The temperature never reached 20 the entire three days we traveled to Tom’s hometown, Cleveland to surprise his Father Lugi on achieving three-quarters-of-a-century in age. Funny how twenty-five years earlier we managed a similar surprise, presenting Lugi with his namesake, Louis John Zitiello, born just six weeks prior. We had dressed the tiny infant in a tee shirt on which we had written “happy 50th birthday Grandpa Lugi”. A quick trip to Target to purchase a tee shirt and a Sharpie, we jotted the same words, only this time the number was 75! Louis donned the shirt and we all pushed the cart holding his flaming birthday cake out into the gymnasium during Friday night Bingo at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church, where Louis John Zitiello Sr was sitting center stage calling the bingo numbers to the packed crowd. His expression was priceless. Whatever energy we had put into coordinating travel plans, work schedules and puppy boarding for Lindsay and Matt, Louis, Tom and I now was worth it. We were here for a warm weekend celebration during the coldest weekend of the winter season.
When bingo had ended we all loaded into three cars and literally slid all the way to The Goold house in family-friendly Bay Village, a bustling suburb of Cleveland. Cathy lives just a block from Lake Road that rims one of the five Great Lakes, Lake Erie. While the main roads were clear from the salt and city snow trucks, the side streets were slick. Snow banked the driveways of the softly lit houses that mimicked a Thomas Kincaid oil painting. Some homes were still decked in Christmas lights. Cold temperatures prohibited owners from removing the decorations of the holidays recently passed. But, the cold would not deter the Floridians from a brisk snow ball fight in the back yard as soon as we arrived at the house. Lindsay, Matt and Louis could count on their hands the times they had seen snow. This was a treat.
The poker chips appeared as everyone circled the kitchen table and Jack made his way upstairs to secure a twenty from his stash. Texas Hold-um was the game of choice and the money changed hands until the wee hours. At about 1:30 am Grandma and Grandpa, Sarah and Ryan and Mary headed home to rest for the night.
Day one had come to a close and the purpose of our trip had been accomplished….Grandpa Lugi was totally surprised!