Today would have been the 100th birthday of my Papa, Vincent Albanese. He was born on October 14th, 1918. He was incredibly handsome and my grandmother often compared him to Clark Gable. He fought in World War II as a member of Merrill’s Marauders and married Anna Sofia DiFolco when he returned. He became a construction worker and eventually a foreman in charge of several very large projects, bridges and city halls and such. In the ’70s he and Nana moved to Daytona Beach, Florida to escape the snow and cold of Rhode Island. I remember what he smelled like and the feel of his scratchy chin, and that he loved me and my little sister unabashedly.
He died on February 27th, 1986, when I was in elementary school. He was standing behind his favorite chair watching M*A*S*H (or Barney Miller?) with my sister and me and he turned around and walked down the hallway towards his bedroom. I heard him call out Nana’s first name and then a thud, and I jumped up and found him on the bed. I was just a little kid and I was too scared to attempt CPR; I just stood there staring and not knowing what to do until Nana came and shushed me out of the room. For a very long time I felt horribly guilty that I didn’t do anything to try to save him. I remember my mom coming home from work and meeting my uncle in the front yard and the two of them hugging and crying.
He suffered terribly from PTSD from his time in the war, but he was always very sweet and gentle and loving with his grandchildren.