A Rest Home Visit

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The most memories I have of my Grandpa John occur around a long drive with my father, a stop at a grocery store, and ending with our visit with my Grandpa John. My dad and I lived in San Jose California and my Grandpa was living just outside Sacramento. This meant that we would drive about 120 miles to visit. The drive took us a little over two hours to complete discounting the stop at the grocery store.

I would travel with my dad anytime I could. Sometimes I could not make the trip due to homework or the need to study for finals. However if I was able to made the trip without impact to my college classes I would be in the car with my dad. I did not count the number of trips I made sitting in the car with my dad but I remember there were a lot. In addition to visiting my Grandpa John, we would stop and say hello to my Aunt Grace, my dad’s sister. We would also stop and visit with my Grandma Mary, and my Uncle Jimmy, my dad’s mother and brother.

At the time of these visits my Grandpa John was in need of more care than Grandma Mary and Uncle Jimmy could provide. My Grandfather was living out his remaining years in a rest home. I loved to visit my Grandpa because it seemed to make him happy if only for the time my dad and I spent with him. Let me tell you a little story about one of our trips.

My dad was planning a trip to visit Grandpa on Saturday and I said that I wanted to go with him. I drove over to his house early Saturday morning and after greeting both he and my mom we said goodbye to mom and were off to visit my Grandpa John. Sometime I will tell you about the things we talked about on our two-hour drive but not this time. We had some of the best talks on the drive to visit my dad’s dad.

Driving for almost two hours ended inside a parking lot. It was here that we would park the car and enter the grocery store close to the rest home where my Grandfather lived. We would scour the store looking for special treats to present to my Grandpa John. My father explained to me that we did this to make his father happy. Dad went on to explain that sweet items like cookies and fruit could be tasted by my Grandpa but other things like pasta or a meatloaf did not taste well to him. So we were always on the lookout for new and exciting cookies. Fruit was always something that was more dictated by the season and my dad’s knowledge of the fruits Grandpa liked. Of course we needed to find fruit that was ripe and ready to eat today. With our goodies bagged and the items purchased we took the goodies to the car and continued our drive to the rest home.

Arriving at the rest home we would park the car, get the bag of goodies, and enter the rest home. We would head directly to my Grandfather’s room and most times Grandpa John would be there sitting in a chair and looking out of the window. My father would call out to Grandpa John in Italian saying good morning, Papa. Grandpa would turn to face us and as soon as his mind recognized us a big smile would brighten up his face. Out of the chair and into the outstretched arms of my father. When finished with their greeting I would say hello in English or Italian and give my hug and kiss hello.

We would then leave the room and walk down the hall to the dining area inside the rest home. The dining area functioned as an eating, entertaining, reading, and social area for the residents and guests that arrived to visit. We would find a table away from other activity and the three of us would sit down for our visit. My dad would open the bag of goodies and place some of the cookies on a plate; he would then cut up some of the fruit and place the bite size pieces onto the plate.

Enjoying the cookies and bites of fruit my dad and Grandpa would speak in Italian. My dad did most of the talking with my Grandpa listening and occasionally glancing at me. I watched how much my Grandpa enjoyed eating the cookies and fruit slices. If grapes were in season my Grandpa would eat more grapes than cookies that day. He also liked crisp Apples and cheese. I was fascinated by the interaction between my dad and his father. I think this was one of the best lessons I learned about life. Checking for signs of fatigue or loss of attention my dad would know the visit was over. We would then walk Grandpa back to his room, hug and kiss goodbye, and leave the bag of goodies with Grandpa John we would depart the rest home.

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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

I Love My Grandma Jessie

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Attending mass with my Grandma Jessie was something that was done every day. Well before 6:00 am we would be kneeling down so we could start saying prayers even before the mass started. I did not know who or what grandma was praying for, but it did not matter to me, she was always happy in her church praying to God. I was a young boy so for me just looking at the statues, windows, candles and of course the little thing that was used to hold men’s hats always caught my attention. I am sorry to say that I did more looking than praying inside the beauty of the church. Each stain glass window was different from the stain glass on either side of the window.  Some had the image of a saint others may have a holly event depicted on the glass. The more I went to mass the more gospels I heard and the more I could read the image in the stain glass. Great statues of Jesus Christ, very holly people, and angels were found on every wall inside the church. Centered and directly in front of everyone was the altar with a giant cross and the body of Jesus Christ at the top and lots of burning candles. With the entry of the priest we would all stand and mass would begin.

At this time in my life the mass was said in the old Roman language of Latin. As I watched the priest perform the rituals of the mass, I could follow what was going on without understanding Latin. I found a lifelong lasting appreciation for attending mass at this very early time in the day.  Six AM Mass was never a long mass. In fact Mass at this time in the morning was always completed in less than thirty minutes. The priest would never say a long homely and with fewer people attending communion the mass was over so quickly that it was hard for this young boy to become bored.  With mass ending we would depart the church and return home to Grandma’s house. Our return home was completed in about the same amount of time as our travels to Church. First we would walk quickly by the houses in the block, run over the roads that blocked our return, and be back in Grandma’s house in no time.  Entering the house from the rear door I would sit down at the kitchen table to wait for my coffee (with lots and lots of milk) and my Italian cookies (if I was lucky) otherwise it was just a normal breakfast of eggs and toast.

