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Friday, April 13, 2018

GRANDPA RALPH


To us kids, his grandkids, he was Grandpa but to Grandma Frances he was Raphael.

Raphael was a very calm man, serene, almost never said much, but when he did, everybody would pause for the moment and then continue on in life. He was a handsome man, who wore a mustache all his life. In fact, when he was born my great grandfather is rumored to have said: "Che Cosa è quella cosa sotto il suo naso?"

Grandpa was Grandma's right-hand man, handyman, go to guy, and doer of all chores. Grandpa tried to avoid grandma but only during his waking hours.

Grandpa had a grey fedora he wore, it seemed like every moment of every day. I think he was born in it. In fact, it is rumored that my great grandfather (Who had a lot to say) once said when grandpa was born: "Da dove quel cappello è venuto?"

Every Sunday Grandma would go to church at Our Lady of Loretto on Sackman Street in Brooklyn. That's "A Sackaman Streeet, a Brookaleen" as she would say. Grandpa did his praying too. While Grandma prayed for deliverance from the evils of the world, Grandpa prayed that she would leave him alone for ten minutes. So while Grandma was in church, Grandpa was next door at the Republican Club-playing poker.

One Easter Sunday as was the custom, the whole clan gathered on Fulton Street for Easter dinner at Grandma's house. It was never Grandpa's house, always Grandma's house. They came from Hull Street, Coney Island and Patchogue, NY, all dressed in our Sunday best, all expecting to eat heartily and listen to tales of Italy, Naples, and Bari. The men would gather after dinner to play cards and the ladies gossip while the cousins all congregated in the long hallway to play.

This one Sunday dinner was almost ready, but no one could find Grandpa! Grandma was stirring the big pasta pot and ordered one of the kids to go next door to the Republican Club and get Grandpa and tell him to she said to come NOW!

Just then Dad started to relate to me a story about Grandpa.

It seems it was a Sunday long ago and dad was about 10-years old, and Grandpa was missing as dinner was about to be served. Grandma sent Dad out to get Grandpa from the Republican Club to quit his card game and come home to a diner.

Dad followed orders and went searching for Grandpa, found him like Grandma said, holding his cards close to his vest a Napoli cigar stuck in his mouth, a shot of whiskey on the table next to his red, white and blue chips. Dad relayed the info from Grandpa and went home. No Grandpa shows up!

Grandma is furious and tells Dad to go once more and get Grandpa and tell him he better come because she means business. Off Dad goes, returns and still no grandpa!

Grandma makes a phone call and waits by the front door. This is the late twenties when a paddy wagon comes and raids the Republican Club. She goes outside and stands to watch as the police lead out the gamblers one at a time. Out comes Grandpa, who says: "Francesca, dice loro che sono il vostro marito." (Frances, tell them I'm your husband.)

The police ask Grandma if she knows who he is and will she take him home.

"I'ma sorry officer, I'ma no know him."

Grandpa always came immediately after that.

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