On the left is my Great Uncle Louie, known to us as children as LaLa. He was also my Godfather and the first Italian I ever loved. The man on the right is my maternal Grandfather. I always called him Gramps.
How different they are. Lala certainly stood out in our family. The only olive-skinned Italian in a sea of super white, freckled Irish/English men. Lala drove a truck for a living. Gramps was a mailman.
Seated at the picnic table they must be waiting for the women to bring out the potato salad and corn on the cob to go with the burgers and hot dogs Dad and Uncle Jim will be cooking on the charcoal grill. I’m betting this is a fourth of July get together and soon after everyone has feasted Uncle Lala will fall asleep in the shade and Gramps will challenge the kids to game of horseshoes.
This picture, recently resurrected from an old album by sister, depicts two of the most important men in my life. Gramps could be stern but he was always fair. The little smile seen in this picture was often accompanied by a twinkle in his eye just before he’d call one of the boys over and invite him to, “pull my finger.” Of course everyone knew what was coming. The boys would giggle, Nana would pretend to be scandalized and Gramps … well … Gramps would feel relieved, I guess.
Lala always found room for me on his lap whenever I felt the need for a bit of quiet time in the midst of our large and boisterous family. He smelled of Aqua Velva and Camel cigarettes and his skin was always warm to the touch. Sometimes, when I’d go to visit him we would go for walk and he’d stop to talk with friends. I’d stand quietly at this side listening as they spoke in rapid Italian, the words I didn’t understand sounding exotic and much more musical than the unaccented English he spoke to me. I think the way he made me feel special and the love we had for one another is one of the reasons I’m married to an Italian today.
Both men have been gone for a long time but the love they shared with skinny, freckle-faced tomboy and her siblings lives on in this picture and in my heart. Do you have an old photo to share? If so, post it here. I’d love to see it.