If I had known that Christmas Eve would be the last time I ever saw my grandfather, I would have changed a lot about that day. However, when I reflect on my last personal interaction with my grandfather, I think of a few days before then, when my dad, aunt and I surprised my grandfather at his house with a small Christmas tree to decorate. It was truly the best day I could have ever asked for with him.
My grandfather, Anthony Joseph Capritto (otherwise known as AJ, Tony or Grandpa), was one of the most extraordinary souls I have ever met. His contagious, positive energy would fill the room with so much warmth and light, you couldn't help but feel grateful for life and all its meaning.
AJ was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on October 2, 1930. By his early adolescent years, he had joined a small band and played the drums at various clubs, restaurants and events. He enlisted in the Navy after graduating high school where he proudly served his country for eight years. His Military service took him throughout the Pacific, the Arctic, and ultimately to Korea.
It was on a trip home to the USA in San Francisco where, at a dance venue, he met the love of his life, Rebecca Sanchez, from Colorado. Shortly thereafter, in 1950, they were married; a marriage that would last for over 50 years. This marriage included five children, born between 1952 and 1959. They settled in a small town known as Oak View, California and later moved to Ventura, California.
I was lucky enough to have my grandfather in my life for 24 years. He was the only grandparent I ever really got to know and grow up with. He was the anchor in our family and always brought us together.
Here are four life lessons I learned from my grandfather:
Life is an adventure.
One of his famous mottos he would usually say in response to any dark, depressing or life-altering event was, "Life is an adventure!" No matter what we would be talking or asking him about, he would sit for a second to reflect, and as a smile would form on his face, he'd look you straight in the eyes and revert back to his famous motto. Almost as if he was reminding himself, and us, that life is what you make it. And for AJ, he made his life an adventure up until the very end.
There is always a positive side to every troubling event.
Learning about his famous life motto, I'm sure you can tell that AJ was a very positive spirit. He always looked for the bright side in things and rarely gave in to only accepting a negative point of view. I am confident his endless positivity has rubbed off on me. He grew up in the Great Depression, witnessed terrible racial events, lost one child at birth, cared for his wife as she suffered from cancer for 12 years before she passed in 2002, and lost his house in the Thomas Fire in 2017. One would think that these sad moments throughout history and his personal life may jade him about humanity or the beauty of life in general, but it did quite the opposite. He never lost site of who he was or what mattered most to him; and that was finding the light even in the darkest of times.
Be grateful for the food on your plate.
As mentioned above, my grandfather lived through the Great Depression. He would always tell the same story to me about people coming up to their window, begging for food. He would watch as his parents would give out small portions of their own food to people on the streets. Whenever we would eat a meal with my grandfather and I wouldn't finish everything on my plate, he'd always ask, "Are you done already?!" I would giggle in embarrassment and politely remind him I can take the meal to-go to eat at a later time. (Thanks for always calling me out, grandpa!) He would always say proudly, "Waste not, want not" as a reminder to be grateful for the food on our plates.
Everything is temporary.
Another famous phrase of my grandfather's was, "This too shall pass." He would always remind me that whatever hard moment I was experiencing or going through would only be temporary.
AJ sadly passed away on December 27, 2021.
You will be so dearly missed, grandpa.
"These are the best years of your life, embrace it!" - Anthony Joseph Capritto