When I was 14 years old my mother and I took a trip out to see my widowed grandfather who lived in Madison New Jersey. My grandfather, or "pops" as my siblings and I always called him, is an Italian man whose own grandfather came to America from Italy, and sold oranges as a street vendor. This story of his grandfather is one of the many that I have been subjected with over my years as a granddaughter, and therefore a story receptacle. This concept was born that weekend when I realized that my grandfather was truly a character and deserved his own story to be written.
Pops was a man who believed in many things. He believed in art, woodworking, writing, photography, Frank Sinatra, bad polka music, and many other loves that he has passed down onto me through osmosis and genetics. He has always been more of an influence on my life than my friends' grandparents, especially in my teenage years. That may have partly been due to the fact that he was younger than most grandparents, only in his late 50s when I was born. But he was very valuable resource to me, especially after his wife's death in 2010. He offered many tidbits of advice to me, humorous and serious. He was a wise man with lots of life experience, many stories, and a dynamic personality. I am proud to introduce Louis Nicholas Anastasio Jr.
I guess I have always been connected to my Pops. I was born on my grandma Linda's, his wife's, birthday, so they both came to the hospital to celebrate the birth of their first granddaughter. They were some of the first people to hold me on that October 6th morning.
When my mother and I arrived at the Newark airport on a frigid Wednesday evening, Pops was standing right there, at the end of the escalator. He was decked out in a half zip blue fleece, working man’s jeans and loafers. Given the fact that it was February, he was very underdressed for the weather, which was one of the first things my mother commented on. We hugged and then he spoke:
"We gotta get moving. Ed's waiting out in the car."
"What? Where's your car?" My mother looked surprised.
Ed, as I later learned, was his next door neighbor.
"When I was driving to pick you guys up, my car hit a pothole and then I started veering to the right and I have a flat. So I went next door and say 'Ed, you have to bring me to the airport.' It's important to maintain good relationships with your neighbors. And so ed drove me out here."
This is the way that the Pops talked, you could just catch the tidbits of wisdom nestled among the stories
"Ed? Really? I didn't know you were friends. Don't you have a real winter coat? It's February."
"The pops don't need a coat. Sam, do you want some of these little pamphlets about Broadway shows?"
"Yeah sure." He handed them to me one at a time.
"Ya got your Lion King, Wicked you like that one don't you? Here's a kinky boots, Matilda."
"Pops you just gave me two of the same one."
"Give it to your brother."
We walked out to the car where "Ed" was sitting waiting for us. We listened to him semi brag about his children all the way back to 22 Lewis Drive, Madison, New Jersey.