Sometimes I debate whether or not to share certain things that happen in my life with all of you. This blog is about laughter and giving you something you can relate to or make fun of. But life can be sad and that’s something most of us can relate to. Whether it’s something that’s happening to you, or whether it’s happening to people you care about.
I waitressed at a pizzeria off and on for about 10 years. I worked there during the time before I was married, when I went to culinary school, and I worked there when I decided I’d had enough of one pastry job or another. Between having kids I returned, the extra money helpful to my growing family. The work was stress-free and the laughter plentiful.
Recently, the man who owned the restaurant passed away suddenly. Although I hadn’t been in to say hello in a long time, I never forgot about him or about any of the people I’d worked with for those years. Often, his humor and kind words find their way into my mind and a smile will spread across my face while folding laundry or pushing my kids on the swings at the playground. He was generous, intelligent, and warm. His personality could fill a room but he never tried to overshadow others. He would sing italian songs (often this one) as he made pizza and if he noticed me watching him he’d suddenly look bashful. His natural charm and humility was endearing.
Immigrating to this country from Italy as a young man, he worked tirelessly to build a life for his family. At the age of 75, he still worked harder than most anyone I’ve ever known – even if he was ill. Staying home to rest would never enter his mind. That may sound like a nice life span, 75 years, but not for this man. He had a spirited, contagious presence and his loss is felt by many. He had much more life to live.
When I think of the time that has passed since I was there, connected on a daily basis, it seems too long ago for me to be affected. But somehow they’ve all been paused in my mind as if I was there just a day or a week ago. He and his family made me feel welcome. They’d eat together before dinner service began at the restaurant and would always invite me to sit down with them. I began to understand some of the dialect they spoke. Mixed with english, it wasn’t hard for me to catch on to their conversations. They were always laughing or making fun of each other.
Being amongst his loved ones at the church, during his funeral service, showed clearly that one person can bring together so many. The choices he made in his life affected all of us – not just his wife, who stood stoically throughout the service, nor his three daughters who wept inconsolably. His grandchildren held hands with their mothers, their heads down-turned and eyes filled with tears. Being there felt like a privilege, witnessing one of the most intimate experiences a family can have as a whole. It’s unlikely that I would have met and formed the same relationships with these people had he not decided to open the restaurant. It seems that any person you meet in life has the potential to change your life, even if you don’t realize it until much later on.
Rest peacefully, Mauro. I’m a better person for having known you. You will always be a reminder to me of what it means to be a fine person. You were that and much more.