Monday, January 18, 2010

Love, Hardship and Wealth

My father's parents came to the U.S. in early 1900's, with his father coming over in 1901 I think, then his mother in 1905. They were from seperate towns in an area of northern Italy called the Val di Non, which is on the border of Austria and is a valley which has many towns and villages. We had always called ourselves Austrian, but a few years ago we saw on the immigration papers of my grandfather that he was listed as Italian, so evidently the border ran between their villages. My grandfather, Enrico, after he'd been here and had established himself, wrote to my grandmother's parents and ask them to send one of their daughters for him to marry. The story was that he'd been expecting one of the other girls, but my grandmother, Bianca, arrived instead and they were married five days later. I'm not sure if Bianca, Blanche - her American name, volunteered or was sent, but she left behind ten brothers and sisters in Terres, her hometown. The youngest of her family was a brother for whom she had a special love. He was about six when she left and it broke her heart to leave him, and especially so after she'd arrived in America because the trip across the ocean had mad her so sick she knew she could never go back.
My grandparents struggled to overcome the hardships of learning a new language and customs and trying to make enough money to survive.They had nine children but lost four of them before they reached two years of age. As bad as it was, grandma saved a few cents here and there and when she could she would write back home and send a dollar for her youngest brother. Times never really got good because the family was always trying to make ends meet, which meant each member of the family had to work. My father told of trying to study for school and support the family by working at the railroad depot, and how sometimes he could barely stay awake while walking home.
Unbeknownst to grandma, the dollar bills that she sent to her younger brother when she could were worth quite a bit more in Austria than they were in the U.S., and her brother had taken that money and made a small fortune with which he provided well for his family... except for his sister Bianca, in America, who was obviously very wealthy since she had sent so much money to him over the years. Grandma was happy for his good fortune and got a good laugh when she heard that he thought she was rich.

I only heard this story and several others over the past few years. My grandfather died in 1937, so I never knew him, and grandma died in 1975 so I didn't get to know her that well either. I really wish I would have had more of an interest in my family when my dad was still alive. So many of the stories I've heard from family members since dad died would have been even more intriguing to hear him tell them. I regret now that I didn't ask more, listen better and remember on those occasions when dad did talk about his family.


Blogger Michelle's Spell said...

Hi Tim,

I hear you on this one! I feel that way all the time, particularly since my great-grandmother lived with us until she died and my grandmother did for a few years. And I wish I would have learned how to speak French! Man, I was on the slow bus. Those old stories are the best! Hope you're having a very good week.

6:15 PM  

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