Monday, November 11, 2019

My Favorite Veteran: The Man I Call Pap

Happy Veterans Day to all of the veterans who have served our country. My favorite veteran, if one had to choose such a thing, would be my late paternal grandfather, Joseph Veneziano. He was born in a small village that is now a ghost town, as in it no longer exists. He didn't have a middle name. He was simply "Joe” to many folks and Pap to the lucky ones. 

When my grandfather died I remember my father saying that he had forgotten to thank him for his service in the military, he had believed he never did. They talked a lot, about many things and a lot about his time in the service. He may have even thanked him and just didn't realize it, but regardless, Dad was disappointed he never thanked him proper for that. I'm sure it was understood, but you often like to express things directly when given the chance but sadly often you miss that chance. I stopped at my grandparents’ grave this morning to pay my respects and I'm sending out a thank you to Pap on this Veterans Day as well as to my aunt, uncles, cousins and friends who have all served. Thank you. 

We lost Pap in October of 2012 and it's still weird not having him around. It took me awhile to get used to not seeing him going down the road from time to time as he was prone to do, still doing errands and what not near up to the end of his days. Still getting used to not visiting the house too. He lived 93 years. Had black lung. Had already had 3 heart attacks in his life before the one that took him, I believe. He was an amazing man, he really didn't stop. I think that was actually his secret. He was working on projects up until the end. Mending wheel barrels, fixing lawn mowers, whatever he found to tinker on in his garage. 

His garage is a wonderful thing. It’s all patchworked together with scrap pieces of wood that he had in some places, but it's not ridiculous at all, it's quite the spacious and enduring structure. He lived through the depression so he didn't throw stuff away. He saved all kinds of things and would use them in anything he was making or fixing. He wasn't what you would necessarily call a hoarder, though. He used the things and kept things fairly in order. Somewhat. There was just so much stuff. When you’ve gone without, though, you can find value in almost anything.

Pap was somewhat of a quiet man. He loved to talk about current politics, though, or tell old stories of his younger days if you asked. He watched The Young and the Restless for as long as I can remember. If you got him talking he’d tell you all kinds of stories from the places he’d been during his life. He had a quiet disposition about him though, going about his day. I spent a bit of time with him when I was a kid while he was working on the house him and my gram moved into for the last part of their lives. He used to keep a 3 gallon soda bottle filled with water on the steps and I remember drinking from it, how you could still taste the lingering flavor of generic soda. It seemed like he worked on that house all of my childhood. He did an admirable job of remodeling that place, I can remember it slightly from when they started, and there are pictures of it sitting back behind my parents' house long before that. It was an old house that a distant family member of my grandmother's had lived in at one point long ago. They raised all of their children only a mile away in another house but moved into the new house a bit after their last daughter left the nest. That's where they spent their golden years together. Lucky me, it was right in my back yard. I often curse myself for not visiting them more when I had the chance, but what did I know, I was a foolish kid. I still visited and saw them a bit, but you always wish you had done more after people are gone even when you did enough.

Pap was an important influence in my life, one of my biggest male role models, which are also important for little girls. Pap was retired by the time I came around so he mostly was just working on the house all of the time. Even after he was done working he wasn't done working. He never worked for as long as I could remember but he always seemed to be working on something, if you know what I mean. 

Back when he was sick in February of 2012 he stayed in the hospital briefly and I was at home with Celie, couldn't make it out and my parents had gone to see him or something, I believe. I had wanted to go but had Celie and it would have been hard, so instead I decided to put my attention and focus onto my grandfather and I sat down and penned a tune. It's playable, it's a neonate if you know my filing system; I'm still swaddling it, but suffice it to say it's a song. There are a few embellishments for the form but it’s about 99% biographical. Even though he never heard it or knew it existed it makes me happy that I wrote it while he was still alive; it was originally written in more present tense. When Pap died later that year, during the viewing and funeral this song was playing on a loop in my head. I could hear myself singing it, and that's all I could hear as I witnessed my father solemnly watching as his own father was lowered into the ground. Laid to rest after 93 years of a busy and fruitful life. Thank you for your service, Pap. 

Born in a town that no longer exists,
A man came forth somewhere in the midst,
Heart so strong, it must’ve been steel. 
A poor man so rich it doesn’t seem real.

Listen up here: you wanna know where it’s at?
I’ll tell you a story ‘bout the man I call “Pap”.

Pap caught fish, sold ‘em to the man. 
Just a boy when daddy said to do what you can. 
“Son, poor ain’t nothing but a frame of mind.” 
Gonna make himself a fortune all in due time.

Black lungs and a triple tempered heart,
Pap served his life by playing his part.
Strength showin’ through in every slow step,
Gifting us with each one of his breaths. 

Pap traveled the world, explored foreign lands,
Gaining skills, learning the art of his hands.
Work in the West and war in the East,
Building things up to get bombed by the Beast.

Pap met a girl, her daddy sold ‘em feed.
Letters during the war were just what he’d need. 
From friendship grew love, and they settled down. 
He farmed, raised a family, and mined this ol’ town.

Pap worked the mines most his livin’ years,
Forging a life with his blood, sweat, and tears.
The dust got his lungs but couldn’t get his heart. 
Aged with love, a faithful man plays his part.

Pap worked the farm, sowing all the rows,
Every season, every harvest, you know how it goes.
Tended to his garden, clearing the weeds.
Some earth and the will are all a man needs. 

Pap prayed to God, sat in the first pew,
Every Sunday, all the while his family grew.
Crafted 9 lives, and he raised ‘em up right.
He taught ‘em how to stand and fight the right fight.

Pap raised a family, he provided so well,
How he really did it ain’t so hard to tell.
Faith, hope, and love; a good bit of the word. 
A loving wife and a family, a fortune from the Lord. 

We’re all in your face, in your eyes, in your lips,
We’re in your heart and your hands, your fingertips.
Gratefully letting your legacy grow. 
Strength is found reaping what we sow. 

(February 26, 2012)

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