What I Learned from My Grandfather, Whom I Never Knew

My paternal grandfather was old and decrepit by the time I was six. I recall him sitting crumpled and cynical in a lawn chair, waving a cane at his grandkids as they ran in circles around him. He muttered under his breath in a mixture of bad English and his native Italian dialect.

Grandpa Rocco was an immigrant from southern Italy. He had spent his whole life surrounded by other Italian immigrants and had learned little English. By the age of 60, he was a cripple from a lifetime of working in a steel mill. He couldn’t so much walk as…