Sometimes, there is a certain myth-like quality surrounding some of the well-known stories in my family.
Take my great grandfather Antonio for example – he was my grandmother Margharite’s father. Tonino they called him or “Little Tony.” And what he lacked in height he made up for in longevity – or so they say.
My grandmother used to love telling us this story. And if she told us once, she told us a thousand times. Each time she’d start with the same beginning. As she poured herself a glass of red wine we knew what was coming.
It was hard for us not to roll our eyes, or elbow each other in the ribs. We knew the story so well; we’d often finish her sentences for her.
She’d say…”You know, your great grandfather lived to be…
“One hundred and six!” Tony would interject.
She would stare daggers at him for stealing her thunder. I gave Tony a dirty look.
And then she’d continue to extol his virtues about how smart he was, and how good he was at fixing things, and his skill at morra.
“And you know what he would drink every day since he was a little boy?”
Carmen was about to open his mouth when I shook my head and mouthed the word “don’t”.
Because to steal her thunder a second time would have meant a schiafe to the head.
“Red wine,” she said with an air of satisfaction.
And from here she moved on to the climax of her story – which we all knew was coming.
But it gave her so much pleasure to come to the incredible conclusion of her story – we didn’t dare interrupt her.
“And do you know how he died?” She asked.
Of course we all knew how he died but that wasn’t the point. The point was to be a good listener and ask.
“No, Nonna,” I’d said as I made a face behind her back at Tony and Carmen.
“How did he die?” I asked.
“He fell of off a roof he was fixing!” she concluded with pride.