Growing up I spent a lot of time with my mother’s father, I called him pop-pop. He was almost 76 years old when I was born, yet my childhood memories are not of an old man. He saw a doctor for the first time in his life at age 86, an eye doctor, who told him he had to quit working.
My pop-pop was a landscaper for some of the biggest estates in Chestnut Hill, a really nice area of Philadelphia. The Cliveden estate was my favorite because I could visit there often and the maid would bring me iced tea with a mint leaf which felt ever so grown up to 8-9 year old me!
I was secretly glad when he stopped working. That’s when the fun kicked in to high gear. I loved adventures and we had them!
We would take the 23 trolley then a bus to the Italian market (pop-pop was born in Calabria) where the sounds and the smells were amazing, beat only by the flavors!! Everyone handed out samples, and I gobbled them up! Cheese, salami, prosciutto, delicious tidbits.
Finally weighed down with our packages we’d hop back on the bus, then the 23 trolley back home. There, he’d make a yummy dinner for us, then we’d sit in the front room and watch Lawrence Welk. Pop-pop got hooked on the show after he had Elvis Presley on. He liked the Beatles too!
Some days we spent in the garden, where he taught me all his rules for planting. It was a very small patch of ground, less than 100 sq ft but it was very productive. I’d pull tomatoes off the vine and eat them like apples they were so sweet. He planted and harvested by the moons and I wish I’d written it all down!
He also had a fig tree I was very sorry to see go. My first solid food was figs. Mom caught pop-pop feeding it to me off his fingertips when I was 6 weeks old. She was so mad, but he didn’t care.
It was hard when he finally had to give up his house and come live with us. After a couple years he went into a nursing home.
He lived a simple but honest life, and passed in his sleep at the age of 100. It’s been 25 years but I still think of him often.