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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Amerena

You Can't Take it With You

Jack of all trades, master of none almost described my Papa. He really mastered them all. In my eyes, there wasn't anything he couldn't do. From mechanic to electrician, and from teacher to real estate agent, if there was a trade to learn to help the family, my Papa would certainly try, and no doubt excel at it. Employers loved him and remembered him for years to come, he was the epitome of a hard worker.

Money wasn't important to Papa, family was. Everything he did, he did for his family. He didn't care about debt and he didn't care about how much work he had to put in. Papa lived by one simple rule, in the end, you can't take it with you.

He didn't necessarily care about material things, but if he could spoil his family, especially his grandkids, he would buy it. He always leased his cars, so my Amma could drive in a new Chrysler for cheap money. He bought a boat he certainly couldn't afford just because he knew we could go cruising together on the weekends. He took us on vacations every kid would dream of: Disney, the world's largest cruise ship, and even a dude ranch where he had us all decked out in our cowboy best. My Papa splurged on Canadian Broadway to see the Lion King and we sat in the balcony box seats where the opening line of 'The Circle of Life' was sung behind us. As a child I thought my Papa was rich, but he was a simple working class man who would do anything for his family. Not only that, he would do anything for anybody. When my Mom was a child, and he had his own business, if a client couldn't afford to pay him, that was okay, they could work it out. He once accepted a pony that was sick with a cold in exchange for electrical work. That was just the kind of man he was.

He was highly intelligent. Papa and his twin brothers, Joe and Bill, were master inventors. As a child, my mother and cousins had a hand-built "spaceship" that would hover for several minutes, simulating a take-off in my Uncle's backyard. They created the first car alarm that they sold out of their trunk as teenagers in the middle of East Boston. My mother told me any time their children received any type of electronic toy for Christmas or a birthday, the brothers would take it to the workshop like elves, tinkering to modify it into something better. I remember my cousin's Barbie Jeep went twice its normal speed after the brothers got to it.

Papa's workshop was better than Santa's. Set up in the basement of his house, it's where all of his wildest ideas came to life, where creativity thrived and important lessons were taught. A master craftsman, he built everything he could by hand: a bunk bed for three grandkids, a tree house with a swing set attached, or a timeout chair complete with a timer affixed to the back. Papa taught us how to use all his tools and we always had a hand in building something, unless it was a surprise. He eventually gave us our own work stations in his shop and he brought us to the craft store to stock them with whatever we wanted. School projects outshone everyone else's when it was built in Papa's workshop, because he always had his mark on it. One of the last projects we built together was a miniature catapult made of wood, springs and a few dollar store odds and ends.

My Papa taught me what true love really meant because he loved my Amma with all his heart and soul. They met as teenagers when my Amma pretended to drown to get his attention so he could "save" her, at least that was the story my Amma told me. Whether the story was true or embellished, you could tell that Papa was her hero too. When my Amma was sick with cancer, he attended every appointment, catered to her every need and never gave up hope. That man never left her side. They were the definition of soulmates, and when Amma passed away in 2004 my Papa couldn't go on without her and passed from what the doctors said was a broken heart 7 months later. I knew I wanted a love just like theirs one day.

Despite passing away so young, at only 67 years old, my Papa lived a full life simply because of the way he lived. He spent every moment he could with his family. Before my Amma was sick, he would throw the biggest Christmas Eve and New Years Eve parties at his house with one hundred or more of our closest family members. Summers were unforgettable, birthdays blew everyone else's out of the water, even a drive down the street with Papa was a good time as we sang along to The Statler Brothers or Loretta Lynn at the top of our lungs. He was full of life and any who knew him would agree. He was a popular man, and similar to my Amma, anyone he ever met had shown up to his funeral. The funeral directors had to hire police detail to direct the traffic and the line to the casket wrapped outside the door and down the street.

I learned so much from Papa in the short 13 years I had him. He taught me hard work, he taught me love, and he taught me the importance of family. In a time where student loans, credit card debt and sky high prices overwhelms us all, we can take a lesson from Papa. Love each other, enjoy the time you have with your family and live every moment like it's your last, because, in the end, you can't take it with you.

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