Nothing can overshadow the joy of listening to someone who has survived decades of life. Too many times we hear of famed singers, actors, sports stars who have reached the age of 19 and feel compelled to write their memoirs. How could someone barely in their 20s have anything as significant to say about their life as someone who has lived 8 or 9 decades.
This weekend, I had the honor of meeting with, and listening to, a family friend of my deceased grandfather. Johnny Bloise (Bloisi). My grandfather, Frank, and Johnny worked together at the Corning glass factory decades earlier. On occassional weekends they were hunting buddies. The absolute joy in this nearly centarian’s eyes, in his smile, in his gaite — were like a flash of light to my heart. The hug, the kiss on the cheek, were the seal to the anticipation this elderly gentleman exhuded on the phone the day I called him. He said, “I’ll be waiting for your call all afternoon!”
Johnny called all his children, most lived near him, to meet my mother and me for the evening. All but 2 (twins) of his 7 children were there to greet us. They were as thrilled to see us as we were to put the past in the present. “I loved your parents,” Johnny exclaimed to my mother who had lost both her parents 20 + years earlier. I remember hearing the stories of the adventures with Johnny during my childhood. My grandfather would sit on the front porch at night — sometimes during a thunderstorm — and look across to the mountains in the distance that separated PA from NY. “My hunting buddy, Johnny lives in NY,” grandpa informed me.
My grandfather introduced me to shooting a “22”. I shot paper targets of crows, metal cans or ceramic pots placed on a brick wall. Grandpa raised 3 girls in the 1930s and 40s, so he didn’t have any trouble letting his granddaughter experience some of his same joys. We went fishing on a lake, but I mostly loved observing all his woodworking tools in the unfinished basement. So here I am sitting in the living room with one of my grandparents favorite friends and Corning co-workers. Johnny lived in Corning most of his life. My grandparents traveled the 30 – 40 minute drive into NY to work at one of the finest glassmakers.
My mother remembered staying with her older sister, Barb at Johnny’s home when she was a child. Johnny even discovered photos of my mother with my sister (age 1). The evening was wonderful. We agreed to meet the next morning for breakfast and then went back to Johnny’s home for a few more hours of history. I was in my element — listening to the great stories of family trials and tribulations — and sitting in awe of a man who had so much fine quality character to be able to have faced diversity in his life and treasure the time he still has with remaining family and friends.
Johnny is already planning his 100th birthday party,”God willing” he notes, with the aide of all his children. We’re invited. I have the date on the calender. Considering Johnny has siblings /aunts who are age 105 — let’s consider this party a sure thing.