My grandfather passed away on Sunday afternoon. He lived a healthy 95 years. Ninety-five! Nonno was born inÂ a small town in Calabria, Italy in 1915 and moved to Canada in 1953 and was joined by his family in 1962. Like many Italian immigrants at that time, Nonno worked in construction for the City of Toronto. He and my grandmother raised four children with little money but with great strength and determination.
Nonno and Me, January 2010
I have many fun memories of Nonno. When he stopped driving a few years ago, family members took turns taking him to do his errands. On one trip to the library, he instructed me to wait in the car while he went in to pick up his Oggi (Italian magazine). Before I even had a chance to tell him I would go in for him, he was out of the car and running – yes, running – across the street. He was fast, too! The car ride was fun too – we discussed movie stars, social events and world news. And of course, no errand was complete without stopping by his favourite cafÃ© to enjoy a cappuccino.
Watching Nonno maneuver aisles in the grocery store was quite the entertainment. When you reach his age, I guess you’ve got a pretty good idea about the layout of your favourite store. He was efficient, direct and got around with mighty speed. He also knew the best place in the city to buy fresh bocconcini and ricotta. Even at 95 years old, Nonno was responsible for supplying everyone in the family with these delicious Italian cheeses.
Nonno was the most social person I’ve ever met. If he had a Facebook profile, I can guarantee that his friend count would be higher than any of ours. He was self-sufficient, busy, and his healthy diet was enviable. He was an avid reader, made excellent use of the Toronto public library, and loved to play Italian cards.
No matter how old any of us grandkids got, when we visited him at home he would be sure to offer us a juice box. Ha ha. Just thinking about how many juice boxes I’ve drank at his house puts a smile on my face. Every chat with Nonno usually involved him saying, “Whaddya gonna do?” We grandkids always tried to recreate the line but it just never sounded the same as when he said it.
He was also quite the fashionisto – he was particular about colour, design and fabric. He was always happy to add another beautiful Merino wool sweater or cozy argyle socks to his wardrobe – as long as they were up to his standards. When he was 93, Nonno went out to buy a new suit for his Italian club’s dinner/dance. He wanted to look good, of course, and his existing suits just wouldn’t do. And yes, at 93, he still enjoyed a good party!
I am happy to celebrate Nonno’s long and healthy life and dedicate this space on White Cabana to him.