I sit at my desk trying to find some words to preface this post. The middle finger of my right hand continually hits the “delete” key on my macbook keyboard as I crumple up thoughts into paper balls and throw them aside.
A year ago today my grandpa died.
I said it. My body goes electric as my throat constricts and I will back the growing pressure of tears welling behind my eyes.
I needed you; need you still.
It’s been the hardest year and the one person in the world that I want to share it with is gone. How do I know if he’s proud? How do I know I’m doing right? No one is there to ask “What do you think, grandpa?”.
My cheeks are wet and I realize that I’ve written pure nonsense.
No, I’m not sorry. I’m finally ready to show the world my words. The words for him - the words I said in front of family and strangers when he wasn’t around to hear them.
Spoken Eulogy November 1st, 2013
Vince was so many things to so many different people: a father, a husband, a grandfather, an army captain, and various official and unofficial titles where he lived and served around his community. To me, he was more than just a grandfather, he was my friend, my buddy, and my role-model.
Today, I want to share with you some of the things that I’m still learning from my grandfather, my friend, my role-model:
He was often the smartest guy in the room, but he never made anyone feel like they were stupid. Instead, with his logician’s mind and his trap-door memory for random trivia, he was the type of guy who you could ask anything and he probably would know it; if he didn’t, he didn’t have trouble saying “I don’t know”. I think this is what made “Vince and Gloria” such a great team. He knew when the “glo” in “vinglo” was better at something than he was, and he was smart enough to let her handle it.
Speaking of the “glo” in “vinglo”. One of the most vivid childhood memories, and life lessons came from grandpa when I was about 7 or 8. I was “being a kid” during an uno game at one of those famous “vinglo” holiday parties. I don’t remember exactly how it was said, but it was directed to Gloria, and it included the words “old”, “good looking”, and a reference to a 1930’s slang word for a woman.
He took me aside after the guests had left and told me, in that calm, but serious voice (which let you know that he was disappointed in you): “you really hurt grandma’s feelings, and you need to go apologize to her”. With the weight of my grandfather’s disappointment on my shoulders and a knot in my stomach, I apologized. And in that apology, I learned a sense of responsibility for the consequences of my actions, especially when my actions weren’t meant to be hurtful. This lesson is something that I’ve thought about throughout my life. Something I reflect on. Something I carry with me close to my heart. As I hear stories from friends, family, and neighbors - I realize how important taking responsibility was to him. He felt a duty to do what was right and he felt that others should as well.
Being a man.
Grandpa was big and strong. A hug from him always made me feel like that little boy that would sit on his lap, so safe and happy, and listen to him sing, in that deep voice:
“There was an old lady who swallowed a fly”
After one of those hugs, you’d be left with the smell of his aftershave on you. I suppose that was the type of man he was, his left a lasting imprint on those he touched.
He wasn’t a perfect man. I don’t know if it’s on account of growing up in a different time or being 20 years in the military, but he was pretty macho. To his detriment, at times. Before this surgery during his hospital stay, he wouldn’t complain about his pain or discomfort until it was obvious to one of us and we would have to get a nurse or doctor.
His stoicism was out of a sense of duty to protect grandma. Unfortunately, it was having the opposite effect, it was making it much harder for her. Luckily, I came prepared for this exact thing — having learned a great lesson from a great man, oh around the age of 7 or 8. To say that I was nervous to talk to my grandfather, my role-model, about something he was doing wrong, was an understatement. I sat with him alone by his bedside, and in the way that he talked to me so many years ago, I explained to him that he had to do better. He looked at me, and nodded, and said “I understand”.
You see, he has taught me that being a man is about being strong, and about having pride, and about protecting those that you love. But, it’s also about knowing when you are wrong and taking responsibility. He taught me that what really makes a man is the desire and commitment to always be a better one than you are. No matter how macho or prideful, he was, he was still the type of man that in his hospital bed, he would hold his 31 year old grandson’s hand while they watched a 49ers game or rooted for the Giants in the World Series. He was the type of man that would sing to his grandchildren,
“I don’t know why she swallowed that fly”.
He was the best man that I have ever known. I will be learning these lessons he taught me for the rest of my life, in hopes that I can follow in his footsteps and be as good of a man as he was.