8/3/09

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?

The strength of twenty men. Romeo and Juliet, 5. 1

My great-grandfather's name was Romeo. He arrived as a teenager at Ellis Island, an immigrant from Italy. He was a strong man and even in his 80s and 90s his large hands gripped in a firm steady handshake. His English was heavily accented and I remember how he would speak to me; quietly, leaning toward me a bit, smiling, and then pausing, perhaps to see if I had understood him. I usually did. He became an American and a farmer. He loved to grow roses. They grew where he planted them and thrived - big, colorful, and sweet smelling.  

Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain-tops. Romeo and Juliet, 3. 5 

 He had a lovely farm. I remember walking with him to the spring house, a small stone building built into the side of a hill behind the farmhouse. Water running under those rolling green hills in Pennsylvania came out through a pipe in the wall and dropped sparkling into a long wooden trough. The spring house was cool even on the hottest summer day, and Grandpap would hand me the dipper and a cup. The water tasted clean and cold and pure. The spring house smelled of water and apples. Buckets of apples picked from the trees were placed all around and I'd select one, biting into it's juicy sweet-tartness, and follow him back out of the spring house and into the sun. I remember exactly the way my great-grandfather smelled. He smelled like Italy and like his farm and like Gam's cooking.  

For you and I are past our dancing days. Romeo and Juliet, 1. 5

I am aging. It's the only explanation for waking up on a Saturday morning and apropos of absolutely nothing, thinking about Grandpap, my Romeo, and realizing all of a sudden that I remember exactly what he smelled like and I'll never smell it again for no one will ever smell like it again. I've never even been to Italy but I know he smelled of it; I breathed the Old World when I was with him; it's the only explanation for the parts I can't identify.

It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden. Romeo and Juliet, 2. 2

When I was married he was nearly 100 years old and scheduled his blood tranfusion for that day so he'd have the energy for the wedding festivities. At the reception he danced with me, singing an Italian love song in my ear, and you'd think that would have been all the luck that marriage needed but it wasn't. As it turned out, that moment with Romeo, my great-grandfather, had nothing to do with my ill-fated union.  

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Romeo and Juliet, 2. 2 

 That love song was about him, my Romeo, and the bits of him that would live with me. It had more to do with the fact that each time I was pregnant I wondered if it was a boy, could I name him Romeo? It's a beautiful name, a family name, and a super cool name, but would the boy be teased until he was 25 years old, or maybe forever? Could I tell him enough about his Romeo that he'd set his shoulders and bear it and find his way to pride in the name? I look at my little blonde haired, fair-skinned, light-eyed sons and they don't look like they have a drop of Italian blood in them. But they do - only a few but those few are broad and powerful and full, like a drop of clear spring water that has welled up until it is about to explode from it's invisible, permeable boundary.  

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Romeo and Juliet, 2. 2

My Romeo, my Grandpap, died at 99 years old, just 3 months before my daughter was born so he never saw her here. That was and remains a great sadness to me.

Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow. Romeo and Juliet, 2. 2  

What a blessing to wake one morning at age 42 filled with fond memories of an old Italian great-grandfather smiling and smelling of your history. I think of him whenever the roses smell sweet.
 
Rose

24 comments:

purejoy said...

what a beautiful post. what sweet memories!!

Pop and Ice said...

A beautiful rose and tender reminiscence of your grandfather. You are lucky to have such wonderful memories.

jayna said...

Absolutely beautiful. Makes me think of my own "Romeo" and his yellow roses.

de said...

I'm welling up here. But it is beautiful & sparkling like the water in the spring house.

Felicia said...

Tears! Such a wonderfully beautiful post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Sugarplum's Mom said...

He saw her... he sees her.. and you.. and your boys. He gave up his physical presence in this space so he could watch your blossoming family with fresh eyes and wrap you all in love. Beautiful post.

Amy said...

Thanks all!!!

Staci Z said...

What a beautiful story...consider yourself lucky!

Jennifer, Playgroups Are No Place For Children said...

What beautiful memories and how lucky for you to have known him. And how lucky for us that you are sharing your history.

Burgh Baby said...

Absolutely perfect.

Rachel said...

*sigh*

This is just beautiful. Amy, just thank you.

MarcomMom said...

Lovely reminiscence... I personally believe your grandfather can see your daughter and love her, albeit from a time/space distance that's harder for you than for him. I can still smell the apples in my grandfather's green truck and see he light through the trees on those western Massachusetts country roads... So I'm with you on this one.

Audubon Ron said...

I'm guessing that would be a double delight hybrid tea rose.

rowena___. said...

wow, thank you. that was beautiful.

Rima said...

I love this!!!

And I love that he was named Romeo . . .

Lori said...

That was beautiful...

Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

I love this. Beautiful.

I read it with a tear in my eye missing my grandparents.

rubbish said...

Lovely post. You're actually quite lucky. Both my Grand Dads died during the war and my one Grand Mother died a few years after that. My Father died three months before I was born. My Nan died a few years ago and I still think of her most days. She cooked great Sunday dinners and every time I see one I always think of her gravy!!!!

JCK said...

Amy, this post was absolutely beautiful. What a lovely tribute to your grandfather, and a very special capture of your memories. I loved how you incorporated the Romeo & Juliet quotes. Very creative, you are, my friend!

Amy said...

rubbish - I am extremely lucky! I grew up with all of my grandparents and a couple of great-grandparents, like my Romeo, who was my mother's grandfather. It was a blessing.

Nap Warden said...

Wonderful post Amy:)

LD said...

beautiful

Terrie said...

Amy, this is exactly how I remember Grandpap. He was absolutely bigger than life --- a life that brought Italy to us right here in PA. We are so blessed to have the huge family Gam and Grandpap gave to us. You're an excellent writer, cousin: I cried through every word with each breathing memory. Love ya, Terrie

Anonymous said...

Amy, thanks for writing something so lovely about our great-grandfather. Terrie forwarded this to me some time ago, but I couldn't bring myself to read it. I thought it'd make me too sad. It was truly lovely and it's exactly how I remember him. I feel even more fortunate to have grown up and to live at the farm; it feels like he's still around.-Holly

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