Tombs of the Popes” followed by St. Peter’s Basilica. I think we were allowed more time in the gift shop than we were allowed to spend at St. Peters Square. After leaving St. Peter’s Basilica, I needed to stop and enjoy a call of nature and then discovered we had to run out of the square so we could catch the bus. The bus departed soon after we arrived and we were then headed back to the hotel and a much needed rest.

After resting Marti thought it would be fun to walk to the “Spanish Steps”. I can not tell you how much fun I had walking both too and from the Spanish steps. If I thought the mountains were steep and tough, the trek to the Spanish Steps and back to the hotel was a real killer. Lucky for me we made it back to the hotel just before my feet would stop moving forward. Do to my sore feet we were able to enjoy a late night dinner just across the street from the Marcella Royal hotel. We ate outside and I had soup and Marti had ravioli’s. The food and service were excellent! So we were soon back into our room and asleep.

Goodby Positano, Hello Rome

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Friday is the day we start our return trip to the city of Rome, but first we need to stop at just one pottery shop and secure a plate. So up the mountain we had to climb, not just to the main level but to the highest level. Lucky for me, (now know as the mule) we had already packed the suitcases so we were going to have the one plate shipped to the states. Do not be surprised when more than one plate arrives in the USA they were just so beautiful and Marti had trouble trying to decide.

We returned to the room and completed packing and checked out of the hotel. Yes, for us it was one last trip up the mountain. I can not tell you how much this mule was to be leaving the mountain however I was very sad to leave the village of Positano and our beautiful room on the Amalfi coast. Once on top of the mountain, we waited for our car before departing beautiful mountainous Positanio. The ride to the train station was very beautiful. I did not get car sick and was able to enjoy the ride for over ninety minutes. The secret of drinking just a little coke and setting in the front seat did the trick. We arrived at the Napoli train station and were soon off to Rome. Just a little note – a very nice man took my luggage and carried it to my seat on the train I tried to thank him but instead of thanks he wanted three Euros per bag, ok he was not such a nice man.

The train ride was very pleasant and we departed the train and headed to the cabs. Lucky for us we found a very nice cab driver who helped us to his cab and we were off to our Hotel “Marcella Royal”. In less than 10 minutes we arrived at the hotel and lucky for the cab driver it was far enough that we needed a cab but close enough that the minimum charge of 25.00 Euros applied. After paying the cab we checked into the hotel, went up to our room and unpacked.

What a charming room, it may have been just one half the size of our room in Positanio, but the fact that we were in Rome more than made up for its compactness. We rested and read about places in Rome. We choose to eat at a converted church that had been turned into a special Calabrian ristorante “Sacro e Profano”. Before we left for the ristorante we checked with the front desk. They asked if we like spicy food because it was their opinion that all Calabrian food is spicy. We like spicy food so off we went to my special Calabrian ristorante. The food was good, but not outstanding except for the side dish of eggplant. Also, I do not understand why they think Calabriase food is spicy, mine was very bland. We returned to the hotel and went to sleep with excitement about our tour of Rome scheduled for early Saturday morning. Sleep was very restful as the bed was one of the most relaxing beds I have experienced in a very long time.

Back to the village of Amalfi

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Lucky for me it started to rain and it was hard to tell if I was just sweating or if I was just wet from the rain. With small torrents of water rushing down the path we proceeded up the mountain. We stopped at each pottery shop and I soon discovered that my taste in pottery was very poor. Lucky for me Marti’s taste was much better and we soon had a few gifts for my children. Not to just spend time in pottery shops we stopped in a few tourist shops and were happy to purchase additional gifts for the grandchildren and Chris. We were getting a little tired and hungry so we proceed down the mountain only to remember we wanted to view the original paper factory in Amalifi. It was at the top of the hill so we returned to our climb of the mountain to the paper factory. My hunger had left me and we arrived at the paper factory. It was very interesting and I was surprised to learn that paper was made from cloth in the very early days. Today we make paper out of trees or wood products. With some additional gifts and souvenirs we headed down the mountain for lunch.

[There was considerable discussion about what to purchase for Deb and Sue. We finally settled on salt and pepper shakers. Left on my own I would have purchased ceramic burros or touristy tacky aparons]

We stopped at a wonderful little local place for lunch and ordered pasta with mushrooms and stuffed calamaro with a tomato salad. As always the food was grand and we shared everything. After eating we continued our trek down the mountain and were soon on the bus returning to Positano. We boarded a little early and we were both able to sit on the return drive. My arms were very happy and I am sure my heart was pleased that it did not need to disappoint me again. Soon we were back to our hotel and resting on the bed. My feet and legs were very happy.
[linguini al dende with wild mushrooms and cream sauce… not too much. Calamaro stuffed with bread crumbs, capers, a bit of chopped mushrooms, the sauce was light with a bit of tomato chopped, maybe lemon juice, white wine, oil. The tomato salad was simple with wedges of really fresh flavorful tomatoes with a dressing of oil, vinegar and a bit of mustard…. Very good].

After resting we went down to the lobby and sent e-mails and called our children. We were not very hungry so we followed the waiter’s advice and had a snack of fried cheeses, eggplant, vegetables and ravioli. Our idea for just a light snack before heading back to our room for sleep was crushed.
[risotto balls with cheese melted inside, egg plant patties, fried cheese, fried ravioli, fried gnocchi with veggies inside, and fried zucchini and pumpkin sticks… very light batter like tempera. Marti had 3 glasses of local white wine… one glass too many.]

Photos of Amalfi

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