Inspirational author Karen Malena tells us about A Figure Larger Than Life.
One faded black and white photo and my life would change.......
Sifting through old photographs one day with my mom, I felt drawn to one of a young man in dirty overalls, haunting eyes, and beautiful hands. When she told me this was her grandfather, Pietro, and she never knew him, I hungered to know more about him.
He came to this country in the early 1900's looking for work and a new way of life for his wife and four children. My great-grandfather, Pietro paved the way for us, and brought a legacy to me that I will never forget.
A quiet, gentle man, he was a carpenter by trade. He was born in Patrica, Italy in the late 1800's. He came to this country when he was twenty years old, seeking a good life for his family.
I think back to being twenty years old. Thoughts of fun, dating, parties, selfish ambitions. Yet this simple man, at the same age already had so many responsibilities. Poverty beckoned at the door in his hometown. Who knows how tough it had been trying to feed a wife and four children?
Many already had made the decision to strike out to America for a new life and new opportunities. It couldn't have been easy leaving behind loved ones, not knowing if you would ever see them again, yet hopeful that you would.
What was the boat journey like? An unending, long, nauseating trip with at least nine hundred others. Was he fearful, hopeful?
And when he first got to Ellis Island, what thoughts were on his mind? Did he kiss the ground, so grateful to see land again? Was there anyone waiting for him, a brother perhaps?
Again, I think of myself. I was lucky to be able to drive to another town when I was the same age. For I was a fearful, scared rabbit back in the day. Afraid to venture outside of the confines of my comfortable, small world.
Yet this man, who couldn't read, write, or speak the strange language of English, risked it all for a chance, a dream, a hope.
I sit here now, thinking back on my own life. I have come so far in such a short time. Once afraid of my own shadow, I now venture into strange, new places. Once so timid I could barely speak to others, I am meeting new, exciting people and sharing stories of my own with them.
Could it be perhaps this patriarch, my great-grandfather, Pietro, this figure larger than life, has inspired me to be courageous, to seek so much more in this beautiful world? I believe so. And I am grateful to him for paving the way for my family and I as we travel this wonderful journey together.
Thank you, Pietro. Grazie.