24 years ago, I was fortunate enough to travel to Italy with my grandfather and aunt. Although I didn't know it at the time, this trip was my grandfather's way of showing his granddaughter her family history. My grandfather had a deep love and devotion for his country and sacrificed everything he loved and valued to give his children a better life here in America. His plan was to take each of his grandchildren at 16 on a trip to Italy where he would be able to show us not only our history and roots, but also another side of his personality. I will never forget that the minute we stepped foot on Italian soil, my grandfather was instantly transformed into another being. He was full of life and vitality; he was larger than life.
During this trip, we visited and stayed with family and I was fully immersed in true Italian culture. I was only 16 at the time and, therefore, I wasn't able to fully appreciate and recognize the value of this trip and what a valuable experience it was. I was able to see the apartment where my father was born, walk the streets where my grandfather felt most at home, and finally meet my extended family and cousins. I knew enough to photograph every second of the trip and although it was difficult to communicate with my cousins, I still had so much fun wth them. When we left Lake Como to travel to Southern Italy, I cried my eyes out; part of this was typical adolescent angst, but I think a bigger part of me knew that it was unlikely that I would see this part of my family again.
Today, I was able to spend the day with one of my cousins, who is here in NY for a few short days. Thanks to Facebook, I have been able to remain in touch with her over the years and follow what is going on in her life. Although there are many miles between us and a language barrier, I still feel a connection to my cousin; I guess that is the unique bond that exists within families. We laughed as we looked though the old photos from that trip and she met my parents, husband, and children. It was such an amazing experience and now I am mature enough to be able to recognize how truly precious today was. My grandfather passed 20 years ago, and looking at those old photos today made me sad, but at the same time, his spirit was very much alive and well today; it might have taken me 24 years, but I finally understand the lesson Grandpa. I hope you were sipping on some Grappa and smiling down on us today.