If you are sixty-something, it’s that time of life where wonderful events like grandchildren happen. My first grandchild, a granddaughter, was born on April 2, 2020, in Wimbledon, England during perhaps the worst month of the COVID pandemic in Europe. Born a month premature, thus requiring a hospital stay, made me worry. However, I only said positive things, as the young baby had to stay in the hospital. Only being positive was something I learned as a parent, but I was hugely worried.
Now a year later, I am about to meet my first grandchild, Juniper Rose, who is traveling to the U.S. to meet one of her grandfathers, that being me. Remember grandparents share grandchildren with other grandparents and her other grandparents live in England, in Wimbledon. Juniper gets to see them regularly. I remember as a young child thinking about the differences between my grandfathers who are both 100 percent Italian, yet were so very different.
Truth be told, I was grandchild number ten to both of my grandparents, as my parents came from two huge Italian families. I have over 14 first cousins on my mother’s side and 24 on my dad’s side of our family tree! Therefore, I never really got that special treatment like some grandchildren today get. However, I knew they knew I loved them. I felt all my grandparents were very special for different reasons. Both my grandfathers passed away before I was 13-years-old. To this day, I remember how sad both my parents were when their parents died. Both my grandmothers lived into their 80s, so I got to know them better. When they passed, it was more a celebration of their lives than funerals.
Needless to say, I can’t wait to look into the eyes of my granddaughter and watch her look back into mine. She is living in the now but will be a part of the future after I am long gone. Hopefully through her eyes wonderful things will be seen in that future. I can only speculate and dream about the changes she will live through. Both my grandparents were born before there were cars, trucks, electricity, airplanes, jets, rockets, space travel, computers, nuclear energy, and telephones, not to mention the internet. Imagine the wonderment if at a young age I could have told them many of these things would happen in my lifetime and perhaps some of them later in theirs?
I have a grandfather story to share. My grandfather, Elia Clemente, emigrated to the U.S. from Roscigno, Salerno, Italy as a young boy. He started a small business in Manhattan that involved horses to deliver things like ice and pick up junk pulling wagons in Manhattan. My dad was born in a birthing house on 124th street (surviving child number five of nine) on May 9, 1924. The story goes that for years they loaded 1,000 pound bales of used clothing onto trucks by only using physical labor that included spinning and rolling the bales to make a pyramid up to the back of the then primitive trucks and then pushing them on and upright. It was very hard work. They worked five full days a week and half days on Saturdays. The family lived on top of the factory built with bricks by my grandfather and his sons in the Bronx after selling the upper Manhattan farmland. One day a truck driver told my grandfather there was this new invention, a hydraulics machine on wheels called a forklift that could load the trucks using just one man, instead of the teams of men it took the way they were doing it. My grandfathers gathered all his sons, closed down the shop, and took a subway to Brooklyn to see this miracle machine. My grandfather and his sons watched with amazement as one man loaded truck after truck. They then went to the forklift distributor’s location in Brooklyn and purchased one that same day. Later my grandfather sent my father to an engineering school then called Butler Aviation, but now called LaGuardia Airport, where he learned everything about hydraulics, gas and diesel engines and electric motors, among other things, to be able to keep that forklift running. During WW II, although capable of flying, my dad was a flight engineer on a B-17 bomber in the 8th Air Force. I met the pilot of that plane who told me the number of times the plane was shot up in combat and my dad put it together to get it back safely to England, the place his great granddaughter was born. Before he died, my dad took my mom back to England to show her where his base was and where he lived. He was very proud of that service and through my eyes, both my grandfather and my father will see Juniper’s smile. That will be a truly wonderful event.