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John Naccarato

Grandpap at his 40th wedding anniversary.

February 7 is a difficult day for me. My grandfather—my hero—passed away on February 7, 1986. It’s been 31 years, and I have long since come to terms with the loss, but in some ways, the pain is still raw. Memories of him usually result in smiles or laughter, but sometimes they still bring tears.

You see, he was the first person I was close to that passed away. I was at volleyball tryouts, and he was supposed to pick me up. I knew something was wrong when my brother showed up instead. I can’t remember how I reacted to the news. I have no recollection of gathering my things or riding home. The first thing I can recall after seeing my brother in the hallway is seeing my grandmother in her favorite chair in my living room. I never want to see anyone grieve like that again. My parents looked nearly as bad. My great-aunt, my grandfather’s sister, blamed me. She had the audacity to say if he wasn’t rushing after me, he wouldn’t have had a heart attack.

I know she was just lashing out because she was grieving, but I took her comment to heart and blamed myself for quite a while.

Now I know better. It doesn’t dampen the pain of the loss, but it does take the sting of guilt away.

I tell you all this not because I’m looking for sympathy (we all suffer losses, and this one isn’t fresh), but because my grandfather’s story is one of the impetuses for my Medici Protectorate series.

Italian Americans

My Great-Grandmother, My Grandfather, and His Siblings… Italian Americans, and Proud of It

His father was the illegitimate son of nobility. Because he was unacknowledged, he was poor. He left for the United States (and a better life) when my grandfather was quite young. They were sent for when he was just six years old. Can you imagine crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a ship as a six-year-old? The length of and conditions during that voyage had to be miserable. Grandpap was the oldest of seven children, most of whom were born in the US. When my great-grandfather died, my grandfather was just fourteen years old and he had to quit school to work in the foundry to support his mother and siblings. (Maybe now you can understand why my great-aunt was so mean to me; it was like she lost a father, not a brother.) But it wasn’t just his family that respected him. No, he commanded the respect of the whole town. I’ve never seen a funeral home so crowded, or so many pages be added to the signature book.

But I digress…

When I conceived of the Medici Protectorate series, I borrowed from my grandfather’s heritage. We don’t descend from the Medici, but rather some random duke. Prophesies weren’t written about Grandpap ruling Italy, but I have no doubt he could have been a benevolent and magnificent ruler, were he so inclined. He could do anything he set his mind to. He only had an eighth-grade education, yet he was one of the smartest men I ever met.

So, in honor of my grandfather and in memory of his passing, I’ve asked my publisher to reduce the price of Bleeding Heart, the first book in the series (the novel I dedicated to his memory). If you’re looking for a modern romance steeped in Italian culture, this one’s for you. I’d like to think Grandpap would be thrilled about this series. I know he’d be proud of me.

Love you, Gramp.

Bleeding Heart