Because of a unique arrangement in my life, my children have the benefit of five grandparents, and it's six really, if you count my mom's boyfriend.
It's a great thing to have, even if sometimes a language barrier can make things tough.
But I'm not talking about my kids' grandparents, you see. They all can speak English, though I imagine when they talk to my children sometimes, they probably feel like my wife and I do - that English is a second language to them.
When I was growing up, I had three grandparents prominent in my life. John and Vincenza Franco, my father's parents, were both born in Italy and could speak English - albeit with a thick Italian accent. I loved it, though.
It was like being in a scene from "The Godfather" every day of my life, minus, of course, the bloodshed.
Then there was my mother's mother, Grandma Rosa Risoldi. Also born in Italy, she lived to be 95 years old and never spoke English a day in her life. She knew some words, and she could understand some of it, but our communication was usually iffy.
When I was in high school, I can remember driving to the Juniata part of Altoona to pick up Grandma Risoldi and bring her to our house for Sunday dinners. It was a great ride on the way over to Juniata, but the drive back, I felt like a contestant on Jeopardy with an IQ of 12.
Grandma Risoldi would talk to me in Italian, and I would basically shake my head yes or no. If yes was the correct answer, I got a smile. If it was the wrong answer, I got yelled at in a high-pitched Italian voice.
You would think my brothers and sister would know more Italian, based on how much of it was spoken around my house and in my neighborhood. There weren't a lot of people named Smith on Third Avenue.
My brother, Tom, and I used to figure whenever the grown-ups were talking Italian, it was about something bad that was going on in our family.
Did someone get arrested? Did someone get a divorce? Did someone get pregnant? Did someone get thrown out of the house? Tom and I would basically listen for names - the one thing they couldn't use an Italian word for. We were like junior code breakers for the military.
There was one time when my Grandma Risoldi was serving us breakfast ... cereal. Because it was Cheerios, we poured the milk into our bowls and covered the cereal with sugar. But this cereal tasted awful. We told our mom the milk was sour and that we wouldn't eat it.
She told us we could not leave the table until it was finished. We pleaded with her to taste it, but she said she didn't have to. The milk was fresh, and the box of cereal was just opened. We basically sat there, putting more sugar on the cereal, but it still tasted awful.
After about a half an hour, my mother relented and tasted the cereal. Her face turned sour, like ours. You see, Grandma Risoldi had put salt in the sugar bowl, and we were pouring more and more salt on our cereal for all that time. She let us go. An innocent mistake, but our tastedbuds paid dearly that morning.
When you're about 10 years old in life, there are very few times when you can say you were right and a parent was wrong. My brother and I think that was our only time, but we have used it liberally throughout our adult lives.
I don't ever have to worry about my in-laws doing anything like that to my kids. They usually have pancakes and eggs for breakfast.
Scott Franco, a member of the Mirror sports staff, is a husband and father of four. He can be reached at 946-7528 or firstname.lastname@example.org.