[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/24/art.triple.split.jack.onassis.dukakis.jpg caption="From left to right, Jack's grandfather (X.L. Papaioanou), Aristotle Onassis and Michael Dukakis."]
Well, actually, he’s not fat. But he does have Michael Dukakis’s eyebrows and Aristotle Onassis’s liver spots.
If you’ve been watching AC360° this week then you’ve probably seen our series of reports on the supposed health and longevity enjoyed by residents on the tiny Greek island of Ikaria. They’ve reminded me of my grandfather: a first generation Greek-American who has long insisted that the secret to a healthy life is a proper balance of Baklava and flat ginger ale.
Words cannot describe the strength and inspiration my grandfather, “Papou,” has given me over the years. Mind you, that was before he turned into a hermit who sits in his basement eating Sam’s Club-brand peanut butter cups and making paper mache busts of Yanni.
Nevertheless, Papou is a man to admire. A brilliant physician, he instilled in me the importance of hard work, honesty and – when he wasn’t looking – complimentary painkillers.
A man who by day saved lives and by night brought home items like a remote-controlled flatulence simulator called Le Farteur. “But it’s French!” he said, as my grandmother pushed him out the door.
He is, as his children and grandchildren will attest, a great listener – always available to dispense advice. Except when he’s asking strangers at Outback Steakhouse if they think he made a mistake by never becoming a chorus boy for Liza Minnelli.
Equal parts savvy consumer and hearty outdoorsman, my grandfather is as comfortable shopping for a used Cadillac as he is euthanizing a turtle that’s had the misfortune of encountering his grandson’s fishing tackle.
He is a man for whom – although he loves his family – there is always a 50/50 chance he will skip his own birthday party in favor of watching a Ron Popeil infomercial while wearing my grandmother’s nightgown.
A modern man who passed on to me his love of photography and electronic gadgets, he retained his parents old-world sensibilities and disregard for U.S. law. “What do you mean,” he asked me when I was 11, “you don’t know to drive?”
He is also a brave man, one who – in all seriousness – has never once complained about being afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis. Nor about the time I shot him in the face with a BB gun during Thanksgiving dinner. (Hey, I warned him to hurry up with the mashed potatoes.)
But, time passes on. And no matter what is happening on that Greek island – and let’s face it, it’s probably some scam run by John Stamos – my grandfather is getting older.
Nowadays I see him only a few times a year. Not because I don’t make the effort. But because he’s usually curled up with a bottle of Ouzo and a ukulele.
He knows, however, how much I love him. Provided, of course, that when he someday goes to that Greek island in the sky, he leaves me Le Farteur.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with