Eulogy – Michele Binetti – June 4, 2011
My name is Michael Binetti. I have the pleasure and honour of sharing my grandfather’s name. I also have the pleasure and honour of sharing my feelings about him with you here today.
By the time I was born, Michele had already lived two-thirds of his life. I can only offer a small glimpse into what I knew of him in his later life. The rest of you who knew him longer complete the story – you fill in the blanks. So let us not stop telling stories of what we knew of him. And when you do tell those stories and inevitably laugh at the audacity of some of the things he has said and done over the years, look for the lesson in that laughter. Michele liked to laugh – either with you or at you. Sometimes we laughed at him. And when we did, his wit came right back at you and most of his one-liners cannot be repeated in church, but suffice to say they were good ones. And it was the laughter, along with his good sense of humour and the fact that it was okay to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously that have sustained this family through good times and bad. We do like to laugh, this family. And while we may not realize it, that ability helps us to get by and cope in life. If that was the only quality that Michele passed on to his children, then he picked a good one.
To say that our lives today are easy is an understatement. Our lives are easy because Michele’s was hard. I often think what it must have been like to travel to a new country with two young children. By the time I was born, Michele had survived the great depression, a world war, and the uprooting of his family to a strange new place where he did not speak the language or know the customs. Then when he got here, he and his dear Domenica had to work hard to make sure that they achieved their goals in coming here in the first place.
By the time he died, Michele had a grasp of English that was remarkable without having ever received any formal education in English. There wasn’t a newspaper that he didn’t read from front to back – even the pamphlets the Jehovah’s Witnesses dropped-off – hey, why not.
We did pay him back, however. Whether you in here know it personally or not, we all know or have heard about how persistent my grandfather was. Persistent is putting it mildly, but out of respect, I will use that word. Babbo had a go-to person for every task that would cross his mind. VCR hook-up – any male grandchild; shopping for food – any daughter; cutting grass and yardwork – Frank; fixing sprinklers – Everest; car repair – Ivo; and on and on it went. His daughter Enza could technically be considered a registered nurse, dietician, administrative assistant, chauffeur, you name it. And Michele figured out the best way known to man to get what he wanted – he kept asking – over and over until you finally gave in and just did what he wanted already. Unfortunately, to all those who he offered gas money to, I think it’s obviously too late to collect on that one. But we went and helped because we knew, deep down inside, that it was the right thing to do. And we knew that making him happy was a way that we could say thank you to him.
And “frugal” (we actually use another word). Maybe surviving the depression and having to work hard to feed a family of five children is what drove his desire to never waste one single watt of electricity. We used to roll our eyes when he would “politely” ask that we turn something off. But maybe there was something there. And maybe we can learn something from it especially in today’s day and age of excess and waste – he was neither excessive or wasteful.
Michele loved music – loud music! It is a small miracle that Michele only really started to lose his hearing just recently because no matter where he was in the house, in the garage, or in the back yard, there was a radio somewhere blasting a tarantella or piece of opera. I am sure his neighbours will miss the Pavarotti blasting down the block. I sure know that I will miss walking in to the house and hearing it. What to do with 14 stereos, 35 speakers, 2000 tapes and CDs, 4 VCRs, 8mm projectors and who knows what else will be a very tough task. I can only hope that this collection is appreciated by someone somewhere who knows that the man who collected it loved it dearly and enjoyed it thoroughly.
To his children, it would be an understatement to say that your father had a different relationship with his grandchildren as he did with you. Know just that by loving us the way that he did, he was showing you that he loved you too. Let us never forget that his power to change himself is a great accomplishment from which we can all learn a lesson. Nobody is perfect, certainly not Michele. But I think Michele leaves this world knowing that he tried with our generation what he must have realized he should have tried with you.
Michele’s story is not complete without describing how important his dear Domenica was to him. I always joked with friends that my grandparents loved to hate each other – like George’s parents from the show Seinfeld. But at the heart of that sentence is the word love. Love can only explain the decision to try their hand at the promise of a new life in a new land. To bring their children to a land so radically different from their own in the hope that this place would give those children, and their children, the opportunity to realize their potential. To leave a place where one’s destiny seemed almost predetermined – and limited at best – and come to a place where what your parents did for a living did not dictate what you would become is remarkable. Love could only have been at the root of this decision.
But as you know, Domenica never took any crap either. They fed off each other and they were something to see in action. Their love was a passionate one – with all that extreme emotion entails. And because there was that passion between them, it was clear that when nonna passed on last year that a piece of Babbo had left with her. I think we all assumed that Domenica wanted some peace and quiet up there in heaven for a while, but I guess she was lonely and asked God to have Michele brought up.
Later in life, Michele and Domenica received the “Valigia d’Oro” award in recognition of their journey to this country. The Golden Suitcase award, for them, was validation that they had made the right choice. But the Valigia d’Oro, whether they knew it or not, was a metaphor for us – their family. We are Michele and Domenica’s Valigia d’Oro. We validated their decision to come here. And we are what they were proud of. No matter what we have all chosen to do with our lives, Michele and Domenica were proud of us. And we should be thankful to them.
Michele and Domenica had great friends to share that sense of validation with at the Maple Pioneer Club. We were all comforted in knowing that Michele and Domenica would have somewhere to go where they could socialize and be with friends. While they may have been physically far away from where they came from, they were never far away from feeling as if they were home, and it was because of you.
Agli amici di mio nonno e nonna, ci ringraziamo per la fedeltà e amicizia che avevate mostrato a loro. Senza di voi, le loro vite sarebbero state meno completo.
And now their story is complete. Michele and Domenica did all they could so that we could do more. And they succeeded. And we are lucky. May we always remember that we come from good people who loved us. And may they be waiting at God’s table for us to join them, with some taralli fresh out of the oven just waiting to be eaten – I know Babbo’s already started on them.
" Con il cuore triste e la mente piena di ricordi Vi abbraciamo cari cugini "
Famiglia Marinuzzi Domenico
Our deepest condolences to the Binetti family. Michael told so many great stories of his grandfather that we were so looking forward to meeting him at the wedding. Tony and Sav
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you during this difficult time. May your many wonderful memories help comfort you.
Joan and Vito