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.