Though talkative during his earlier years, Papa outgrew it and became more of a listener later on in life. Danny suggested it was “[s]omething in the family,” as he and Papa’s father were the same way, though he also acknowledged “[w]orry can do it too. ” (D. Cinfio). During a special occasion, or just about any occasion, family members would converse loudly. They embodied the Italian stereotype of rowdiness, tossing insults around with a playful cackle and a mischievous smile. He did not. Other than the occasional tomfoolery directed towards his doting wife, Papa did not match the typical Italian criteria.
Though, by description of grumbling, he comes across as somewhat of a barbarian, he was far from it. He watched, listened to, and understood people. His desire was never to be the focus of a conversation, rather to focus a conversation on topics he deemed to be intelligent. When Papa spoke, he liked to reference history’s great thinkers and inspire an enlightened dialogue. “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” is a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that he casually reminded his grandchildren of when the conversation got petty or gossipy (Eleanor).
However, not everyone so eagerly accepted his social habits. As a society, much importance is placed on contribution, and someone more private is often regarded as disrespectful. That translates into conversation. Words in their simplest form need clarification, and the lack of words has potential to be misinterpreted even more, which is why Papa was a frequently misunderstood man. People tended to question his quietness because it could be so easily mistaken for anger or rudeness. But those who gave him a chance learned to understand his reserved behavior.
In fact, I understood it quite expertly because it was a quality that I also had, ergo giving me someone to relate to and to be inspired by. Humans are social by nature; it is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, similarity people have in common, and without it, relationships get complicated. Scientifically, whether extroverted or introverted, every human benefits from social connections. Connection is a form of validation or approval that provides likability and proves that people aren’t as “alone” in their thinking and tendencies as they assume they are.
Hence the reason why the Chameleon Effect, or the inadvertent mimicking of others, is as prevalent as it is. It’s a sign of compassion (Barco). Perhaps that’s why many people are uncomfortable with the less talkative types like Papa. The less that is said, the less there is to relate to, and without the ability to relate, people are left feeling as if the person they are interacting with is cold and emotionless. Papa’s wife Barbara, Nana to me, experienced the judgment others had of Papa’s talking habits first hand.
During their earlier years as a couple, her friends would often ask, “How do you get along with him, he barely speaks? ” (B. Cinfio). Though Nana’s friends likely meant no harm by their comments, the recurring question demonstrates the squeamish nature of people in situations with little conversation. Edith Pelz, or my mom before she married felt similarly to Nana’s friends. She was a potential daughter-inlaw to the Cinfio household, and dated Papa’s son Nick, my dad. Mom could tell Papa was the quiet, serious, type and it did not calm her already-present nerves (E.Cinfio).
Though Mom was more understanding of quiet personalities, the queasiness wrenching her stomach could more effectively be silenced by an outgoing and therefore more calculable personality than it could by a subdued one. Similarly to Papa, Mom was not much of a talker, and because of that, she relied on someone to carry a conversation. Without that to depend on, her nerves were all the more difficult to suppress (E. Cinfio). Even after getting more serious about the relationship, she and the other in-law in the amily were still intimidated by his stoic personality.
There was actually a conversation as to what his title would be. Jokingly, they said “Sir,” as if “Ralph” or “Dad” was too risky. But masked by the humor, there was an implied seriousness about the title that neither my mom nor her fellow in-law cared to vocalize directly to him. Regardless of how relatable a quiet-type was to her, the intimidation factor remained, just as it did for many others until they got to know him (E. Cinfio).