Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Life is meant to be lived, celebrated and never taken for granted

By Joanie Cox

Celebrating my 31st birthday on August 14 was bittersweet for me this year. Since my grandpa Leonardo Magazzolo passed away on July 30, I’ve been crying my eyes out at least once a day and I continually find myself praying for the grace and strength to get through losing the man I adored so fervently all my life.
August is birthday month in my family and the only month of the year besides December where my grandparents would go broke giving us all gifts. My cousin Alex was born Aug. 13, I’m Aug. 14, mother’s birthday is Aug. 15 and my cousin Lenny’s is Aug. 18. Over the years, we have had some pretty amazing birthdays spent in Disney World, New York and Las Vegas. But as I’ve gotten older, I started to care less about the location and more about who was attending it. Suddenly, the words in the card became more valuable to me than the gift that was in it.
Several loyal readers of my Life In The Fab Lane column in the Boca Raton community have told me their favorite columns are the ones where I pour my heart out. So here it is. I want to share with you the 18 most important lessons I’ve learned so far.

My grandfather Leonardo Magazzolo:
“The key to success is perseverance. Don’t pay attention to what everyone else is doing. If you rest, you rust.”

My grandma Joan Magazzolo:
“Love is forever and never stop telling the people you love that you love them.”

My aunt JD Danner:
“Never lose hope. You’ve got to have faith.”

My aunt Maryann Gonzalez:
“Pick and choose your battles. Wasting time on insignificant things takes away the energy you’ll need to cope with the big stuff.”

My friend Michelle Averkiou:
“When you smile, you not only bring joy to yourself but to others.”

My friend and former pediatrician Dr. Jerry Wexler:
“Nothing is impossible if you stay focused and try your best.”

My uncle Raul:
“The road least traveled usually has the best views.”

My uncle Thad:
“Don’t keep reliving the past. Today is a new day.”

My priest Father Michael Kane:
“Have patience.”

My editor Jake Cline:
“Don’t waste time worrying. Focus on what you can do.”

My cousin Dominic Giambalvo:
“Love isn’t supposed to hurt.”

My friend Harvey Hurvitz:
“People don’t change. If a guy is doing something to hurt you now, it’s only going to get worse.”

My cousin Roy Giambalvo:
“Thank God for every day you wake up.”

My cousin Angelo Ruisi:
“Respect goes a long way.”

My cousin Michael Giambalvo:
“The most difficult part of life is losing the ones we love. Nobody can avoid this or run from it but find comfort in knowing the spirit and legacy lives on in you.”

My mother Nancy Cox:
“Never walk out of the house with a candle burning or the coffeepot or curling iron on.”

My aunt Karen Cox-Reiter:
“Losing someone never gets easier, it just changes.”

Joanie Cox:
“Grudges are too heavy to carry, so don’t walk through life with them. It takes less energy to smile than to frown. And while having amazing ‘stuff’ is wonderful, you can’t take any of it with you when you’re gone. Family is all that matters. Leave behind a legacy of love.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A grandfather’s love never ends: a tribute to Leonardo Magazzolo

By Joanie Cox
Published Aug. 3, 2011 in Boca Raton Forum

“A grandpa has silver in his hair and gold in his heart.”
-The Cracker Barrel Christmas ornament I gave my grandpa last year

On July 30, 2011, my beloved grandfather, Leonardo Magazzolo, went home to Jesus. He was 77 years old. It was the seventh month of the year and he had been suffering for seven years from transverse mylitis which left him paralyzed after taking a flu shot. He was married to my beautiful grandmother Joan for 57 years. And my mother Nancy, grandmother and I were on the seventh floor talking with his favorite physician, Dr. Vartgez Mansourian, just moments before he passed. It has been written that the number 7 is God’s divine number and that it signifies divine completion and perfection. I cannot think of a life more perfect than the one my grandfather led.
My grandfather was born Sept. 1, 1933 in Sicily. He came to the United States in 1949 through Ellis Island. He picked up rocks by an Italian river for months to save enough to buy a French beret to wear on his trip to America. “I was so happy with this hat,” my grandfather said. “I was sitting on the top deck, enjoying the view and this kid took my hat and threw it in the ocean. I was so mad. It turned out to be a movie producer’s son. He offered me money to replace it, but I didn’t take it. I wanted my hat back.”
My grandfather’s favorite thing to do in life besides spend time with his family and attend church was work. He never took a day off. He taught me and my cousins the importance of working hard and he’d always tell us “If you rest, you rust.” He got his first job in America in one day. He worked in a clothing factory. Within a month, he was managing the entire place. My grandmother’s uncle owned the factory and one day, she went in for a suit and coat and he asked her out. This turned into a wonderful courtship that led to a long and happy marriage and three incredible daughters, a granddaughter, three grandsons, a great-granddaughter and son-in-laws. In the early ‘60s he opened his own ladies garment factory in Brooklyn, N.Y. and he manufactured some of the first clothing for Calvin Klein. Growing up in my grandparents’ home with my mother, my grandpa would take me shopping for clothes and turn everything inside out. I’d wonder why he was doing that and then he’d tell me “You’ve got to make sure it’s made right. It doesn’t matter what it looks like on the outside.”
No one was put together better than my grandpa. And everyone who knew him adored him. When I graduated from Spanish River High School in 1998, he and my grandma took me on a cruise to Europe as a graduation gift. I got to walk with my grandpa on The Spanish Steps, go shopping in Montecarlo and visit Malta. He taught me how to drive a car. He sat with me through my first jury duty assignment and showered me with compliments my entire life. He told me he was proud of me and we never saw each other without exchanging “I Love You’s.” I can still hear him saying it in his gorgeous Italian accent.
During his life, he owned a deli, a beauty shop, a used car lot and a pallet business. He was a hard worker, a caring and loving father and grandfather, the best husband and he always provided for everyone. If I needed something, he was there. His favorite movies were Analyze This, The Godfather Trilogy, Casino and Goodfellas and he had a wonderful sense of humor. He loved to sing Italian love songs and dedicate them to my grandma and he had the lungs of Pavarotti. I could sit and listen to my grandpa sing for hours. My aunt JD Danner helped him record a CD a few years back and created a MySpace page for his music (Myspace.com/leonardomagazzolo). He was totally in awe of the internet and that the whole world now had access to his music.
The night he died, he appeared to my 20-year-old cousin Alex in a dream. “Grandpa was running on the beach with me and he was singing ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ to me and he looked happy.” My grandpa’s only wish in life was to walk again. The next day, I kept praying for a sign to let me know he was OK. I looked in my grandpa’s eyeglass case and a fortune fell out that he had saved. It said “A dream you have will come true.” In that moment, I remembered my favorite song to watch him sing when I was a little girl--"The Impossible Dream (The Quest)" from Man of La Mancha. And then I realized, the past seven years was his own courageous quest. “And the world will be better for this/That one man...Still strove, with his last ounce of courage/To reach the unreachable star.” Thank you grandpa for teaching me no dream is impossible. I love you with all of my heart. My gratitude is infinite. I will continue to live by your noble example and I absolutely know...God granted your wish.