To be held.

My Godfather Joe Tribute 10–27–2019

Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality.

As long as we are remembered, no one ever dies.

Joe Saglimbeni was from a small town in Sicily called Limina. It was a town in the Pelitorani Mountains; a town that time forgot. In the late 20thcentury, many people left Limina to pursue their fortune and future abroad. Some escaped to Australia or Venezuela. Others, like my godfather Joe, came to the United States.

A majority of Liminesi (as people from this town were referred to) had established a community in the Northeast Bronx. It was here that his life as you know it, began.

He was hard working and honest and wound up being very respected among the Liminesi. As “Saglimbeni” was, is and always will be the most common surname among related and related residents and descendants of Limina, he was affectionately, and in true Sicilian fashion given a familiarity moniker: Joe or “Pepe” Russo. Russo means red, a tribute to the bright mane on his head. It was his signature.

When my grandfather immigrated to the U.S., it was Joe Saglimbeni who helped him secure employment with the construction union he supervised. It was Joe Saglimbeni who taught him what to say, what to do, where to go and how to act. Joe did more than take him under a proverbial wing. He enabled and facilitated my grandfather’s transition from immigrant to successful American citizen. We will never know how many others he may have helped directly or by proxy in the same manner.

While my grandmother stubbornly kept her Italian citizenship in a steel grip, Joe Saglimbeni suggested that my grandfather embrace his new life and become an American citizen. My grandfather did.

My grandfather followed Joe Saglimbeni diligently and faithfully, eternally grateful for the opportunities Joe had given him. When I was born, it was my grandfather that insisted Joe Saglimbeni be MY godfather.

I never asked what he thought as he held me, a squirming, plump bundle of white satin and lace. Joey, his son, was already a man at this time. What did Joe Saglimbeni know about dolls and dresses and little girls? That day, he held me in front of God and man as I was baptized, and he never let go.

I read a lot as a little girl. Fables and fairy tales flooded fantasy into my life. Unlike the children of today, I had no problem distinguishing the difference from reality. Cinderella had a fairy godmother, whereas I had an incarnate one. He was Joe Saglimbeni and he was REAL.

There are countless memories of Godfather Joe, coming for a weeknight visit to our house in the Bronx and brining ice cream (my favorite) or strawberry shortcake

(my other favorite). These treats were magical to me, because they were “ONLY” when Godfather Joe visited.

There are too many stories of holidays and special occasions and birthdays. October 30this my birthday. He never forgot. He always sent his goddaughter a card. He held me in his thoughts — and signed each one, Love, Your Godfather Joe.

He watched me grow up and loved me unconditionally, every step of the way. He always reminded me that he was so proud of me and I would beam at his praise. He told me I was smart, and I would study harder, read faster, learn more so he would continue to think so. Godfather Joe and I had a special bond. Something intangible. A magic that only he and I understood.

We shared secrets. BIG secrets.

Vicky was his wife. Everyone knows he loved and adored her. No one will deny that he was devoted to her. And even though Vicky was adamant that my chubby fingers not be allowed to go near “Jennifer”- the big porcelain baby doll, in the wooden cradle who graced the house at 480 Landing Avenue… Godfather Joe held my hand and let me sit on the floor next to the cradle to admire the doll in its perfection. Of course, he waited until Vicky had left the room or gone upstairs. He held my hand as I knelt down. He would keep vigil and I would keep silent.

He watched me grow up into a young lady, first communion, high school graduate, then college, then my blooming career. He offered sage suggestions and admiring approval.

He held me again on my wedding day. Another plump bundle in white satin and lace. I had dedicated a godfather/goddaughter dance to him. As I explained to the bandleader, this was no ordinary guest in a tux. This was MY godfather Joe and I wanted everyone to stop and take notice. The song was “Because You Loved Me”. While we danced, he admitted he was surprised and rather touched. I reminded him that I loved him as I knew he loved me.

Minutes turn into days. Weeks into months. Time goes by as time does.

Things change.

I often wondered how it was possible for one person to have a never-ending fountain of love. To love his wife, his family, his friends. To love life and laughter. To love food. How he had enough love for everyone and everything and never run out.

On Friday night, I got a text that Godfather Joe was “very sick”.

On Saturday morning, I drove to the hospital to visit him. I wanted to be a pillar of strength, knowledge and comfort. Instead, Godfather Joe reached out from his bed and grabbed my hand.

And held it.

And when he was asked who I was, he replied, “MY goddaughter”.

Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality.

Words…. my best friends…my worst enemies. The right words are kind . The wrong words hurt, except Italian words, words in Italian always sound good.

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