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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Losing a link to my past

Posted on July 6, 2010 at 6:01 PM

 My grandfather – my father’s father – passed away today. He was in mostly good health up until about a month ago, then he fell and started failing, and then really went down very quickly at the end.


If I'm being totally be honest, I must admit that I feel very emotionally conflicted over this.


On the one hand, this man – John Joseph Sciacca, more commonly known as Giovanni, but also somewhere along the way he adopted/earned/purchased the moniker Baron Giovanni di Sciacca – was my last living grandparent. As of now, I have only my parents remaining. (Dana is fortunate enough to have both her grandmothers still with us. Well, not WITH us living with us, but still living with us.) Giovanni was a link to my past, my ancestry, my look back into time, and surely things passed with him that I’ll now never know the answers to. Things like what brought his family to this country? Or what attracted him to my grandmother (Nons)?


Giovanni lived a life that almost couldn’t be believed. (Apparently, some of it really *couldn’t* be believed; he told me he was born in a small town in Italy. In fact, showed me the fountain that he played around as a little boy. But it turns out that the truth lay closer to New Jersey.) He would say things like, “I knew Alfred Hitchcock. In fact, I was in one of his movies.” And you’d think, “OK, sure you were.” And then I rented Vertigo and Holy Sh--!!! He WAS in Vertigo! He’s a shoe salesman and you can see that it is him clear as day. Jimmy Stewart goes into a shoe store and asks the clerk (Gio) if they have the shoes in brown and Giovanni says, “Yes we have.” Granted, not a role that the Academy is going to molt a statue over, but more words in a Hitchcock film that any of us will ever say. He was also in a few other big Hollywood films; a WWII drama with Gregory Peck called “Twelve O’Clock High” and “The Kiss of Death” with Vic Mature.


Like me, he had a stint in journalism. He covered the social scene for a Palm Springs paper where he attended parties with the likes of the Rat Pack and Zsa Zsa Gabor. If he had lived in the time of blogging, I think his style would have been like Walt Mossberg puppet only with more piss and viciousness.


But this was not a man that I really knew that well. He left my grandmother when my dad was very young and was completely non-existent from our lives until I was in my 20s. When he finally got back in touch, he never spoke of these things. Whenever I would talk to him on the phone he was only interested in when we were having more kids. In Giovanni’s opinion, my (his) gene pool was SO good that I owed it to the world to have as many children as possible. He loved quoting scriptures from the Bible about being fruitful and filling the earth, which he took as being specifically directed to me. He never had a chance to meet Lauryn, but I’m sure that he would have loved her. Her personality is in many ways eerily similar to his own; generally nice, but an anger bubbling just below the surface that comes on like an explosive combination of super-heated Bhut Jolokia peppers and intense solar flares.


My longest encounter with Giovanni was about 20 years ago when he took me on a trip to Europe for 2 months. What should have been an amazing experience was – I’ll be diplomatic for a change – difficult. While I have some great memories from the trip – being in Berlin weeks after the wall came down, having fresh truffles grated onto our pasta at tableside, swimming in the Italian Riviera – I have others that are less great. I’m particularly fond of the time that he threatened to leave me on the side of the road in Germany when I forgot to use our rental car’s turn signal.


But today he is gone. And I’m letting it all go. The bad memories, the guilt, the sadness, the why-did-you-leave-my-dad...all of it. What I can do is to proudly -- and more kindly -- carry on his last name. In fact, somewhat fittingly, someone from Palermo, Italy found my site today by Googling “Toy Story 3 Sciacca.” So, Giovanni, I take the journalism torch from you, and I promise to raise it high and carry it on until some other Sciacca shows themselves ready to take it over. Buon giorno e resto in pace.

Categories: July 2010, Family

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Reply Jasmine
1:41 PM on July 7, 2010 
I found out this morning- thanks to your blog- that our grandfather passed away. I never got to meet him. I mourn his passing and my procrastination with forcing introductions with this final link to my past as well. Lungamente vive la memoria di Giovanni. Thanks for sharing your memories John.
Reply Keely
2:14 PM on July 13, 2010 
John, I'm so sorry. It sounds like the world will be a less interesting (but maybe more peaceful) place without him.
Reply [email protected]
4:53 PM on August 3, 2010 
I finally got to read this after almost one month. I miss knowing more about their past. It will die with Rene and the rest of the Sciacca's sad to say. He was really a strange stranger to us all.