One year ago today, the world lost a great man.
He wasn't famous, most people would not know him from any other man on the street. But those who knew him, loved him. Especially me.
His name was Salvatore Pugliese, and I am fiercely proud to call him my Nonno.
Throughout his 90 years, he lived through many tough times, including having been a prisoner of war in Germany, during World War Two. After returning home from the war, he made the trip, alone, to Canada, and began to build a life for his wife and two small daughters (one of whom was my mother), who joined him later. He created a modest lifestyle for the family, which would later grow to include another daughter, and twin boys.
As the family grew, marriages and births soon followed. By the time I came along - the youngest of my parents children - my Nonno had retired. I had two working parents, and, as is common in many Italian families - there is no such thing as daycare or babysitter's... there is Nonna's house.
I didn't have any cousins my age, my brother and sister were both in school full time, and my aunts and uncles were all at work, so my days consisted of myself, Nonno and Nonna (and maybe a bit of Sesame Street!). Because of this, I was able to form a strong bond with my grandparents, especially my Nonno.
My childhood was an incredibly happy one. I wish all children could have a childhood as happy as mine. My Nonno would take me to McDonald's for lunch as a treat... he made me a crib for my Cabbage Patch, and a stable for my My Little Ponies, out of wood and his own two hands... he taught me how to count, and would say silly rhymes in Italian to make me smile... he would bounce me on his knees and push me on the swings...
As I grew older and I didn't spend as much time with him, because I was in school, he was still influential in my life. Occasionally, my grandparents would be at my house when I came home from school, and you could smell my Nonna's cookies baking from up the road. My friends all knew my grandparents, and many thought of them as an extension of their own families.
As I grew even older, graduating high school, then going to university.... and then graduating university and joining the work force... I appreciated my grandparents more and more, and it started to dawn on me that they were both growing older, and that I wouldn't have them around forever. I started taking a lot more photos of Nonno after realizing this.
Families grew again, and Nonno became "Big Nonno" to two gorgeous girlies. He was incredibly proud to be a great grandfather and to show off the new little additions to the family.
He celebrated his 90th birthday on September 16, 2006. We threw him a surprise party at my cousins' pizzeria, and he was in top form. He was completely high class in his suit, fedora and cane. He loved that his entire family came out to see him, and absolutely LOVED the scrapbook that I made from him (with help from my sister in law!) of all his grandchildren.
The next year was a rough one. He started to get sick in January, and spent quite a while in and out of hospital. The weekend he passed away was Easter weekend, and I remember it all too well. I'm actually not going to write about it, though, because I want to take this time to celebrate his life. So, here is a slideshow of photos of my Nonno, over a course of time...
I hope you enjoy it :)
September 15, 1916 - April 7, 2007
Love you forever, Nonno.