My First Great Love

get-attachmentMy grandfather.

At 3, I knew he was the one for me. I’d toddle after him like a kitten tangled in his feet as he charmed and enchanted the whole neighborhood.

My granddad was what you would call an altruist…a person believing
in the practice of disinterest and selfless concern for the well-being of others. Kind, compassionate, considerate and charitable.

And I firmly believe this is where I get my deep sense of empathy from.

Certainly not my parents who were so self-absorbed they couldn’t see two feet in front of their liquor cabinet.

It only takes one great influence to see you on your way, and he was it.

Bartholomew Palvario, known to the world as Pop, was my Saint Paul.

I don’t think I have known a happier human being.

Married to my cranky grandmother for over 65 years, he spent his life doing for others with grace and love.

As a little person I watched while he raked leaves and shoveled snow, planted seeds and took out trash for everyone, smiling and singing for the mere joy of service.

“Why are you doing that Grampa?” I’d ask, being nosy even then.

“Be’a cus…I’a can…an’a you, my Susilina, can’a help.”

So there I’d be in my little rubber pants and boots making mini piles of snow he’d scoop up so I’d learn how to help.

It’s funny when you think about it.

A retired baker, he’d cook in his precious basement rolls and hot cross buns, pizza and Italian fruit cake he’d share with his neighbors while singing Italian songs.

I was in New York modeling when my mother called to say he was dying. He had gone downhill in a hurry after having an accident in the yard. The doctor said, no more driving for Pop…no more tending to the needs of others…it’s time for him to rest.

Well, as you can imagine, this did not go over too well. If he couldn’t be who he always was, then he wasn’t going to be at all.

No one gets this better than his youngest granddaughter.

My mother, over the phone, in her best insensitive voice said, “Don’t bother hurrying…he’ll be gone before you get here.”

“You tell him Ma…I’m coming…do you hear me. I’M COMING,” hopping on a Metro North Train.

When I got to St. Vincents Hospital, in its oldest, bleakest wing they’ve since knocked down, he was waiting for me, as I knew he’d be. There was no way he would ever leave the earth without saying goodbye to his favorite grandchild.

As I entered the room unprepared for what I saw…a man who always loomed large for me now small and fragile with bruises on his beautiful face from his subsequent fall.

I started to cry like I was little all over again.

He reached his arms out to me, so thin…so weak, and said, “My Susilina…dun’ta yua cad’i. It’s’a ok…Pop, he’a love you.”

I kissed him on his good cheek before a nurse came in to say he needed rest.

Five minutes after walking out into the hallway, he passed.

He would have been 115 years old today.

Happy Birthday Pop…miss you.

Love, Susannah

About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
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32 Responses to My First Great Love

  1. Happy Birthday Pop and thanks for showing Susannah the ropes, she wears your legacy well!


  2. Elle Knowles says:

    Happy birthday Pop! This was sweet.


  3. Loretta says:

    Oh how beautiful, what a touching story!


  4. Lynn says:

    Susannah, this is such a beautiful post written in honour of your Pop! It is so interesting to me how certain people in our lives have such impact on us. Clearly you have inherited some of the wonderful attributes you so dearly loved in your Pop.


    • My grandparents lived on the first floor of our two-family house so I was raised by him. My grandmother wasn’t so much of an influence but he was…thank God. If it weren’t for him, who knows how I might have turned out. Thanks Lynn.


  5. You have such a beautiful way with words. “Iā€™d toddle after him like a kitten tangled in his feet.” It paints such a picture of such a wonderful relationship. I really didn’t know my grandfathers. One died before I was born and the other when I was seven but he didn’t speak English and I didn’t see him much. My older brothers have great stories about him similar to your stories. I always feel like I missed out. I am so glad you had this positive influence. Did you inherit any of his cooking skills?


  6. MJ says:

    What a treasure of a human being your “Pop” was, Susannah! And you written a gem of post about him, brightening a dull winter day with light and warmth.


  7. Patricia says:

    What a wonderful gift you had in your, Pop. Sweet memories to share.


  8. pmahaney says:

    Susannah it was nice of you to share someone, who was so special to you with the rest of us. We all could use such a person in our lives, and if we have the good fortune to have known someone like this, our lives are the better for it. At their passing they will live on in our heart forever, and likewise their spirit, through us. However, empathy and charity, not to mention love, are gifts far too valuable not to be shared with others, due to ones passing. That you were moved to share him with us, despite the pain of that loss, even after many years, speaks clearly to the impact he had on you, and how those values can benefit others. I’d say that is a life very well lived.


    • What a lovely thing to write…thank you so much. Yes, he was and remains very special to me and I do believe I’m the way I am due to him. You really need to be taught to be kind to others. It doesn’t come automatically…my parents were not the best role models so how lucky was I to have him. Thanks for writing such a beautiful comment. Wherever he is, he thanks you to šŸ™‚


  9. skinnyuz2b says:

    Your Pop sounds like he was a very special person. My Bochi (maternal grandmother) was mine.


    • Was just thinking about you Skinny. My pal Elle said, and I’ll paraphrase…I got to Skinny from your site…wish she’d post more because I can really relate to her…thought that was such a wonderful thing to say. Nice you had a sweet Grannie šŸ™‚


      • skinnyuz2b says:

        Thanks for sharing that, Susannah. And thanks to Elle for such an uplifting compliment. I’m working so much now, and add planning for a home wedding (son’s) at my home for 200 that I’ll be doing most of the cooking for. The wedding isn’t until May 23rd, but so much planning to do with food and touching up around the house.


      • It’s just always great to know when someone loves your art šŸ™‚


  10. That was beautiful, Susannah. Happy birthday to him.


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