Last week was a very special week. With the holiday season in full bloom, there was certainly much to celebrate. For me especially, being raised as a traditional Italian (not the Jersey Shore fake type), the importance of family has always been greatly emphasized during this time of year.
Besides the celebration of Christmas, we also celebrated the 84th birthday of my grandfather, Gaetano, on December 23rd. It immediately dawned on me that since we carry the same name, that makes 110 years of Gaetano between the both of us.
My grandfather & I have had our share of ups & downs in life. There’s no doubt that God has put us on this earth to serve very different purposes. With that being said, I thought it would be interesting to demonstrate a comparison of our lives. Specifically, how two men with the same name, same blood, from one generation apart have grown to serve the world in different ways.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME: GAETANO
As one would expect, it’s pretty a rare name in the United States. Given that most Italians immigrated from Italy to New York, it’s been less harsh having the name Gaetano living here, than if I were raised somewhere in the mid-west. Let’s say Kentucky for example. No offense to those folks, but ethnic names typically don’t flow off the tongue as easily in less diverse parts of the country.
The name Gaetano is derived from “Gaeta” which is a historical city located in the Italian province of Lazio, roughly 50 miles from Napoli. The modern popularity of the name comes from Saint Gaetano Catanoso – a devout Italian priest who possessed divine healing powers. Research from the Vatican confirmed that Saint Gaetano was responsible for two healing miracles documented in Italy in the mid 1900’s.
GRANDPA GAETANO’S CALLING
Now that you know my grandfather & I were named after Saint Gaetano, let’s get into the interesting stuff. Like most Italian immigrants, my grandfather came to the United States with nothing. He and my grandmother, Luisa, both came here chasing the classic American Dream. They were flat broke, illiterate, scared, but had one common goal – to create a better life for themselves and our family.
Reflecting back on the journey my grandparents made, its pretty remarkable what they were able to accomplish with all those odds against them. After working odd jobs in construction and factories for several years, they were finally able to save up enough money to open their own restaurant.
Here’s a video I put together of Grandpa taking us back to the old glory days. He gets jazzy with his pizza techniques and talks about the components of a great pizza, along with some life lessons. Just a note, he mentions my grandmother Luisa who is no longer with us. She sadly passed away a few months ago after a 17 year battle with cancer.
My grandfather’s calling was determined somewhat early in his life. He knew he had to provide a foundation for the family, and making pizza was the golden ticket. For me though, life has unfolded a bit differently in that I am still uncertain what my true calling is.
I’m skilled across various things – but particularly most known for my musical capabilities. Ever since I was a kid, music has always been a part of my life. I’ve been blessed to work and produce for some big name artists, travel and do shows, play guitar and sing, etc. However, given the current state of the music industry, the uncertainty of the future is rather troubling. Especially for people like me who once thought talent was all you needed for a music career to become absolute.
Outside of all the uncertainty though, I released an EP this year titled, Acoustix. One of the tracks is a song I performed in Italian, called “Te Voglio Bene Assai” (I love you so much) which I re-created with acoustic & electric guitars. I chose that song for the project as a dedication to my grandmother, Luisa. It was one of her favorite songs, and if she were alive to hear it, I know she would be proud.
After my grandmother’s passing, I wrote and produced a heartfelt tribute to her titled, “Angel Back.” She loved angels. She used to give me pendants of Saint Michael, The Arch-Angel to keep on me. When I reflect on everything, I certainly know God exists because he placed an angel as beautiful and loving as my grandmother to be a part of my life. For that, I’m forever grateful.
110 YEARS OF GAETANO
After all is said and done, it has been a blessing to have all 4 of my grandparents become a part of my life. Although this article in particular is a reflection of my grandpa’s birthday, the truth is that all 4 of my grandparents made a long lasting impact on my life, as well as my 3 brothers.
Grandpa & I
Although I’m just down to 3 grandparents, I try to keep in mind that tomorrow isn’t promised. My grandma Luisa struggled with cancer for a very long time. The remarkable part though, was that she remained stabilized and positive throughout the entire process.
It was only a matter of weeks from the time she entered the severe stages, to the time she passed. Out of nowhere, it was clear to everyone that she had suffered enough and was called by God. As a final thought – It’s really important to cherish those moments we all take for granted, because those are the moments that will last forever.
In loving memory of my grandmother, Luisa DiNardi.