In the wise words of Ronald Reagan, who my grandfather once told me was the best president the country ever had, "each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation." We have been left quite a broad set of shoulders to stand on. I hope it's not too cliche to say my grandfather laid a rock solid foundation. He was clear and straight forward with everything he did. He always knew where he was going to dinner, and always knew exactly what he'd have. From what I hear, growing up with him as a father was not always the easiest. He was stern and demanding. Although the stories I'm told about what went on at 20 Green Acres warrant such characteristics. My mom still has a business card that he used to give out that reads "do something wrong, and I'll find out." While I can't describe him as a father, I know he was the best grandfather I could've asked for. I don't like Patsy Kline, and I don't like the Olive Garden, but somehow those two things combined with my grandfather made for the best memories. His overwhelming love and sense of humor made up our difference in culinary and musical tastes.
Ayn rand tells us, "Achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death." I think we can all agree everyone is here today because the fountain of youth is yet to be found, and death was no longer avoided. But we can also agree that my grandfather could not have achieved any more life in the 87 years he was here. What I'm trying to say is, in those 87 years, he managed to fit nearly 120. That is plenty of time for numerous valuable lessons to be learned, and passed on. My grandfather taught as all the masters before him have: by example. I can recall a story that tells a lot about his character and nature. One of the most important lessons he taught me was to never accept an answer you don't like, if you can help it.
When I was younger, spending hot summer days driving around from job site to quarry to job site was common. One specific day still sticks with me. Partly because as a 6 year old, I jumped on the opportunity to re tell the obscenity laden story. One staple that was almost always guaranteed in my grandparents fridge was Dad's Root Beer. It was cheap at Costco, when bought by the pallet as my grandfather often did. Somewhere between my indulgence and the prospective job site, nature called. Over the blasting air conditioning, 1080am and the radio I asked
"Grandpa can we stop I have to go to the bathroom?"
"Whadda ya mean. You gotta piss?"
At times he had a knack for asking the obvious. We pull in to this gas station in watertown, We walk inside, I ask where their bathroom is.
"Sorry we don't have a bathroom"
"Whadda ya mean you don't have a bathroom? You don't go to the bathroom?"
"Well we don't have a public bathroom"
"Let the god damn kid use the fucking bathroom or he's going to piss on the damn floor."
Not a moment sooner was I in the bathroom that also doubled as a janitors closet. No bathroom was not an acceptable answer, and he did what he had to do to get an acceptable answer. In fact today I'm putting this lesson to use. Initially I was told I wouldn't be allowed to speak here today, yet here I am.
"Safety first" was not only O&Gs motto, but my grandfathers as well. I remember getting in his blue Lincoln town car held together with duct tape. "buckle up for safety buckle up!" he would sing. If a preemptive jingle didn't do the job, some forceful words after the fact would suffice. On another similar summer day a few years later, my grandfather and I were heading north on rte 8 in the signature, now red, town car. We came upon a company car, a suburban, traveling in the right lane. All of a sudden we began to speed up. Faster and faster and faster. We must've hit 70! So he gets up close on their tail, starts flashing his lights and honking his horn. The suburban pulls over, along with us behind it. The driver gets out, approaches the town car, bending over towards the open window
"Is there a problem, Mr. Oneglia?"
"Is there a problem? Do you know how fast you were going?"
"Oh yes, 65, not more than 70"
"That's right! And do you know what 65 is? That's the speed limit. You shouldn't be going any faster than 5 miles an hour below the limit."
The driver apologized and said he'd keep that in mind. We followed the suburban until it turned into the yard. While this does seem absurd, he was only looking out for every one. Safety of the people, of the car. He knew that efficiency for efficiencys sake was not worthwhile.
Many of you may not know, but my grandfather was a religious man. In any adversity, he would call to the lord for help with various combinations of three syllables. For example, once I got my license, and he allowed me the rare opportunity to drive, he frequently hollered "Jesus christ, you got a heavy foot!" then we would arrive wherever we were going. "but grandpa, the sign says no parking," "Christ almighty park here goddamn it!"
I'm going to miss surprise trips to the Venetian, reminders to only buy stocks that pay dividends, going to get gas when his car had only 3/4 of a tank and his swearing. In fact I already do. But what i miss the most is his presence. As recently as last Monday we went for a drive around town. It was a short drive, and we spoke very little. But we didn't have to. It was enough to be in his same red car, driving the same streets as when I was 6. While in those 16 years both of us had changed, the time we spent together did not. We had just as much fun. Maybe even more because he didn't notice as frequently when I got close or even at times exceeded the speed limit. Grandpa, I love you and miss you and want to thank you for everything you did for our family.