Teresa DeLaurentis's Memories of her Grandfather
Here I am sitting in my office in Beijing, thinking of you all waking up to a new day in New Jersey.
The desire to be with you came on strong yesterday at Church at the Southern Cathedral in Beijing, when I found myself sitting next to an acquaintance named Dominic and joined later by a friend named Steve. I hope that a choir member or altar girl or boy named Teresa or Jeremy or Regina participates in Grandpop's service. (Joking.) More than anything, I pray that moments of relishing crazy coincidences and unexpected graces come more frequently than not during these days.
The following thoughts reflect some sketches of my memories of Grandpop. However, as wonderful as words can be, they will always reduce amazingly complicated people, experiences, and emotions into a simplistic set of marks on a page. With this in mind, please read my thoughts set down here.
Love you all.
For Grandpop Dom and the DeLaurentis Family: Memory Sketches
During our summers spent down in Longport, I'd sometimes wake up, climb out of my bunk bed, and get the news from Dad that a special visitor would be at the beach that day. Grandpop Dom would usually get there early, and we could always pick out his spot as we walked past the the Ocean Plaza pool and down the wooden stairway. A bright rainbow-colored umbrella flagged the piece of beach we would call our own. Grandpop sat on his blanket with a cooler filled with goodies to share with all of us. The most signature treats were peanut butter and grape jelly and cherries. (In our DeLaurentis house in my childhood, cherries were never a popular fruit. However, as I grew older and made shopping runs for the family, I'd often buy cherries in the summertime and take them to my high school and college lifeguarding posts. I suspect that Grandpop's habit cultivated my strong affinity for cherries.)
Grandpop would have his blanket all set out and be ready to enjoy the hot weather in his white undershirt, his bathing suit, and his sneakers laying in the sand. At times, he'd take off his shirt and go for a swim. Whenever he did, I became fascinated by the wound on his shoulder. How could my own Grandpop have such a mark?
Sitting on our backyard patio at Tarlton Court, he once told us the story of how he got wounded. I could imagine that small Belgian town and my Grandpop as a young man running with his gun through the forests when he got clipped by friendly fire.
As the years went on, Grandpop shared more of his life story with us. He told us how he would take his brothers to Church, spending just a few cents to take the bus to learn about the (Baptist?) faith in Italian. He then told us about the day he heard a reading in a Catholic Church (maybe even at St. Peter Celestine) which talked about Jewish people as being "chosen by God," and explained that at that moment, he started to have doubts about a God that would ever operate in such a preferential manner. He told us about attending college classes after the war and about his job in RCA in Camden. When our branch of the DeLaurentis family went visiting an antique market in China, we marveled at an RCA record player, and wondered if Grandpop made it some years ago before it found its way to Beijing.
We got to know Grandpop's everyday habits, thoughts, and interests- his favorite vegetables to cook (broccoli rabe stands out in my mind,) his walks to the library and around the Cooper River, and his interest in his stocks listed in the Investor's Business Daily. He let us know about his aches and pains on countless phone messages, to see what his son, a doctor he was so proud of, would advise him to do. He also consulted Lisa when she became a nutritionist to see what kind of foods preserved male potency.
We often got some advice and feedback from Grandpop ourselves. Even when Grandpop forgot our names, he still remembered if we looked thinner or thicker since the last time he saw us. In our "Grandpa" letters, he often expressed sincere and encouraging messages, amazed at our scholarly, travel, or work achievements and adventures, signing them, "Love, Dirty Old Man." (In one letter before I left to go to Beijing, he told me that the American and Chinese economies have suffered big crises and problems of late. With my ability to speak Chinese, and my experience in Beijing for one year, he suggested that I'd be just the person to fix those problems. In other letters he would share personal experiences of all kinds.) Also inside the "Grandpa letters," he'd write generous checks to us and make great efforts to honor us. Sometimes we'd share the letters, or parts of them, with our cousins (and sometimes our dormmates) and laugh, shake our heads, and accept Grandpop, his communication habits, and life outlook with appreciation and patience.
I pray today that Grandpop looks down on all of us (wherever we are, and in whatever state) with pride- the same pride that sometimes moved him to tears at family gatherings. I hope we hear his voice whispering to us to share our experiences and stories with confidence, and to have big ambitions. I also pray that we stand united as a family as we face challenges, shortcomings, and weaknesses, react with good and bad habits, harbor hopes, and remember life histories with forgiveness, tears, and laughter flowing freely.
God Bless Us on this day and always.
Granddaughter of Dominick DeLaurentis
Daughter of Joseph and Claudette DeLaurentis
November 9, 2008