He died when I was five, and to this day I’m not sure if I really remember my great-grandfather or if the stories I’ve heard are so powerful that they’ve created the illusion of memory. Sometimes it’s as if I was a ghost-child in my grandparents house in the months before I was born, because I seem to have vivid recollections of events I never could have witnessed.
And then there’s the dog. My grandparents had a dog named Misty, and I’m almost certain she died before I was born, but I remember her dog breath and her wagging tail, and somehow I think it’s those memories that set me on the path to being a Dog Person, and not a Cat Person, despite the fact that I’m a LEO (and I have the mane to prove it).
But when it comes to him, I remember him as impossibly old (though he was probably only in his eighties), impossibly tiny, with a small voice. He smelled like coffee and tobacco, and sadly, it wasn’t the sweet scent of pipe tobacco, or the heady aroma of la gloria cubana cigars, but the stale, old smell of cigarettes – and American cigarettes at that. Note to all half-remembered old men: if you want your descendants to have fond memories of you, and you can’t deal with a good pipe, at least choose a clove cigarette, or, failing that, smoke Gauloises. They still reek, but at least they have a literary cachet. Orwell and Fleming smoked them, and I think Fleming gave his own habit to that character he created…you might have heard of him…Bond, James Bond.
But anyway, I have this picture, scanned by my auntie, digitized and data-sampled and all that, and I love it, not because I have any close association with my great-grandfather (though, I see now that there’s a definite THERE there in his eyes…) but because it seems so iconic…the ultimate little old Italian-American man picture.
And it tells a story, but I haven’t yet figured out what the story is.
But I think it begins with, “We called him ‘Little Grandpop’ when we talked about him.”