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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What if the world was really ending?

So, May 21st was supposed to be judgement day and the world would come to an end except for the 3% of the population that would be saved. For weeks, I heard of this campaign of judgement day on the streets of NYC and in crowded subways. I saw literature line the sidewalks and buildings on how the world would end on May 21st. The person promoting all of this in NYC reportedly spent over $140,000 to spread the word. I wonder what he thought on May 22nd? But I think the deeper question is regardless of his belief, what if the world really did come to an end? How would you feel? I sat back and thought about this as I laughed with my friends about the notion of the world ending. I spent my last night having Sushi at Bond Street with my good friend Karen and then off to an underground, hip, cool lounge in Soho where you have to walk through the actual kitchen to get to the "cool" part. Just a standard night in NYC-no different than any other. Except what if it was my last? I really thought about it- What did I always want to do but never got the chance? What person was I not speaking to or a relationship strained that I could mend and what regrets would I have?

My grandfather would share with me during his dying moments his greatest regret. It was one of love. My grandmother, Beatrice "Bee", died when i was only a baby. I don't remember her. But Bee was my grandfather's true love and soul mate. He would talk about Bee with love in his voice, eyes and heart. You could feel his passion for her. His unconditional love for her regardless of how she was or who she was. But my grandmother was an alcoholic and died of cirrhosis of the liver. She missed our lives because of an illness that even she could not control. My grandfather would cry during these moments and tell me his greatness regret was that he was not stronger with her. That he did not stand up to her and the drinking so she could be around to watch her grandchildren. He was mad at himself for being weak, for ignoring the problem in hopes it would go away, and for never confronting it. But he loved her- good, bad, unconditional love. He would envision how she would look now almost 40 years later- would she be wrinkly, would her beautiful red hair be gray and would she have stopped drinking?

In the diary, my grandfather talks of Bee and the letters she would send him. It was his salvation to a dry, desert day of war. Bee's letters would uplift him and he was able to carry on knowing he would return to Queens, New York one day. My grandfather's regret stayed with him till his dying day. "If only," "I should have," or "why didn't I" filled the hospital room when he talked about Bee.

I think back on my regrets or list of things I always wanted to do. Did I have any regrets? What if the world ended after my night in Soho- did I do everything I wanted to do?

So, I thought about it and listed some of the things I still want to do:

Go to Africa on a 3 week Safari
Spend more time with my family and friends
Volunteer my time with a charity Organization close to my heart
Go to London when Prince Harry get's married
Laugh more
Write more
Love unconditional
PUBLISH this book :)

Now, what regrets do I have in my life(these are just a few):

Never saying goodbye to my good friend Benny before he died
Wasting too much time at odds with my best friend Debbie instead of loving our friendship
not spending more time with my grandfather
not working on this book more and getting it out to the world

I would encourage everything to think about the regrets you have and change them or forgive yourself for them! and then list the things you want to do and DO THEM! My grandfather couldn't change what happened to Bee but he did regret it till his dying day that he didn't do more to help her. But he loved us for two people and I can only hope I have the patience, understanding and unconditional love he had for Bee one day.

Much love


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Taking Risks

Well I know it's been a while since my last blog but just know that I never forget about this book or any of my readers. As we say all the time, life got busy and time slipped away. Since my last blog or post, I have reflected on the book its purpose. Will anyone care? Will anyone read it? Will it become a best seller and i can speak around the world? But then I realized something.... I care and that is all that really matters. If you do something for yourself to make you feel whole and possibly heal wounds, new and old, then it matters..

I watched myself these past couple of months loose sight of who I really am as a person. Do i try to hard to make something "fit" when it really should just be left alone. Do I work too much and maybe this is all I have in life? Could life really be just that- a job? Then I remember my grandfather and how proud he was of me till his dying day. He was so proud that I made something out of myself. He was the only one that believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. He never stopped asking me or pushing me to excel. Have a better life than he did and always take a risk.

I can only imagine the risk my grandfather took when he stepped forward on that day in 1943 to go half way around the world without any friends or family to Egypt and Tunisia to fight with the British in WWII. What bravery and an enormous risk at 24! I took me till 35 years old to get a passport and leave the country on vacation (thanks Erin and Kala) .. Now I can't get enough of Europe or any other destination. Life is about taking risk- professionally and personally. There are times i have taken a significant risk and it didn't work out. But i learned a little bit more about myself that i would have never known. I opened my heart and let life in. My grandfather opened his heart everyday of his life. He didn't care if people were mean to him, loved him or disliked him. He kept his heart open to lead a better more joyful life.

