This past Friday was my birthday, and it was the first one I’ve experienced with one of my grandparents deceased. I am sure that most people wish they could say that at 38 years old, but regardless, it doesn’t necessarily make the loss any easier.
We lost my grandfather Serafino “Sal” Piraneo last month, just a month or so after his 90th birthday celebration. He succumbed to a short battle with cancer.
His parents were born in a wonderful little town called Sortino in the Province of Syracuse, Sicily, which he never got to visit, since they immigrated to the United States before he was born. I was fortunate enough to visit Sortino last month, and I know Grandpa would have loved it there. I did and can’t wait to go back.
Grandpa passed while I was in the middle of an extended trip to Italy with my wife and three kids connecting with our relatives there for the first time. We weren’t able to make it back for Grandpa’s funeral, but we did get to spend some good time with him before we left.
There was one decision that I made about a year ago that made dealing with the loss of grandpa a little easier. The idea for starting The Italian American Podcast came to me because I knew that my grandparents were getting older, and I hadn’t learned a lot about their childhoods, especially their parents and grandparents.
I’ve always made it a point to try to visit and spend time with my grandparents, but this past year, after the idea of the podcast came to me, I consciously decided to put much more effort into spending time with them. Grandpa Sal’s wife, my Grandma Jo (Giuseppina), has always been very talkative about her childhood. She is the one out of my four grandparents who I remember speaking Italian when I was younger.
This past year, I visited my grandparents a few times per month. We had lunch together, and I brought my notebook and my recorder. I asked them all sorts of questions about their childhoods, and their lives together from when they first met. I then took that information to their parent’s ancestral villages in Italy and found so much more.
My grandfather, who was a relatively quiet man, was very talkative during my lunch visits, and I learned so much about him, just in time….
I learned that his mother, Rosina Blancato, was a seamstress who made several trips to the United States with her mother Margherita before immigrating permanently. Her parents stayed in Sicily.
I learned that his father, Carlo Piraneo, was one of the kindest people you could meet, and everyone loved him.
I learned that peaches and red wine are a match made in heaven (he always put peaches in his wine and now we do).
I learned that my grandfather lost a sister to cancer when she was 35, and he never got over it. He kept a picture of her in his wallet until the day he died.
I learned that not only was he a hard-working plumber his whole life, but he also went to extremes to support his family, like going into the city the nights before snowstorms to make sure he didn’t miss work the next day.
I learned that him singing all the time meant that he was joyful and content, because while his life was hard at times, overall it was simple and enjoyable, which made him happy.
Lastly, I learned that as busy as we all are in today’s world, you may never get the chance to spend time with and learn about your family once your relatives pass away, so take the time to do it today. I did. And it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Thanks for the memories Grandpa, be sure to hug Great-Grandpa Carl, Great-Grandma Rose, and your sister, Anne……I know you missed them, just like we miss you.
The Italian American Podcast
Linda Piraneo Storey says
What a wonderful tribute! I remember my Uncle Sal with warm love. He was such a kind man, and one who was a part of my life from my birth, 62 years ago. So happy my Aunt Josie is still around to enjoy her family, although I know she must miss her dear late husband greatly. They had a wonderful marriage! Love to you, dear second cousin; your devotion for our Sicilian heritage does not go unnoticed by me, although I now live on the other side of the pond. You are special 🙂
Anthony Fasano says
Thank Linda, I appreciate your kind words….your closer to Sicily now, easier to get there 😉
Roseanne Piraneo Hill says
Anthony Fasano says