relay for life.

3 May

I mentioned that I did a (very small) bit of Relay for Life the other day, and it kind of got me thinking about my “inspiration” for Relay… my grandfather. So here’s a rather wordy, rather un-food-related ramble about my grandfather and what he meant and means to me.

On May 1st, 1929, my grandfather, Vincenzo Rimoli was born in Naples, Italy. After a life filled with trials, tribulations, a move to Brazil, and lots of laughter, he passed away on October 10, 2008 after battling cancer for multiple years.

It’s fitting, then, that on May 1st, 2011, I found myself walking in my school’s Relay for Life, musing about my grandfather and what life meant to him.

My grandfather’s Italianness was unmistakable. From the tale of his shameless wooing of my grandmother (he literally proposed to her, then pretended to cry when she said no and guilted her into marrying him because he’d “just lost his job”… luckily, she came to love him anyways) to his undeniable adoration for all things food-related, the “Italianness” was pervasive. He and the rest of my family are just like a slightly altered version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding; from what I hear, he was also infatuated with Windex.

I had always wanted to go to Italy to better understand that part of my heritage, and when I finally made my way there this past summer, I felt some kind of connection to his past, his culture, my past, my culture. But what was missing was context, stories, irrelevant details of his past life that I never bothered to get to know. As we sat upon the beach my mom and I puzzled over whether, perhaps, he too had gallivanted on its pebbly shores, splashed in its blue waters; I know he loved the ocean. And both of us regretted never having asked.

Brother & I in Sorrento last summer

Regardless, I saw pieces of him everywhere. His roguish smile was plastered on the faces of the crowds of look-alikes laughing gaily in the streets. His love for all things culinary wafted through the air with the scent of pizza at the local pizzeria. And his genuine zest for life was there in the vibrant, loud, rambunctious crowds on the train, the haphazard music groups making their way down the line collecting money.

 

He never stopped trying; multiple times along the course of his sickness we thought he was on his way out but he fought back with a force unlike anything I’ve ever seen. True Italian stubbornness, but it served him well.

And above all, he cared about all of us. I distinctly remember him using all of his limited energy to stand over the stove making our favorite pumpkin soup, I remember his frail hands smoothing over a towel as he exerted a seemingly impossible amount of effort to prepare to take my brother to the pool.

I remember, in better times, the squabbles he and my grandma had over his occasionally erratic driving.  I remember his grin, his lack of shame in sharing his broken English with the world, the unmistakably Italian lilt of his voice as he pronounced “Bell-eh-vooey” instead of Bellevue.

So today, I walk for him and the millions of others affected by this disease. I walk and I reminisce. I remember those times, I remember the crazy times when my part-Italian family all came together for loud games of bingo. I reminisce and I bask in his memory hoping that I can siphon some of that love for life back into myself. I walk to remember, and I walk to move forward in my life the way I know he’d want me to; if he saw the sadness in my eyes he’d undoubtedly crack some terrible joke just to get a smile. So I’ll walk, and I’ll smile, and I’ll remember.

Relay two years ago… hello short hair. 

Who would you walk for? 

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21 Responses to “relay for life.”

  1. keepnthefaith May 3, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    I’ve done relay for life before as well. I walked one with my gma when she beat cancer for the 2nd time and walked another in memory of her when she lost her 3rd. My gma is my hero. A true fighter till the end, and the reason why I now know the Lord. Its comforting knowing I have her looking down

  2. hippierunner May 3, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    This was a really sweet post!

  3. kissmybroccoli May 3, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    Wow. Nicole, this is so beautifully written! You seriously almost brought tears to my eyes!

    I would walk for all the “regular” patients that I’ve built friendships with since I was first hired on. These people fight so hard, against all odds, and still have a beautiful smile to greet you with when they come in for their follow up. True inspiration! Life IS worth living and these patients show proof in that!

  4. Ellie May 4, 2011 at 12:42 am #

    oh goshhh this was so beautiful Nicole!! it’s so sweet, and you’re a great writer. :) thank you for sharing! your grampa sounds awesome.

  5. fashionfitnessfoodie May 4, 2011 at 3:35 am #

    Nicole that was a beautiful post! I would do relay for my uncle who i lost to colon cancer.

  6. Tatiana Rimoli May 4, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    você vai me matar desse jeito.

  7. Kate (What Kate is Cooking) May 4, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    This is so sweet! I just wrote a post about my own grandfather- I am running my next race to honor him and raise money for the hospice he died in two years ago :)

  8. Kimberley May 4, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    Awww- what a sweet post girl, it is written really well!

  9. Thais May 4, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    what a cute post thanks for opening up like that!! amazing how peoples energies carry us through life. remember to keep that smile on your face – thats the way he would have wanted it <3

  10. megpinkgiggles May 4, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    <3

  11. Jenny May 4, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Wow this post is so inspiration, I love it. I’ve never walked in a relay before but I would walk for my godmother how survived breast cancer

  12. Rach @ This Italian Family May 4, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    Love his proposal story… so glad your grandmother finally caved so we now have Nicole in our lives! :) He sounds like a wonderful man and I love that you walk in his memory! Love you, bella! :)

  13. Tara May 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    I loved this post soooo much. Your Grandfather sounds like an awesome person. I love your reference to my big fat greek wedding too :)
    I would walk for my aunt, who just underwent chemo for cancer last year. She’s always been so nice to me and makes the best turnips for thanksgiving.

  14. The Teenage Taste May 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Awww, this is such a sweet and “real” post. Your grandfather sounds like an amazing man!

  15. Jenn @ Peas & Crayons May 4, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    I want to do some autism runs/walks for my bro to show support… and some cancer ones too (it runs rampant in my family!) The memory of your grandpa lives on! <3 and you'll always have fabulous stories to tell =) like this one.. and the windex story too! =) Great post Nicole.. and thank you for sharing this with us!!!! <3 love you like WOAH!!!!

  16. Ma Ma Megan May 4, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

    Nicole this is so sweet!
    Your grandpa seems like an outstanding person.
    Love this <3

  17. runyogarepeat May 4, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    What a beautiful post! It must mean so much more to do Relay for Life in memory for someone, and your grandfather sounded great. I lost my grandfather to cancer (leukemia) too about 5 years ago, and I did relay for life for him last year.

  18. pawsitivelife May 4, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    What a wonderful post, I have been blesed not to know anyone who passed away from cancer, but I would walk to support anyone who needed it

  19. Alexandra (Veggin' Out in the Kitchen) May 5, 2011 at 4:51 am #

    This is the most beautiful, sweetest post EVER!! :) You nearly brought on tears!

    You’re an excellent writer, girl!! Your grandpa is lucky to have such an amazing granddaughter!

    <3 <3

  20. spoonfulofsugarfree May 6, 2011 at 6:52 am #

    So beautiful! It sounds like you had great times with your grandpa-and you will take those memories with you for the rest of your life :)

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