My grandfather risked it all to go to Egypt and he would tell you today if he was alive he does not have one single regret. The memories of that time was so vivid for him that he replayed some of the war missions to us before his death. I asked him one day" Grandpa, were you scared." He said " of course i was but if i didn't try it i would have been more scared of life." I guess we are a family of risks. My grandfather's father ( my great-grandfather) travel alone from Italy in 1916 on a boat for over a week with $5.00 in his pocket- no family, no friends. He took a risk. And it paid off.

I think about the times today and how my life is evolving. How my friends are evolving and family. And I feel proud of the person i have become today. I am not so sure i was proud of me back then when my grandfather always was. I was a hurt person by painful past scares and I didn't know how to handle them. So, i hurt people in exchange and showed no emotion. Until one day, right after my grandfathers death, when i didn't even recognize myself anymore. I lost my footing in life- cold, unemotional and scared to take any sort of emotional risk. Then I woke up and started to read the diary. It felt like a connection to something warm and loving like my grandfather. As cold as i had become, my grandfather could melt it away with his smile, laugh, words on a page and unconditional love for me. The more I read the diary the more I wanted to change and risk everything that i built to protect me. Life was about more than surface relationships or a big paycheck. Life was about opening your heart and truly being a whole person with limitless boundaries.

Its taken me 5 years or so since my grandfathers death to really understand who I am as a person and show people i have changed. I am so blessed to have the love of my family and friends who just never gave up on me. And I write this today to help shape the book and show you how a diary from so long ago can really change a person for the better. I have taken many risks and opened my heart to only be hurt. That's ok. It made me better because I can feel now and I would rather feel something than nothing at all..

I am starting to work on the book's outline and will be posting more...

if you like this blog, please forward it along

Much Love


Sunday, December 12, 2010

WWII Pictures

These are just some of Grandpa's pictures from WWII 1943 in N. Africa. He has over 100 pictures along with the diary. enjoy

Friday, December 10, 2010

On Patrol Article- USO

In case you have not seen this, I submitted my story to the USO magazine and was featured in their Web magazine, On Patrol. I am attaching the article. Please pass it around and post to you Facebook so everyone can read it :)

Happy holidays


November 30, 2010
A Granddaughter's Story

by Robin Garofalo

My grandfather, James Garofalo, was a top turret gunner in a B-25 Mitchell aircraft, also known as the “Desert Warrior,” while serving in North Africa during World War II. He rarely spoke of his time at war but when he passed away three years ago he left me all his memorabilia including a diary, which chronicles six months of the war -- April to September, 1943.

James Garofalo poses next to the tail of a B-25. Courtesy photo.
He was fighting with the British army to push back Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox. He logged 193 hours and 73 missions, and throughout all this time he kept his diary, in which he describes fear, loss, pain, hope, and death. It has become a catalyst and a source of values for me in my life.

In the diary, he writes about the end of the North African War, the invasion of Sicily, being shot down twice, and flying General Patton. But perhaps none of his entries seemed more distressing then the loss of his best friend “Mack.”

Mack was lost over Sicily on July 10, 1943, leaving my grandfather to battle alone without his comrade in the hot Sicilian sun. The diary entry for July 10, 1943 reads:

“This is one day I’ll never be able to forget – It beats ’em all. We went out to bomb the [aerodrome] at Trapani – God what [Anti-Aircraft Gunfire] and lights! We started our bomb run and ran right into 24 search lights – they had us – but good [thing] he put the ship over on its nose and down we went.

“We hit over 400mph. The guns went off – everything went flying. Talk about being scared – man alive – what an experience – took 10 years off my life. We got out at last. Full of holes, but okay. Lucky guys. We lost Mack though [and] Lieutenant Fredd never came back. Guess they got him. Poor Mack. I gave him my cigarette ration just before we took off. Sure does get you."

My grandfather was so sad. His only friend was gone and there was nothing he could do but pray and hope he returned safely. He wrote in his diary for days that he hoped Mack jumped out of the plane in time and was walking back to base with his parachute in hand. But day after day would go by with no word. My grandfather’s pain for Mack’s loss was enormous and came right through the pages, but he continued fighting the war – mission after mission.

There are pictures of him and Mack together right before that fatal mission, and after reading through his memoirs, I began to catalogue all of his pictures, albums and diary entries, but I could not stop thinking about this “Mack.” Who was he, and where is his family today?

To begin my search, I had to find out exactly what happened to Mack on July 10, 1943, if there was any hope of finding his family. I researched everything I could find about “Mack” or “Macarson” as my grandfather indicated in his picture album was Mack’s full last name.

James Garofalo (left) and Alvin "Mack" Macarson (right) pose for a photograph the day Mack was shot down. Courtesy photo.

