Everyday he sits on a bench staring out to sea; how long he has been doing this I’m not sure. His skin is deeply tanned so I am thinking he has sat many hours on this bench.
He is Italian. You know this upon first meeting him; he proudly wears a hat with Italy written across the front. I don’t recall ever seeing him without this hat. This winter he tells me “I am doing okay for an eighty-five year old.” So now I know his age.
Over the years, I have learned he was born and raised somewhere in the mountains of Italy, exactly where I am not sure. Be assured that wherever it was he truly and deeply loved it there.
His father and mother moved to New York City from Italy when he was 27 years old. I am not sure if he really wanted to leave Italy, but I do know that he had a wonderful life in New York City. From the way he talks about America, he loves this country as well as Italy.
His family members were cheese makers. From all accounts, as the stories are told, the very best cheese makers! I believe him.
His father felt that at the age of 27 he was not ready to venture out on his own. He had to learn the family business first and that he did by working for free until his father said he was good enough to be paid. Oh my can you imagine a father telling his son this today.
His father also felt that at 27 he was still too young to marry, so he waited. I think he had already picked a wife, an Italian, and when given the okay from his family, they were married and eventually had two children. I don’t know at what age he got married. As I write this story I realize there are so many questions I need to ask him.
They all lived in the same home, with one kitchen; he likes to laugh about that now – his parents, him and his family. Many squabbles took place mostly about what and how to prepare the evening meals. Two strong-headed Italian women wanting to cook “their” way – Geez! As he tells this story it is shared with love and not regret, I can tell by the way he laughs as he speaks.
His cheese making abilities led to another successful business, a deli and grocery, which was located on a corner next door to their home. “I did not have to drive to work” he tells me. “We made and sold the very best cheeses” he states proudly. I think they must have owned this deli and grocery for a very long time.
Exactly when he and his wife moved to south Florida from New York City, I don’t know. I do know that his wife loved both the warmth and the sea, because he tells us about her – a little. She passed away not that long ago and I get the impression it is still painful for him to talk about her. I do know that he loved her more than life. At times he seems sad and he has stated that he misses her very much. When he stares out to sea, as he sits on his bench, he is thinking of her – I just know this to be true.
My husband and I met him about three years ago, because we drive to the beach to walk our dogs and after our walk, we spent a little time cooling off while sitting on a bench staring out to sea. You see it is a very relaxing and comforting habit. It is also a wonderful way for a stranger to become a friend. From year to year he remembers our name, which amazes me. Of course what I love more is that he calls me “sweetheart” in his still heavy Italian accent.
I truly adore him! His name is Joe and we have become friends. He always has a smile to share, a story to tell and what I think I enjoy most – a lesson to be learned, if you truly listen, on how to prepare an Italian meal! He still cooks his own meals all from scratch and of course all prepared with the very best Italian ingredients and with the very best cheese! You won’t catch Joe eating in any Italian restaurant!
As he stares out to sea, probably remembering those he lost, may he please be at peace knowing he will see them again someday. Not too soon I hope, because I want to see him sitting on his bench, starting out to sea and enjoying the warmth of the sun, upon my return.
Until next time Joe – be well my friend and think of more stories to share…