My grandfather lived his passion.

Ang and Poppa, late 1980’s

My grandfather passed away a week ago. We loved him and learned so much from him. He left behind a loving family and a lifetime of memories. To say he did well would be an understatement. 

Here are the words I put together for our close friends and family.

I also wanted to share them with you. 

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My name’s Nicole Cifani and I’m Ray and Linda’s daughter. I’m the eldest of the grandchildren.
And I’d like to say a few things about our Poppa.

He was optimistic.
He was punctual (there’s a story about how we’d place bets on when he’d arrive).
He loved baseball.
He had a great sense of humor.
He was a good listener.
He was patient. In his quiet way he guided us. He always encouraged us.
He was a musician, performer, composer, arranger, teacher, businessman.
In other words, he was a hard worker.

He demonstrated the importance of finding one’s passion. For him, it was music.
And to us, his grandchildren, he was a facilitator.

Nonnie and Poppa wanted to give their grandchildren the gift of music.
And they did. From when we were all very young.
Who can forget the Cousin’s Band?
I was the first one.

Later on, my sister Angie (the third one after my cousin Vince) learned how to read music before she learned to read words.

There were days when I hated piano lessons. I’d flee from the piano and we’d need to reschedule for another day. You can’t exactly do that in the business world.

But then, there were times when the piano was the only thing that understood me.
It let me express how I felt. It would take my crap when no one else would.
It taught me invaluable lessons about patience, hard work, and reward.

I have old sheet music from those times – songs that were arranged and composed by Nonnie and Poppa, by hand, in #2 pencil. It made me feel so special when they’d come over one sunday and get me excited about a particular arrangement they were putting together – then we’d start learning it the following week.

I didn’t realize it then but when I was a little girl, music became my solace.
It became my place of comfort and my home.
Especially as I grew a little older it helped to define who I am to this day.

At their house Poppa let me play cassette tapes and fiddle with the radio.
He was there when I got my first CD player.
He was there when I insisted on getting a radio for my pink and purple Huffy bike.
And no one yelled at me on the New Years Eve when I refused to take off my pink Walkman because I was too busy listening to the Top 20 countdown on 107.9.

I had found my passion.

And I have Poppa – and Nonnie – to thank for that.
Our family was just like that. My parents are also that way.
Facilitators.
It’s incredible how your family influences who you become, if only by example.

So what does it mean to be a Cifani?
There are a few things I’ve deducted so far.

Cifanis are creative.
They are kind.
They value family.
They’re hard workers.
They are are strong.
They always find a way.

Just like our dad, poppa wanted us to go to college. he gently encouraged us.
Because he wanted his grandchildren to have a bright future.
He wanted us to find our way.

After all like the famed baseball player Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

Or, “When You Come to a fork in the road, take it.”

And so, off i went to school.

I was a strong individual, flippant even, but I wouldn’t have gone to college if no one had believed in me.

And every time I returned home on holiday, Poppa, in his quiet way, wanted to know all about how everything was going. We’d talk about the flight or the drive, or the amount of classes I was taking, or the distance to and from campus– we never talked about things like money or blind ambition.

He just wanted to make sure we were happy and safe.

He wanted the people in his world to find themselves and be the best they could be.

He wanted us to be good people. Upright citizens, hard workers, simple, humble, strong, and honest.

just like him.

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