Yeah my dad–he was always bringing home stray animals and my mother would hit him with the broom when she would find another dog or cat in the house. We didn’t need to feed another mouth, she would say. But my father, he was just a simple, quiet man who felt sorry for everything. In Naples, you know our house was built in front of a mountainside and out the back of the house we had dug into the wall of the mountain because it was cool there. We kept food and other supplies in there because it would last longer. We had no refrigerators then. Well one winter night, he brought a donkey home while my mother was asleep and he walked it through the house all the way back in to the dirt floor closet in the mountainside. About 3 in the morning I was sleeping and heard “HEEEE – HAAAWWWW!!” and when I got up, I just saw my dad pulling the donkey through the house towards the front door and my mom hitting them both with the broom. When he came back in, she said “Why did you bring that thing in our house?” My dad looked at her like the answer was so obvious and said, “He was cold.” She chased him back outside with the broom and he slept in the barn.

MY GRANDFATHER (Italian American 80 at the time, now deceased)

Yeah my grandmother could talk the leg off a table. She would just babble on and on and my poor granddad would just sit there and nod and eventually nod off to sleep. One night, she was making his dinner while he was sitting in his chair and she was going on and on. She finally served his dinner, but he was reading the paper and she kept talking while she went over to the sink and wrung the clothes through the rollers. Finally she got so mad that he was still reading and his food was getting cold she smacked him on the back of the head and he fell face first into his stew. Doc said he’d been dead about an hour and she’d never stopped talking the whole time.

These were the tales I’ve been told my whole life. My staff members and friends all have very ethnic backgrounds, too, and it seems those folks with known lineage to their respective “old countries” all have a few “seniors” in the family that love to tell those long, but colorful tales.

Thank goodness, huh? How boring it all would be without the characters in this world who always seem to be connected to great old stories.

Ron Ciancutti is the Director of Procurement for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at

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