On January 16, 2003, the center of my Yankee Universe left the universe. My grandmother. She was 93 and to me she was gone too soon. I know that seems selfish, but if you knew my grandmother, you would have wanted her to live forever. I'm sure you have a family member with you know, or who has passed, that you feel the same way about.
She was right off the boat from Italy. She was born and spent the early part of her life in Santa Maria a Vico, a small village just northwest of Naples. She used to tell me how she used to pull snails off the walls around her neighborhood and take them home for her mother to cook them. She told me about the sandwiches she used to eat in Italy, which consisted of onions and nothing else.
She came here in the early 20s with her family, looking for what everyone was looking for when they came to America, a better life. She told me when she got off the boat, it was the first time she had a sandwich with meat on it. She spent two weeks on a boat to get here and she always boasted that she was the only one who didn't get sick. I'm sure you have heard someone utter the phrase, "Strong like bull." That was my grandmother. She only stood about 4'8", and weighed about 110 pounds, but you couldn't let her size fool you, she could move mountains. God could she cook too. There was one reason why I was a chubby kid. Grandmom.
I can't believe it’s been eight years. I started thinking about her today. I think about her at the start of every baseball season. This morning though, I had a message in my MYYES account from username cookback. We went back and forth trading stories. Her mom is 92 and a diehard Yankees fan down in the Washington D.C. area.
Those stories made me smile and instantaneously think of my grandmother. The nucleus, the core of my Yankee fandom. She started me early. Her and my grandfather, who has been gone for 25 years now, and who I also miss dearly, started taking me to games when I was five.
The way they met was storybook. My grandfather was a carpenter/plumber/contractor/whatever would make him money to put food on the table. He was up fixing a roof. My grandmother passed on the street below. He saw her red hair, climbed down the ladder, caught up to her and the rest was history.
As I was thinking about her today, I remembered a story from her hospital bed, a funny story that I wanted to share. She just turned 93. It was November 2002. That year her beloved Yankees were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round by the eventual World Series champion Angels. I drove down from Connecticut to visit her. I will never forget this. I walked into her room. She was propped up with some pillows so she was comfortable. She heard me come in and just turned to me and smiled and said in her broken English, "Chris, eh, what are you do here?" I replied, "I came to see you Grandma!" She laughed, paused for a second, the smile from seeing her grandson starting to leave her face turning to a scowl and she says, "What the hell is a wrong with that a fat guy David Wells? He couldn't throw a strike?" After a burst of laughter emanating from the entire room, and after wiping tears from my eyes from laughing so hard she says, "Well, what the hell is wrong with him?!"
Here she was, two months away from leaving us, and she was still bleeding Yankees blue through and through.
I miss her. I miss watching games with her and holding her hand. I miss talking about games with her. I miss how she could make you laugh without even trying to make you laugh. Yes, I miss her cooking too.
If there is one regret that I have, it’s the fact that the two people who were responsible for making the interlocking N-Y a part of my DNA, never got to see my dream of being on TV come to fruition. Grandmom lived with my parents the last year of her life and saw all the tapes I sent out. She was there for all of the rejection. She saw all the no's I received. I would give anything if she was able to see the one YES.
Follow Chris Shearn on Twitter: @ChrisShearnYES