I never knew my grandfather on my mother’s side. He’d been long gone before I was even born. As far as I was concerned, it had always been my grandmother, my mother, her sister, my aunt, and their brother, Al, also known as Sonny.
The night the secret was revealed to me, was a Christmas Eve. My parents had invited a slew of our relatives to our house in Connecticut for the holiday. When the temperature that night dropped to two degrees below zero, the last car to arrive, my uncle Sonny’s car, froze up, effectively preventing everyone from leaving.
Because my grandmother, who lived in the Bronx, had come with my uncle, she decided to go to bed early, leaving the rest of us to continue sitting around the dining room table drinking coffee and eating Italian pastries. During our post dinner festivities, my uncle announced that recently he had been contacted by his half brother.
I didn’t know anything about a half brother! But that’s when I learned who my grandfather had been. Not only had he been a philanderer several times over, he also had been a criminal, which explained a lot.
When I was a kid, who sometimes got cowboy guns for Christmas, my grandmother often seemed not too pleased about the guns. I just thought she didn’t like guns—actually, she didn’t, but not for the reasons I thought. The main reason she didn’t like guns was because my grandfather, who had run with a couple of criminals, had participated in a robbery where someone had been shot to death. This was a number of years after my uncle Sonny had been born. Not only did my grandfather and his two companions go to prison, all three went to the electric chair!
Wow! Some revelation!
Luckily, by this time, I was in my thirties, so finding out about my grandfather was nowhere near as traumatic as it might have been had I been a teenager or younger.
We continued to talk for a couple of more hours, and since no one could leave, and it was getting really, really late, most everyone decided to camp out on the floor, or one of the pieces of furnature in our house. We kids, if you could call us that, picked spots on the rugs, while the grownups chose the couches and even my two grown sister’s beds, which we still had for when they or their kids occasionally stayed over.
If you’re wondering? Yes, it was a little difficult for me to fall asleep; I kept thinking about what my uncle had revealed. A few weeks later, he even showed me a photo from a newspaper that pictured my grandmother and him, when he was a little kid, going into Sing, Sing Prison to visit my grandfather before his execution.
Did I ever tell my grandmother I knew? Nope! I let her go to her grave thinking I never found out. I feel it probably saved her a lot of anxiety that way.