Eventually I stumbled across a picture of an older woman receiving the Purple Heart for her son Alvin Macarson who was killed in World War II and listed as a staff sergeant on a B-25 Mitchell bomber – same as my grandfather!

I searched more and found a November 25, 2000, posting on by Alvin’s niece, Sarah Moore. She was searching for information or pictures anyone might have regarding her uncle’s death. I quickly wrote Sarah back, hoping perhaps she might still be on this site after nine years. She was. She is now 82, but she responded instantly – amazed that after all these years that she now had new information on her uncle, Alvin Macarson.

She wrote to me, “It is unbelievable that we can learn something new about Alvin after all these years. His younger brother is now 89 and recently went to live at a care facility. I was a high school student at the time he was reported MIA. I am 82, have mobility problems, but still alert.

After all these years, to be presented with a new photographs and memories – new pieces of their brother and uncle they never knew existed – is just amazing.

“I have often heard of stories of people finding people and secretly hoped that I would be that lucky some day. Now I can say that I have experienced the thrill of finding someone important! Your grandfather is a jewel for keeping all of these treasures. And you are the lucky one to be the recipient of his careful keepsakes. I hope you do write a book about his treasures!” Sarah added.

Alvin "Mack" Macarson poses for a photograph in the crease of a bunker. Courtesy photo.
She called me the next day to talk more about her uncle Alvin and how my grandfather held memories her family never knew existed. She told me how Alvin was a fun-loving, sensitive uncle who fought for freedom in both the Navy and Army during World War II.

As tears came to my eyes, Sarah asked me “Now tell me about your grandfather and his life.” I was numb and quickly felt selfish. My grandfather was one of the lucky ones and he was able to create a life for his family.

I feel like I ow it to Mack and Sarah to do more everyday -- say thank you to people, smile more, tell my friends and family I love them, and above all, give back to others.

That is why I’m writing a book inspired by my grandfather’s World War II diary titled, “A Granddaughter’s Story.” It’s about how a grandfather’s words from 64 years ago can change the course of his granddaughter’s life. It is a way of giving back to one family and hopefully millions more.

Robin Garofalo is a keynote speaker in overcoming adversity and transformation through a memoir she is writing based upon her grandfather’s diary from WWII. She holds a B.A. in Human Relations from St. Joseph’s College and her M.B.A. from the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Facebook Page- Be a Fan Today!!

I would love for you to be a fan of my facebook page, My Grandfather's Love. I am attaching the link below. I post all comments, pictures, excerpts from the diary on the fan page. Please pass it along to everyone you know.

Thank you for the support and I will be blogging over the holidays

Happy Holidays


Sunday, October 31, 2010

NYC Marathon update-Just one week away!

Well, it has been a long training season filled with excitement, injury's, upset stomach's, ice packs, fatigue and most of all happiness. I started this journey on August 1st in honor of my grandfather and his best friend, Mac from WWII. I thought to myself what better way to honor these two heroes than to run an event such as the NYC marathon with Hope for the Warriors charity organization. I have raised $3,000 for this organization that helps wounded soldiers transition back from the war. But I still feel a sense of fear for this 26.2 monster that lies ahead in just 7 days. What if my injury acts up? What if I get tired and don't make my goal time of 4:45? What if the pain is just to much? Yikes, what if I can't do it?

All these thoughts run through my mind as I run over the 59th street bridge, turn the corners of Central Park and run up first avenue in practice of the big event. Then it hits me. My grandfather's laughter and voice saying " I'm so proud of you. Wow- a marathon. How amazing" That's when I realize the only fear I have is him not being here to cheer me on. Sometimes I wish I could turn back time and be a better granddaughter to him. Talk to him more, play cards all day, ask him questions about life or go with him on his daily walk. But I was just too busy. Too busy getting my MBA or working for a company that I loved more than my own life sometimes. But when i did call, it was all about me. My grandfather was so proud of me and wanted to know everything that was going on. He was so smart about business and we would talk about the stock market and stocks. You could hear in his voice that he was so happy i was leading perhaps a better life than him and he was able to give it to me. I was financially set and needed no one in my life- except my grandfather. Only I never really realized it until he was gone. The diary has changed my life. It made me reconnect to my grandfather after his death. I just wish i did it when he was alive but I know I am not alone and when I set out to run in 7 days he will be right next to me. Guiding me home towards the finish line.

Here's to Grandpa and Mac! 26.2 is for you!

Happy Halloween and please tune into the NYC marathon. I have submitted this story to the news coverage so you never know if they will run up next to me!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Running for Mac and James

26.2 miles. That’s the distance of a marathon. It takes some 3 hours and others 6 hours. It is long, exciting and at times painful miles with one foot in front of the other in sheer determination to make it to the finish line. Doubt creeps in your mind asking yourself over and over again to stop running and just give up. Just give up! Please! But then I wonder if my grandfather even gave up on Mac?

