My beloved Grandpa Samuel Galeota will soon be leaving this planet. He would always greet us at the airport in buffalo saying, OHH look at these GIANTS. He spoke with in yiddish or possibly italian words like papatoch (spelled phonetically) to describe all the hoodabaloo and hobgwaSH plauging todays society. Television, papatoch, Harry Potter, papatoch…etc But he was not the type to put himself above such things, ever. He called our guitars Banjos, and harmonicas Electric Mouth Organs.
He had a chair, as most great men do. He would sit in his chair all day. Sleep in his chair. It was red leather with a tall back. Comfy as all get out. a damn fine chair. Also he had a uniform from the waist down. The shirts would change from day to day, but the ghandi shorts would not. The rolled up his swimming trunks as high as they could be rolled. I can picture him wearing a halfway buttoned short sleeve shirt, ghandi shorts, thick gardening gloves, and a straw hat. He is walking laps around the pool out back. Hes been doing laps for the past hour and a half in fact, while also carring on a conversation with the you seated by the pool. Each time he comes around then bend: So did you ever get around to reading…. and hes gone, then once again around the bend: The Plutarch I sent you….. then hes gone, and back: Oh no your reading that….. gone, back: Popatoch… and gone again.
He was a fine lecturer. His favorite subject: Antiquity’s greatest hits. I will never forget Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Charlemagne. The subject of a lecture I received numerous times, the Four greatest generals of all time. Sam didn’t care about Chris Hedges or DFW. He loved Parallel Lives. And Shakespeare. I remember one time he pulled me away from my popatoch harry potter and taught me Full Fathom Five.
Full Fathom Five that father lies
Of his bones are coral made
Those pearls that were his eyes
Nothing of his that doth fade
but doth suffer a sea-change
He was an elephant in memory moreso than appearance. He and his brother Big Phil would watch Beckett mouthing the words in time with the actors on stage. Not very fond of technology, he managed to figure out the DvD player to watch his Beckett. Rich with knowledge, but never elitist. However, sometimes it was a bit much. He could sometimes be difficult, at least in his later years. Sometimes when all you wanted to do was relax and read by the pool he would pop out of nowhere and launch into something we’ve heard a thousand times. And so towards he end, he was a bit ignored. It saddens me to say it. Maybe we were all too busy with our lives to listen to the romance of Cleopatra one more time.
But whenever he would sit with then baby Billy and Ellie watching elmo, everything was ok. There’s a Galeano story about the joy of a small child and old man, both without memory living in the moment joyously. He’s on his last days, and many of the days before have been difficult as his mind has slowly unraveled. We only see the effects of memory loss, a confused old man. But I hope that the subjective experience of memory loss is something beautiful that we can’t imagine. Every line of poetry he knew by heart growing wings and taking off, the history of Rome and Greece collapsing in on itself, each aria reverberating one last time before dissipating into the silence that came before. We wasn’t supposed to live this long, but he is, just barely. I hear he’s still eating ice cream.