I didn't understand when I was a kid that Dad called his grandfather Nonno because it is the Italian word for that family member. I thought he was saying "No-No," and I just assumed his grandfather had earned that nickname by always telling his grandchildren "No" to this and "No" to that. It is so funny how children come up with their own explanations for things. Dad remembers his dear Nonno as a quiet man who loved his family, his garden, his grape arbors, his walks in the woods, his honey bees, and all the animals on his and my great-grandmother's small property. They had goats, cows, horses, rabbits, ducks, and I don't remember what-else. I remember Great-Grandma, I remember the house and yard and apple tree and back porch and part of the barn, and I still vaguely remember the rabbits--I have a vague memory of being held up by someone so I could reach into their wired hutch--but Dad's Nonno died three years before I was born.
Nonno had been an Italian Prisoner of War during WWI, and I never think of him without remembering family lore that this man who had loved to hunt from the time he was a child could never touch a gun again after his time in the army. His wartime experiences left him both hard-of-hearing and gun-shy. He was shaken by loud noises in general as a result of his service, which makes the few photos I have of him--Nonno and Great-Grandma outside their barn with one of their horses, Nonno and Great-Grandma sitting together in the kitchen, Nonno with the rest of the family at Christmas dinner, Nonno and Dad together outside--all the more poignant to me. There is some satisfaction in seeing that although most of this man's life was not what anyone would consider easy, he enjoyed years of needed peace and of good company--company who would speak as loudly as necessary, in English and Italian--and simple meals and vegetable gardens and playful goats and grandchildren. Veterans Day is an American holiday, and Nonno was an Italian service member, but I think of him on this day every year, and his story, with its silences both inflicted and restorative, reminds me of the sacrifices made by so many.