4th of July
Growing up, the 4th of July holiday was nearly as big as Christmas. Both my grandparents’ birthdays flanked the day; Grandpa was born July 2, 1929, and Grandma was born July 6, 1926. So, for the better part of my life, the 4th was always a huge family pool party, hosted by my grandparents. The day started early and lasted into the night, filled with BBQ, fruit salad, soda pop, potato chips, paradise pudding, Frank Sinatra music, dancing, games of pool & table tennis, and swimming until we were prunes! After 64 years of marriage, my grandmother passed away in 2018. She was 92 years old. My grandfather followed just four months later, months before his 90th birthday. Their joy, zest for life, and commitment was the heartbeat of our family. This marks the second 4th holiday without them, and I’m missing them quite a lot today.
I had very special but different relationships with each of my grandparents. I could write pages about my grandmother - wonderful ones! Just thinking about her brings me to tears, I miss her so. But I’ll save that for another time. This post is to remember my grandpa.
My grandfather had a magnetic personality. He was that enigmatic mix of introvert and extrovert: comfortable in solitude and the life of any party. He was an avid gardener and was composting before it became a trend. To us grandkids, he was the sun, moon and stars. To get a smile or a laugh out of him was to have won at life!
To my great shock, when I was 12 years old, I learned he was not my biological grandfather. He’d adopted my dad at five years old and loved him as his own, which is why, I guess, it was never a priority to my family to announce that he and I were not blood related. Over the years, it was something I’d forget most of the time, and then remember with a deep sadness. I wanted to be related to him by blood. I hated that I couldn’t trace my DNA back to him. I was raised with his surname, and even kept it after marriage. He was Italian, so I was Italian too. I studied the language and visited the country more than once because my connection to it is so deep, because of him.
The circumstances surrounding his death made it so I was the only one with him up until moments before he died, and those moments are sacred and seared in my heart forever. I miss him more than words can say. Oddly, it didn’t occur to me until I sat down to write this entry, how my relationship with my grandfather is totally connected to my desire to adopt! My experience with him wired me to understand, on a cellular level, that family is not formed through sharing genes alone; it’s a far deeper bond, built on connection, love, sacrifice, time invested and shared experiences.
Currently, it’s a little after 10:30pm. Daniel, Mabel and I are sitting on the sofa listening to the fireworks blasting and booming outside. Mabel hates fireworks. The poor thing is snuggled between us, just trembling with fright. We keep petting her and telling her it’s going to be alright. I just read Daniel my entry and we shared a sweet laugh about how we somehow missed this very obvious connection between my grandfather adopting my dad and our own adoption story. Daniel said, “What a sweet thing to realize; and what a perfect day to realize it.” I couldn’t agree more.