My grandfather, Charles Giambra. He was full blooded Italian, a big burly man with huge arms. I spent many nights sleeping over at my grandparents house and would hear him get up at 4:30 a.m. getting his tin lunch and thermos packed and shaving in the bathroom upstairs next to the bedrooms my aunt and I used to sleep in before heading off to work. He always came home smelling like dirt and oil. He had many jobs working the concrete business. He helped in building the bridges that span our Island and would tell me long stories about the heights he dangled from, the men who traveled in and out of town to work odd jobs, and the hard work they did. Most of the men did not know how to swim and their pride would not let them wear life jackets.
My grandmother always made supper so when he would get home it would be ready. Being Italian of course there was the Thursday gravy night with the sauce, braciola, and homemade pasta. After you finished that you would have your salad. Salad was always served after the meal before coffee and dessert. My grandfather loved his food and would slurp the sauce while he ate. I still hear that noise in my head sometimes while making our sauce. He taught me many things about food and not wasting it. One of his favorite things to do was eat the bone marrow out of the bones. He explained how nutritious it was and how it kept a man and child growing and strong.
Grandpa was bald by the time I knew him and my aunt would always take me to bingo when I stayed over. Grandpa would tell me to rub his bald head for luck and by gosh I would usually win. I remember the first time it happened and I was upset they would not give me the money I won because I did not understand you had to be over 18 years of age to collect winnings. Grandma’s brothers worked at the bingo hall and always doted on me. I had 3 siblings, but I was by far the one who spent the most time with my grandparents and aunt who could never have children. I loved going there and spent most of my summers with them when not in school because I was the only child and did not have to share with my sister or brothers.
Grandpa’s birthday is May 21st and while he’s been gone for quite some time, I still smell the dirt and oil smell when I see a concrete truck drive by. I have his old fireman’s hat in my attic to hand down to my children some day. When making my gravy I remember his words about not too much garlic but enough to flavor it. When my son slurps his sauce, I am reminded of the great times of my childhood spent in their home.
How good those days were!!