My nap was interrupted this morning by overwhelming thoughts of my grandpa. We called him Papa Matteri. It’s a good thing I love him so much (may he rest in peace!), because missing my A.M. snooze makes me a little cranky. Originally posted on Robin Matteri Facebook in 2011
Papa died about one-month shy of his 90th birthday, so don’t be sad, he lived a full life. His life was a mixture of ups and downs; some good, some bad, some stupid, and some sad.
The Top 10 Funniest Things Papa Matteri Did (off the top of my head!) before dying at 90
10. His desire to be deaf.
As a child, I remember my grandma constantly yelling at Papa about his hearing. She told us repeatedly that he “only heard what he wanted to hear.” As a child, this never made sense to me. I finally understood her frustration when I was an adult. The aggravation of trying to have a conversation with him became, at times, so unnerving that I just walked away.
Typical Conversation went like this:
Me: “You need hearing aids!!”
Papa: “Oh, shit, I can’t hear you.”
This exact interaction occurred between him and every member of my family on a daily basis.
9. Who wants to spy on Papa?
Let’s just say that as children we weren’t as fortunate as the youth of today with an abundance of technology. When we played, we had to get creative.
My grandpa worked the night shift at Hank’s Deli and would typically sleep a lot during the day. With nothing better to do, Michelle, Alan and I would crawl around the house like we were in the army, creep into Papa’s room with super stealth-like moves and totally mess with him.
We’d tickle his toes with a feather, tickle his nose or just crawl around trying not to laugh. The object of the game was to piss Papa off (for some reason), and we always won.
8. Yeah, I have my license, I can drive. I was 14.
He owned a 1972 Chevy Pick-Up (still parked out on the Ranch somewhere), and I wanted to drive. We were twenty-two miles north of Patterson when I asked him.
I about panicked when he pulled to the side of the road on Highway 33, got out of the pick-up, walked to the passenger side, and told me to take over.
I made it less than a mile before I started crying, and fessed up.
7. Want to kill him and bury him in the backyard?
I cross my heart; he was just acting macho. No one is buried in the backyard.
Papa ain’t that gangsta!
6. Who bought Papa, a cell phone?
Why, thank you Alan. In the event of an emergency, Alan thought it would be good for Papa to have a cell phone. Well, unlike the rest of my family, I answered when he called 300 times a day. Please refer to number ten on this list and imagine those calls.
5. His love of poker.
Back in the day (40-50 years ago), the hottest poker game in town and on the streets was called Lo-Ball. Papa loved his poker.
As the name implies, the object was to get the lowest five-card hand instead of the highest in most poker games.
Now, please keep this in mind: With seventeen years experience in the world of poker and casinos, I have heard everyone use “bad luck” to defend their losses in gambling. In most cases, luck had nothing to do with it.
Most people lose because they play poorly.
However, in all those years, I will confirm TWO people who truly had bad luck at the poker table.
One was Papa.
When I started dealing poker in the Central Valley, Papa began to become a more frequent customer.
“Looks like you’re working for free today Robin,” said my supervisor whenever he walked through the door. The entire card room called him Papa, and every time he played, I bankrolled him with my tips.
He could never figure out how to play “that stupid high game” (as he called it), so he sat down playing Omaha, a version of high and low poker. Without boring you non-poker people with all the details, let’s just say it’s a hard game.
Let’s also say that in small poker rooms customers are enticed to play with promotions and jackpots worth thousands of dollars. Poker players everywhere are waiting to hit the “jackpot” to break even from their losses.
One night I walked up behind Papa, as he was in a hand of Omaha, and I heard him say, “raise!”
He was excited; his hands were shaking like a leaf (odd for a veteran like him), and he couldn’t wait to dump all his chips into the pot.
Which he eventually did after a series of re-raises between two players. Papa, of course, was one of them.
When Papa was out of chips, it was time for the showdown. This is the part where the players turn their cards face-up.
I looked at Papa’s hand, and there it was in all its beauty…… 3-3-3-3. Quad 3’s. As Papa started to get excited, his opponent turned his hand over and beat him with a Straight Flush.
Papa was about 80 at the time, and this was the first time he had ever made a hand this big. AND OF COURSE, it got beat. And to kick an old man while he was already down, the hand didn’t qualify for any promotional jackpot. Papa got screwed that night. But don’t worry, he didn’t lose any money, I did.
He was back the following day as if nothing ever happened.
4. Papa and his scooter.
There are so many funny things to say about this and then, of course, there is a picture that will forever be in my heart. Him on his scooter and Nicholas on his tricycle, cruising around as happy as can be. BUT, the funniest thing ever was the time he ran Uncle Jack over with that thing—-TWICE!
It had apparently been having some problems so Uncle Jack said he would look at it. As he was inspecting the front-end, Papa hit the accelerator and knocked Jack to the ground. Funny huh?
Well, imagine what happened when Uncle Jack attempted to examine the rear of the vessel? You guessed it; one wrong move and Papa backed over Jack.
Happiness is witnessing those moments.
3. An illegal left turn.
As Papa approached 87 or 88-years old, the California Department of Motor Vehicles made him take a behind-the-wheel driving test before they would renew his license. Thank you DMV!
Papa failed this test due to an illegal left-hand turn on a red light.
Of course, his failed test was my fault.
According to Papa, I had messed with his visor earlier in the day, which obstructed his view, and caused him to think that under the RED light, there was a green arrow instructing drivers to turn left.
2. All these old people.
At one point in Papa’s life, he was forced to stay in a nursing home to recover from a hospital visit. It was minor; his stay was short and we visited almost every day. He was 88 years-old.
At one visit, he looked at me and said, “all these old people are making me depressed.” I freaking busted up laughing.
First of all, he had them all out-aged by at least 20 years, and second, every time we visited he would lay in his bed and all dramatic about his situation. Seriously, it was a wound on his leg that was taking a long time to heal. However, the drama king didn’t realize how depressed he made us by begging us to kill him on every single visit.
“Just put a pillow over my head!”—Papa from the Nursing Home to Me
OMG…… oh and while I’m thinking about it….thanks to the facility for also allowing him access to a PHONE!!
“Robin come kill me. Robin, come kill me”
To which I responded:
“I can’t Papa. Tyler and Nicholas need a mom who isn’t in prison.”
1. Going to Alaska.
In 2005, Papa was about 82 or 83-years old, when he called me. “Robin, I’m going to Alaska.”
Papa needed me to go with him to Modesto to get his birth certificate so he could get a passport, because he was “going to drive an old man and his camping trailer to Alaska so the old man could go fishing.”
The “old man” was 90 and blind. Why was this happening? How did no one in the family try to stop him? Why were we already at the point in this mission where he was convinced he was going? Why was I getting in my car to take him to get his birth certificate?
Well, because he was an old man. To hell with it. Let it be known now, since it’s obvious they made it to Alaska and back safely, that Papa had very little feeling in his feet and had to tap his hands continuously because they felt numb all the time.
The deaf old man (refer to number 10), and the blind old man took a three-week journey to Alaska and back. If I had honestly thought they were going all the way, I would have contacted Hollywood and installed hidden cameras. I thought for sure Papa would get to Sacramento (the next day) and say something similar to this: “forget this, I’m going home.”
But, he didn’t.
He took that old man fishing.
Man, I miss him.