My grandfather was a top turret gunner in 1943 fighting WWII in N. Africa. He was fighting with the British army to push back the advances of Rommel, the Desert Fox. My grandfather was shot down twice, flew General Patton, received several medals and conducted over 193 missions. Throughout all this time, he kept a diary of the above events which was given to me upon his death. The diary accounts for 6 months of fighting as he describes fear, loss, pain, hope and death. This diary has become a catalyst and a source of values for me in my life.

On my 40th birthday this year, I began to read pages of the diary again to feel a sense of purpose in my life. To feel that I have achieved something and I am someone with a deep connection to life or at least I hoped so. It was at that moment I turned to the page of the doomed mission where my grandfather’s best friend Mac was lost over Sicily. My grandfather was so sad and filled with emotions about losing Mac. There a pictures of my grandfather and Mac together right before the fatal mission. His only friend was gone and there was nothing he could do but pray and hope Mac returned safely. He wrote in his diary for days that he hoped Mac jumped out of the plane in time and was walking back to base with his parachute in hand. But day after day would go by with no word from Mac. My grandfather’s pain for his loss was enormous but yet he continued on fighting the war mission after mission. It was then when I realized my pain, procrastination, and agony was nothing compared to my grandfather and Mac. I wanted to do something that would push my limits, test the boundaries of my convictions and challenge me to push my mind, body and soul further. I decided after 4 years I would run another marathon in honor of Mac and James( my grandfather)

I ran my first marathon in Richmond, VA on veteran’s day 2006 right after my grandfather passed away and before I received his diary. It was 85 degrees and HOT. I remember the last 3 miles vividly and passing my coaches as they scream my name with words of encouragement. All I could do was give a “thumbs up” sign because anything else would be more energy than I could give at the moment. The “thumbs up” was my grandfather’s signal that all was OK when I went to visit him in the hospital during his last days. I did not even realize I was doing it until my coaches told me that was the only sign I would give them that I was OK. I can remember the end of the Richmond marathon and feeling elated as I crossed the finish line on Veteran’s day in honor of my grandfather. But I was in pain. My knees, hip and back were throbbing. I felt elated but yet also alone. No one was there to wave me in, hold up a sign with my name on it or give me a hug at the end. It was just me and my grandfather. I swore I would never run another marathon! My body just does not like to run 26.2 miles. I will never do it again! Until the diary came in my life and showed me courage, fearlessness and above all the love of a friendship.

So, I signed up for the New York City Marathon- what better place to test your wits and honor two of brave soldiers. I felt alive at 40 and ready to see if I could do it all over again. But in NYC you can only get a spot in the marathon if you completed a certain number of races the previous year (which I did not) or through the lottery drawing. I entered my name in the drawing and just my luck my number was not called. Rats! How do I get a number to honor Mac and James? Through a charity organization I was told at the New York Road Runners web site. Charities have numbers that you can raise money in honor of that charity and they give you a NYC marathon number. Ok, but I have to feel the charity- it has to be a cause I care about and that can satisfy my goal to my two soldiers. I found one- Hope For the Warriors.

Hope for the Warriors goal is to enhance quality of life for US Service Members and their families nationwide who have been adversely affected by injuries or death in the line of duty. Hope for the Warriors actively seeks to ensure that the sacrifices of wounded and fallen warriors and their families are never forgotten nor their needs unmet. It was perfect! I will be running the NYC marathon for the charity Hope for the Warriors in honor of Mac and my grandfather who will never be forgotten in my heart. Mac or Alvin Macpherson was an honorable soldier who fought proudly for this country. It took me over 2 years to find his family and share with them the diary and pictures. I found Sarah Moore, his niece, who is now 82 and living in N. Carolina. She was astonished that after all these years something was discovered about her favorite uncle. She can recall him leaving to go to war in N. Africa and saying his goodbyes. After hugging and kissing the family, he walked to the end of the driveway turned around and smiled to his favorite niece, Sarah. That was the last anyone saw of Alvin. Until my pictures and diary were given to me and I in turn gave them to Alvin’s family.

On the first Sunday in November, I will line up on the Verrazano Bridge with my Hope For the Warrior teammates and run 26.2 miles through the 5 boroughs of New York City. Through the pain of a reoccurring injury- I will press on. Through the temperatures throughout the day- I will press on. Through the self-doubt- I will press on! And through the excitement of the city streets- I will press on. But most of all I will press on for the friendship of Mac and James. The true heroes of the day!

If you would like more information on the book I am writing about my grandfather’s diary be a fan on Facebook at: My Grandfather’s Love.
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Hope to see you cheering me on!