It was the typical Sunday family dinner at the Franchetti’s house with the usual assortment of aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters in attendance. And, of course, Grandpa Franchetti.
Grandpa was the patriarch of the family and always sat in the same seat . . . closest to the bathroom. He was ninety-three, a widower, had all his hair and was still sharp as a tack, his memory faultless. And he had the energy of men thirty years younger. The women of the family doted on him.
The table was filled to capacity with homemade Italian food and several bottles of homemade red wine stood half empty. The conversation was nonstop and the hand gestures more noticeable as the bottles of wine were passed around.
And Grandpa was right in the middle of it all. He watched, listened and at just the right times interjected his comments. They were always intelligent, to the point, and everyone stopped and politely listened to what this wise old man would say.
And then he said something that stopped the whole dinner party in its tracks. “Who’s Leon?” Grandpa said out of the blue as someone across the table was discussing Leon Franchetti, a family member who was not in attendance. Grandpa said it unapologetically and as soon as he said it, he returned to eating his meal.
But the rest of the family stopped eating. They had all heard about Grandpa’s father, Vito, whom none of them had met, and who had died in the Old Country when Grandpa was twenty years old. The rumor was that Greatgrandpa Vito was a vital, strong, and wise man who also was sharp as a tack, but who near his untimely end would also forget about close family members, and ask, “Who’s So and So?” And shortly thereafter, that person would be dead.
And the rumor was that Greatgrandpa Vito in this strange way predicted the imminent deaths of seven of his close family members. And now it was his son, Grandpa Franchetti, who might have inherited the same ability.
The silence around the table was only broken by the sound of Grandpa continuing to eat his dinner. His eldest daughter, Maria, was the first to speak as she suggested, “Grandpa, why don’t I take you into the other room to watch the ball game, okay? Here, let me help you with your dinner. You can finish it as you sit and watch?”
She helped Grandpa into the other room, got him settled in watching the ball game, and returned to her seat in front of the other silent and ashen-faced family members. No one spoke, but Maria had removed Grandpa from the table because she knew a family conversation needed to begin. But she realized it would be a moment as the meaning of Grandpa’s raw question continued to sink in . . .
After a few silent moments, Rick’s cell phone rang and he answered it. The rest of the family listened intently for clues of what the call was about, but heard nothing but “un-hus” and “Yes, I understands”.
At the end of the phone call, Rick took a deep breath and said, “That was Leon’s wife. He’s in the hospital. There’s been a bad accident.”
One of the sisters started to sob at the other end of the table. Her brother put his arm around her shoulders and comforted her and said, “It might just be a crazy coincidence. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions.”
Just then, Maria’s youngest son, Georgie, came into the dining room and went to his mother’s side. He smiled and said,” Mom, Grandpa wants a beer. Is it okay if I get him one?” The rest of them smiled, too. Little Georgie’s presence sort of broke the tense ice of the moment and the rest of the family started to slowly eat their dinners again.
“Of course, Georgie. But put it in a glass, dear,” Maria instructed as she sent him off to the kitchen.
“Oh, and Georgie, be sure to use a coaster!” she yelled after him as he disappeared into the kitchen.
From another room came Grandpa’s voice, loud and strong, and without guile, “Who’s Georgie?”