Tuesday, January 02, 2007 | 13 comment(s)

After driving 6 hours in the rain from Pittsburgh on Christmas day, my sister told me when we arrived at my Mother's house that Grandpop was in the hospital and that they'd found inoperable cancer in both his lungs.

Meg and I made plans to go visit him in the hospital the next day before we left town. But the next morning we got the call that he had died in the middle of the night. He was 82 years old.

He was born in Philadelphia to Italian immigrants. He was given the name "Julamine,"
I have no idea whether this is the correct spelling of his name. My dad says that he has his birth certificate and his baptismal certificate somewhere but that his name is spelled differently on the two documents (and I actually think his last name is spelled differently on both documents, too).

I've searched Italian baby names (interestingly enough, there is no letter "J" in the Italian alphabet), and just plain ol' Dr. Google for what the "correct" spelling might be. I've tried
  • Jolamen
  • Jolemin
  • Joelamen
  • Julamen
  • Guilamen
  • and a bunch of others too
It's pronounced (with as much Italian sing-song flourish as you can muster): JOU-la-meen.

I think it's a pretty cool name, regardless of its spelling.

but he never liked it. Kids couldn't pronounce his name (or were just being cruel and teasing him) so they called him "Jellybean." As an adult, he went by "John," but close friends and family all knew him by the far more endearing nickname of "Beans" (he just dropped the "Jelly-" bit).

To me, he was simply Grandpop.

He was a printer by trade, but his true avocation in life was as a collector of sports memorabilia. Baseball cards, football cards, hockey cards, pennants, posters, autographs, you name it, he collected it. And I shouldn’t really limit it to sports, either, I guess. Ever since I moved to Washington, DC ten years ago, he would regularly ask whether I ever met any Congressmen or Senators, and if I ever did, I should be sure to get their autographs for him. "'Cause, you know, they could be President one day, and that autograph would be valuable."

I can remember sitting around his kitchen table as little kid, and he would entertain Karen and I with card tricks, little puzzles that he’d pick up for us, and other famous "tricks" like "Wanna see me take my thumb off?" (he didn't really take his thumb off, it was just an illusion) or Karen’s favorite: "Wanna see me take my teeth out?" (no illusion, here though). He loved to play around with us and I remember him as a kind grandfather who would make the loudest kissing sounds you could ever imagine when greeting us or saying goodbye.

When my six-year-old nephew heard the news, he said:
"Grandpop died?" and he started to cry.
"But he was good at playing cards."

Two months ago, his wife of 59 years, Marie, died after a long battle with Alzheimer's. My Grandpop was a smoker most of his life and he had recently been struggling with a host of his own health problems -- including by-pass surgery and a heart valve replacement less than a year ago. Despite all that he was going through, he remained a constant companion to my Grandmom. After his surgery, he had decent recovery, though he continued to have some breathing difficulties. Even so, we never expected that he would take such a turn for the worse and pass away so quickly. I suppose it may be better this way.

Together, their names inseparable have rolled off our lips for decades.
They are both gone now, but their influence on us will not fade for a very long, long time.

Beans & Marie.
Grandmom & Grandpop.

We loved them, and they will both be missed very much.

13 Comment(s):

Blogger mel said...

So sorry for your loss.

Blogger Minnesota Nice said...

Oh man, Kev - what an intense holiday.
I guess we will never understand the "higher timing" of many things.
My condolences. Peace to you in the coming days.


Blogger In Search Of Balance said...

I'm so sorry to hear it. He sounds like a great guy. Best wishes to you and yours.

Blogger Scott K. Johnson said...

Hey Kev,

Sorry to hear about your loss. Like MN said, what an intense holiday.

Please let us know if you need anything.

Blogger Scott K. Johnson said...

Hey Kevin,

Thinking of you and your family. What a wonderful person he sounds like.

Blogger Bernard said...


I'm sorry to hear that your Grandpop died. He sounds like a very special man.

Thank you for sharing some of his story with us.

Blogger Major Bedhead said...

He sounds like a great guy. I'm sorry to hear of your loss.

Blogger Kerri. said...

Oh Kevin. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. You and your family are in my thoughts.

They sounded like amazing people. Truly amazing.

Blogger Johnboy said...

Peace, brother.

Blogger George said...

Sorry for your loss Kevin. He sounded like an awesome guy! Thank you for letting us get to know him a little.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've written a beautiful tribute to your grandpop, Kevin. I'm sorry for your loss.


Blogger Kassie said...

I'm sorry for your loss. Your description of him is wonderful.

Blogger Anne Findlay said...

I'm sorry to read about your grandfather's sudden passing. I enjoyed reading your posting about him; he sounds like a wonderful father/husband/grandfather. My grandfather passed away in April 06 from leukemia and it is, indeed, a great loss to lose a beloved grandparents.

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