Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cemetery

My maternal Grandfather died when I was seven years old.  I didn't really know him well and when I did see him, I was a little afraid of him.  He had a very thick Italian accent and I wasn't around him enough to feel comfortable with it.  He was already pretty old then, in 1974.  My Grandma was much younger than him.  Theirs was an arranged marriage, and a rather interesting story. Grandma was the oldest of eight children and stopped going to school in the third grade.  She was needed to help raise the rest of the children.  The way I remember this story from the many times she told it to me, my great grandfather ran a little gambling circuit in the basement of their house.  Grandma was about 14 at this time and my Grandfather would come to the house to gamble. Well, he caught Grandma's eye when he went through the house to get to the basement.  She thought he was very handsome.  He was in his mid to late 20's at the time.

She wanted him to notice her.  And isn't that typical? Seems teenagers in the '20's weren't much different than they are today!   Times were definitely different though because she was not allowed to speak to him.  So she came up with a plan and implemented it immediately. The next time he came through the house, she took a piece of paper, crumpled it up and threw it at him.  And it hit him, grabbing his attention.  That was all it took for my great grandfather to demand that he marry her.  And so, they were married.

And they stayed married and developed that enduring kind of love that people only dream about having.  They had three children, two boys and a girl (my mom).  He gave her space, which was not something that was the norm for old country Italians.  She was an independent though and I don't think he could have kept her in check even if he had tried. She traveled without him, she didn't go to church ever and she worked most of her life.  Maybe that's why she was able to live, and go on after he died. So often in relationships such as theirs, when one dies the other soon follows.  But she kept herself going.  She is someone who I feel privileged to have had in my life.  A role model for sure.

When my Grandfather passed away, he was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland.  All the old Italians (and others) were buried there.  It was the place to be seen after you die.  It was huge and sprawling and you needed a map to find the grave you were looking for.  But through the years the neighborhood around it got worse and worse.  There were reports of mourners being robbed while visiting the graves of loved ones.  Eventually Grandma couldn't go there any longer.  That bothered her.  She needed to go there to be near him, to tell him how much she missed him.  And slowly it dawned on her. Her plot was right next to him.  If she couldn't go to see him, then who would go there to see her?

And that's when she hatched the idea to move him.  Over the years, a new go to cemetery was being used by the family.   So against the advisement of her son, she sold her plot at Calvary, bought a two new ones and made arrangements for my Grandfather's body to be exhumed and moved to this new cemetery.  A place where she could go see him and she knew people would go to see her. It cost a bundle, but she didn't care. It was something she had to do if for no other reason than to give her peace of mind.  And it did.

I go to that cemetery now from time to time even though I don't believe I need to go there to speak to her.  I talk to her all the time, anywhere and everywhere.  She's always with me.  But that cemetery was important to her.  So I go.  I bring flowers for her and my Grandfather and say hi to all the other relatives that are nearby.   Sometimes it seems silly to be doing it.  But it wasn't silly to her so I go, with all the love I still have for her and always will have.

15 comments:

  1. True love "transcends" all "borders"...literal meaning to it actually!

    Thanks for such a beautiful story at the end of my day! :)

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  2. Great story. Love, commitment, family, determination, community--it's all in there. Thanks.

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  3. Love never dies. A great love story!

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  4. Who doesn't like a love story?!

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  5. This is a great story of love, Lalia....yours towards them and their love for each other. My maternal grandmother is still alive and this reminded me so much of my grandfather. Grandma is Filipino, Grandpa is American. He died when I was just 10 and like you, I hoped I was closer to him but really I was just kind of afraid...him being different and all that. Anyway, it is amazing how love endures. Thanks for this touching post!

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  6. What a wonderful post! Brava to your Grandma for being ahead of her time and forward thinking! My Grammy was much the same way. From strong women come strong granddaughters!
    ~cath xo

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  7. I'm sure both your grandparents would be pleased you go! Wonder how many of your grandma's go-getter genes you inherited! Josie x

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  8. What a wonderful story. Congratulations to your grandmother for being an individual and to your Grandad in 'allowing' her the freedom. What an example to set for future generations.

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  9. Thanks for sharing that beautiful story of true love, Lalia. Your grandmother sounds like she had a lot of heart and strength. My grandmother was a strong figure in my life, too, but I don't think she fared as well in matters of love.

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  10. Hi Lalia -

    I wish I had loved like your grandparents. Never have. I like the crumpled up paper note tossed upside gramps' head, lol. Smart girl, granny was. :)

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  11. Such a lovely tribute to a wonderful love story!

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  12. I loved this story - every part of it is alive with visuals of your Grandma as a conniving young woman of 14, an independent woman, a loving and in-love wife, and most of all, going to incredible lengths to ensure that she would be buried next to her beloved husband. What determination. Hope that you've inherited your Grandma's great qualities.

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  13. I hope I have too Pennie.
    Thanks everyone!

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  14. What a great love story! And I know your Grandma is so happy whenever you talk to her - where ever it is.

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  15. That is such a wonderful story. I like that she was so independent, which for her age and the time, it's not common. You're right, we all look for that enduring love. I am a hopeless romantic and even though I never quite got it right, I know it's out there.. sniff sniff. A good story.

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