Looking Back: 2008 (Commentary part 3) That’s what grandpa’s do

On January 1, 2009, in Uncategorized, by The News Staff

Jimmy Del Ponte
On The Silly Side

(February 2008)

grandpa was a proud Italian-American citizen and a World War I
veteran.. He was also a custodian at the old Bingham School. His name
was Giuseppe, and he was my dad's father. A lot of people just called
him Joe. He started a long tradition of "Joes" in my family. There's my
Uncle Joe, the fireman and glass guy, and his son Joe. There's also my
brother Joe, the Harvard grad, and my son Joe – oh, and my cousin's son
Joe (my uncle Joe's grandson).

My grandpa's house smelled like
cigars and we could always expect a squeeze on the cheek and a happy
greeting whenever we visited. When we walked through the front door we
were welcomed by grandpa's familiar "well-a, well-a, well-a – nice-a,
boy-a" and the big grandpa hug – hey that's what grandpas do.

thanks to poison gas during the war, grandpa only had one lung –
although it was cool telling my friends that story while showing off
his helmet. His back yard still has the grapevine that he made his wine
from. My aunt Olga lives there to this day and the bottle capping gizmo
he used in the wine making process is still in that cellar. Grandpa
used to use Ballantine Ale bottles to put his wine into and I still
have one of the last bottles in my kitchen today.

Shortly after
we moved into our house near Davis Square in 1960, I remember my mother
looking out the window and saying in a panicked voice "what in the
world is going on?" Before we had even put in the driveway, a large
City of Somerville DPW truck was backing into our yard over the curb
and crushing through the bushes. We went out onto the back porch as the
city truck dumped a huge load of concrete chunks in the yard. Mom
yelled down at my father and grandpa who were supervising the dumping,
asking what was going on – and my dad yelled up "this is our new garden
wall!" The concrete chunks were pieces of the old Davis Square sidewalk
that had just been jack hammered.

You see, grandpa was Italian,
which meant he was a pretty good stonemason, so for the next week, I
watched grandpa and dad turn pieces of an old sidewalk into a beautiful
retaining wall that is still standing today. My grandpa helped his son
get his first home up and running, because that's what grandpas do. The
only thing that stinks is that the wall is still there, but the guys
who made it aren't.

Grandpas are awesome people – my dad was a
good grandpa too. When my sister passed away, he took over caring for
his 9-year-old granddaughter, Nikki. They became best friends who
needed each other equally. He made her breakfast every morning, he
fixed her hair and he took her to school everyday. She made him laugh,
drove him crazy and kept his blood pumping. Grandpa delegated duties to
the rest of the family. Cousin Carol and Auntie Olga were in charge of
buying Nikki her clothes and providing the woman's touch. I was in
charge of picking her up after school and cooking supper every night
(thanks to McKinnon's and Shake and Bake). I was, and still am, in
charge of scaring the boys away. The other aunts and cousins were also
activated to be there in lieu of her mom and may I say they all did a
damn good job.

But it was grandpa who was the "general in
charge" of the whole operation – it was amazing to see a 72-year-old
man completely take control of a situation and make sure this young
girl had everything she needed. Did I mention that he also had to go to
court every couple of weeks to ensure that Nikki stayed in his custody
and out of harms way? Ahhh…the golden years – but that's what
grandpas do. After a few years of running the show, grandpa's loving
heart gave out – Nikki was now 11. When we explained to her what was
going on and that grandpa's heart wasn't working anymore she said
tearfully: "well he can have mine." Fade to 13 years later, Nikki went
to Matignon High School and graduates from Salve Regina College – and
grandpa looks down from above, smiling and saying, "mission

So we have that garden wall in my backyard as a
testimonial to my grandpa and a well-adjusted 25-year-old young
professional woman as a testimonial to her grandpa. Both are sturdy,
strong and enduring – thanks to the love, dedication and planning that
went into each project – and that's what grandpas do.


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