Pops from Jersey City

There once was an old Sicilian man named Pops from Jersey City. He built his house from scratch with his bare hands in a time when the American dream was still very much alive. Although it was a little bit sideways the house was strong and was his own. He didn’t owe anyone anything.

Pops never locked his door and would even leave it wide open most days. Even when all the Sicilians and whites started moving out and Blacks, Hispanics and Asians started moving in, Pops stayed strong. He kept that door wide open everyday. Everyone knew pops.

Pops was old school. A man’s man. He used his bathtub to make wine and his windowsill to grow his own tobacco and tomatoes. He rolled his own cigarettes way before hipsters and made his own sauce long before the ‘jersey shore’.

Pops was deeply in love with his childhood sweetheart Nona. They came to America together and built a strong family of six boys and one daughter. Those children had children, and so the lineage goes.

Nona passes away, everyone officially moved out of town, his kids all grown up, but Pops still stayed.

He built that house and he wasn’t going to let anyone take that from him. So he kept on chain smoking his home grown tobacco and swimming in his home brew of freshly fermented grapes. He had permanent tobacco stains on his finger tips, holes in his jeans, and dirt on his boots. But he could beat anyone in an arm wrestling match.

One day his favorite grandson Larry got a call from Pops.

“Hey Larry, it’s Pop pop. I need you to come put my leg back together.”

“What do you mean Pops?!”

“I fell, my leg, the bone is sticking out of it. I need you to pop it back in.”

“What?! Are you o.k.? I can’t do that Pop we have to bring you to the hospital! I’m coming right now.”

Pops had been lying on the ground all day. His hip was fractured and the bone was sticking out of his skin. The whole area was purple. He tried to fix it on his own but he couldn’t, all he wanted was his favorite grandson to put it back into place for him. They don’t make men like Pops anymore.

See, Pops never went to a doctor in his life and he hated hospitals. This was a different case though, an exception to the rule. He needed to go to the ER, and he did. The surgery was successful. But the doctors noticed other things, or maybe had other plans. Pops was ‘unhealthy’. He had high blood pressure and ‘bad’ cholesterol. Doctors wanted to put him on a cocktail of prescription drugs.

They told him he only had a year to live.

Pops refused.

All the women in the family threw a fit.

“Please Grandpa do it for Nona!”

“It’s a waste of money, I don’t need them.” He really just wanted to be with Nona in heaven.

“It’s free, you have medical! Just promise you will go down to the drug store and get those prescriptions filled!”

After a few weeks of being bothered he finally made that promise.

“Alright, I’ll go get the prescriptions filled.”

Pops was 85 years old.

Years passed. The neighborhood got even worse. Pops stayed the same. Still chain smoking his window sill tobacco and drinking on his bath tub wine. Bacon and eggs were a daily routine. Fresh Tomatoes from the garden kept his heart in his home land.

He really didn’t care if he lived anymore and not much bothered him.

But lived he did. Pops kept going. That medicine those doctors gave him really must have worked.

All the way to 110 years old!

Then one day Larry gets the call. Pops passed away in his sleep.

Larry was his favorite, and the one closest to home, so he had to go with the police to identify the body and collect all his stuff.

They get upstairs to his room.

There’s tobacco everywhere, half smoked cigarettes in a huge flowerpot. The once white porcelain tub stained a purplish red.

Something is really weird though. The closet in Pop’s room has a deadbolt lock on it.
Pops never even locked his front door. Why would there be a lock on the closet?

They break the lock and open the door. Inside is 25 years worth of unopened prescription pills.

Pops never took one of them.

“Hey, I promised them I would go get the prescription filled, I never said I would actually take them,” Larry heard Pops voice in his head.

All Larry could do was look up to heaven and smile.

True strength prevails, iron will the best medicine.

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  • Matt Nicosia

    Pops went out on his terms. Great story.

  • FlorianUlrich

    Great story.