Tougher Than The Rest

The strong, silent type. Masculine, with a no bullshit attitude at all times, the kind that’s missing in these days. In arenas where men are constantly encouraged to get in touch with their feminine side, there used to be those that would have no part of that conversation.

A guy like John Wayne comes to mind, but I’d rather stick with the men in my family for purposes here.

My grandfather, Sebastian, (picture above) was one of those men. I think of him often, especially now near his birth month of October, and wonder what he would think of the myriad of ways that current events and attitudes unfold now.

I’m going to say he wouldn’t be pleased. He’d do what he used to, derisively uttering “God Bless America” in his sarcastic tone. And then I’d have to laugh.

Like most others of his generation, my grandfather felt he was entitled to nothing more than the opportunity to work multiple jobs to support his family. Factory worker by day, he became a bartender/restaurant worker by night. His customers did a lot of drinking, but he never did.

He simply had too much to do.

The Generation of “Non Complainers”

Sebastian did what he needed, without complaint. If he ever did complain, I never heard it. He was a grinder, working on tasks straight through until they were finished, no matter how long it took.

In partnership with my grandmother, Sebastian was a success as a business owner. When you run a restaurant, it’s like your mistress, and you spend most of your waking hours there. My grandfather had an incredible work ethic, one that he tried to pass down to all of us.

As an immigrant from southern Italy, my “Pops” sure as hell had his obstacles, and also more than his share of sadness. He had a brother, a soldier, killed in World War II, and his son, my uncle, died tragically as a teenager.

To have survived events like that are incredible feats.  I’m amazed by the man even now, years after his death. I rarely saw him display sadness, remorse, or regret. He was one tough cookie. Tougher than the rest.

I owe my grandparents quite a bit. They’ve taught me to focus on what’s important, keep it simple, and have a sense of gratitude for it all. I miss having them here. It seems the longer they have been gone, the more complicated things are. They had a way to set that straight. The path was clearer with them acting as mentors.

Forward, Always Forward

One aspect of following my grandfather around was his constant movement. Always going forward, working, making progress. He could be relentless. I recall mouthing off to my grandmother once when I was a kid. His belt came off his pants at lightning speed, and he chased me outside the house, right on my heels. I couldn’t believe such an older man could be so quick.

My grandfather reminds me of Rocky Marciano. For you youngsters out there, Marciano was a heavyweight boxing champ in the 1950s who retired undefeated. I had relatives that talked about him when I was a kid, and I became fascinated by him later. He was also a success symbol for Depression era Italian Americans, many who were immigrants. Marciano inspired hope to those who were downtrodden, and convinced America’s “streets of gold” were a fallacy.

Marciano never lost a fight because he never stopped moving forward. Even when he was hurt, rarely taking a backward step. Never stopped punching. Kept coming at you. Never relented.

Sebastiano DeGiorgio, throughout his life, was a lot like him. Short and compact, but quick. Relentless and persevering.  And tough. Tougher than the rest.

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6 thoughts on “Tougher Than The Rest

  1. Hey Brother, Great story, of course it made me cry thinking about Pop and Gram. I wish we could go back to those old days. I now realize how special time was spending it with them. I do cherish all those memories I have of both of them. I always wish to have dreams of them because it bring you back it time,like it was yesterday and they were both still here with us. Thanks for the story!!
    Your little sister!!

    1. Yup, we had it good, didn’t we? I mean, we always knew back then we had it good but now that they’re gone and we have to remember… having them here was fantastic and fun just about all of the time! The old days won’t come back, but we can always try to relive them with our own kids in our own way!

  2. Hi Joe,

    “He was a grinder,”
    – Man I love that term.

    It really does sound like he was a tough man with an amazing constitution. Probably didn’t want to infect others with sadness, or maybe he simply didn’t want to display what he thought was weakness. Reminds me a lot of my father and to this day I honestly don’t know if we was insanely content or miserable, because he never displayed sadness, remorse, or regret like your “Pops.”

    Funny story about the belt. Did he ever catch you?

    Nice tribute. You’re building up quite a library on your family.

    Here’s to “moving forward!”

    1. Hey Craig,
      Thanks for the great comment. I have to say no, he didn’t catch me. But he got really close. My grandparents had a really large dining room table that I managed to run around to evade him and get out the back screen door. He had his belt off in a split second, and like I said, managed to stay right on my heels despite the furniture obstacles. He was quick for an older guy, and wasn’t taking shit from anybody, especially his snot-nosed grandson. What a great memory!

  3. Hi Joe,

    Your grandfather reminds me of mine. They were tough guys too, came with that generation. However once they hit their nineties they shared some things with me that made it clear they weren’t entirely different from us, just quieter about it.

    But I do miss them for many of the same reasons you listed. They cut to the chase. If I said that ‘A,B,C’ was happening they’d look at me and say go deal with ‘A’ and I’d usually be able to say that was the best way to take care of things.

    Sometimes in the quiet moments I hear the echoes they left behind.

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