Connection. Bond. Link. Not sure how to describe what my Grandfather and my brother had but they had it. Worlds apart in every aspect yet, linked so tightly nothing could come between them. My Grandfather was an Italian immigrant coming through Ellis Island at the age of 13. He had no money, no trade and only the address of a family he was to live with. This family were friends of his parents and Pop was told their daughter, Annie, was to be his wife, an arrangement forged when they were toddlers. Pop lived with my Grandmother’s family, apprenticed as a tailor and married when she was 17 and he was 19.
Pop’s heart was golden, his manner mild and the connection with his first grandson, my older brother Steve, was unexplainable. For hours they would sit and talk about baseball, politics, and food. How they understood each other, no one knew. You see, Pop’s English was poor and Steve’s Italian was nonexistent. A favorite subject and common interest was fishing. When Steve was 15 he persuaded Pop to leave his Singer sewing machine and join him at FDR Park in South Philly for a day of fishing. Pop jumped at the chance and they make plans.
As with most fishing, some days the fish bite and some days they don’t. Steve, always prepared, after all he was a Boy Scout and later a Marine, packed a fish in a cooler just in case the lake fish weren’t cooperating. His goal was to have Pop catch a fish. They got to the park, set up their chairs, baited their hooks, said a prayer that something other than the bugs would bite, and settled in for a day together. It was sunny, warm and perfect. A nibble here and a nibble there got their blood pumping but never resulted in a catch. As the day came to a close and before heading home, Pop excuse himself to use the restroom. Steve jumped on the opportunity to put the fish on Pop’s hook. He hooked it and then threw it back into the lake. When Pop returned, Steve said, “Pop, I think I saw your line bob up and down.” Pop reeled in his line and, low and behold, there was the catch of the day, a 2 lb. large-mouth bass. Steve took the fish off the hook, put it in the cooler and they headed back bringing the ‘catch of the day’ home for my Grandmother to cook for dinner.
Proudly they brought the fish into the kitchen where my Grandmother was getting ready to make dinner. She opened the cooler, took out the fish and exclaimed “What’s this? It’s frozen!” Neither Pop or Steve said a word. They just turned, arms around each other’s shoulders and smiles on their faces.
Different worlds, different generations, Grandfather and Grandson – a bond forged in respect. A connection made of steel. A love forever linked.