During this extended time at my Grandma’s home I did many new and exciting tasks. For the first time in my young life all I heard was the Italian language.  I just like my older sister Marianne became acquainted with many new Italian words. They were words that I could repeat to my family without my mom grabbing the bar of Lava soap and shoving it into my mouth.  Yes, now I could tell my brother and sisters to: shut the door, shut their mouths, sit down, be good, play outside, pray, eat, be quite, do not climb the tree, and get down you will hurt yourself. I heard those phases so often from my wonderful Grandma Jessie that for some reason they just stuck in my head.  Learning the Italian language, specially these phases, from my Grandma Jessie helped me whenever I went over to my Godmother Babe’s house. Grandma Mayo Babe’s mother could only speak Italian and when she wanted or needed to say something to me I would recognize the Italian words and know what to do. So as you can see learning another language is always beneficial.

In addition to learning some Italian I was able to help my Grandma when she went to visit her friends.  Grandma did not own or drive a car so we would walk wherever and whenever we needed to go.  Her friends lived all around her neighborhood and when we visited these friends they would always give me something to eat.  I think my Grandmother knew everybody in the neighborhood because I am sure we visited every house in the neighborhood.  Everyone we visited spoke Italian and every lady we meet would give me a hug and a kiss after greeting me with the word “abenaeika” (beautiful (prince) in Italian). I was my Grandma Jessie’s Italian prince so she would take me from one Italian home to another so they could greet and kiss me. I was truly loved by my Grandma and by the friend’s in grandma’s neighborhood.

Abandoned – My family left me home!

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I am sorry to say but I truly do not know how old I was when my parents choose to leave me behind as they went on a vacation to Des Moines, Iowa.  Yes my family left me home in San Jose California as they, my mom, dad, Mari Anne, Sam and Jessica, drove off in my father’s car.  The family wanted to make this two thousand mile drive without me.  I was sure that all the relatives in Des Moines Iowa wanted to meet and see the young Prince but I was to stay home in San Jose California. The reason the decision was made to leave me home was very simple, I suffered from a common problem that others experienced as well, motion sickness.  Yes my family went on a vacation without the oldest boy child, the young prince, me.  Thank God they allowed me some input as to where I was to stay during their vacation.  Of course if it were just my decision I would only go to my Grandma Jessie’s house.  I loved my Grandma Jessie very much and to be able to stay with her would ease the pain of being abandoned by my family.  As both my Grandma Jessie and I grew older she became so important and special to me that I gave her the cute nickname of “Dolly”.  She was lovely lady Dolly!

Dolly was pleased that I wanted to stay at her house.  She loved me and treated me as the special child I was. I was sure she convinced both of my parents to leave me with her.  My parents left and my visit with Dolly began.  What fun it was and what joy and happiness we shared.  My grandmother Jessica (in Italian her name was Gelsomina) was an early riser each and every day. From the room I where I spent my nights, I could hear Dolly awake each morning well before the sun began to rise.  She would get out of bed and head to the bathroom to prepare herself for mass.  Upon hearing her depart her bed I would leave my bed just as quickly and dress so I could attend mass with my grandmother.  By the time I was dressed and had made my bed Grandma Jessica would be brushing her hair.  She had the most beautiful hair in the world.  It was a shiny blue/black color, and very long.  Her hair reached all the way to the back of her knees.  She wore her hair brushed straight back then she would braid and roll her lovely long hair into a bun that was positioned on the back of her head.  My Grandma was a very beautiful lady. With the two of us dressed and ready for mass, we would leave the house for our short walk to the church.

Walking with my grandmother was an adventure.  She was not very tall but she could walk very quickly.  We would start walking to the church with plenty of time so we were never late for mass.  With her church scarf secured over her head she would wrap herself in her black coat and then pick up her black purse and let it hang from her arm, we were now ready and would depart the house.  The Catholic Church was just three blocks away from my Grandma’s home.  However, she and I needed to cross three streets in order for us to arrive at the church.  With my Grandmother holding my hand we started the daily trek to church. Her house was on the corner of the street so the first street we had to cross was right there.  Before crossing the street my Grandma would look both ways checking to see if it was safe to cross, if safe she would then tighten her grip on my hand and we would dash across the street.

It was so early in the morning that traffic was almost non-existence, but we would still dash across the street as if a car was bearing down and might strike the two of us before reaching the safety of the sidewalk on the opposite side.  Crossing streets was the only time I saw my little grandma Jessie running. With her hand holding mine I could tell just when I needed to run to cross the street and when her grip on my hand relaxed we would be passing the houses on the block. We stop and directly in front of us was the next street. The grip on my hand tighten, she turned her head looking down the street for cars, then looking in the opposite direction she would determine if it was safe to cross then together we would dash across the street. As we walked quickly by the houses in the second block we would approach the third and final street.  Her procedure to cross a street never changed.  Her pace when walking to church or for that matter walking anywhere was the same quick and very direct.  We did not stop in front of the church to talk to any of her friends.  We just entered the beautiful church and found a place to sit, kneel and pray, we now began the wait for the entrance of the priest that was the signal that mass started.