“He didn’t live far away from me at the time, probably like a mile away,” Edsel says. “I was not in a safe situation. I needed to get out of the house a lot, so I was at their house a lot. I remember one time I ran from my house up to his house, no shorts, just boxers on. I knew where the house key was. I went upstairs crying. Ten years old! And I said, ‘Please don’t tell your parents what happened to me. I just need to sleep the night here.’”
What was going on?
“A bad older sibling—we’ll leave it at that,” Matt jumps in.
“He just, he beat the fuck out of me, what else,” Edsel says. There is a pause. “That’s the PG-13 version of what happened. I tried to live there, but it got so bad. I’ll never forget, I went to bed one night, I was, like, 12. I slept with a kitchen knife, and I swear I said to myself, ‘If this fucker comes—’” He realizes Matt is holding the baby. “Sorry. ‘If this sucker comes, I’m gonna turn around and stab him in his heart.’ I woke up the next morning with the knife on my chest, and I knew I had to get out.”
Stacey is crying.
Len Giunta took Edsel in. He wasn’t officially adopted, never changed his name.
“I always tell Stacey that I don’t know where I would be without them,” says Edsel, who’s now a bank loan officer. “I have buddies I grew up with who are all screwed up. But the beach, to me—nobody’s in control. We’re just here together as a family. This trip always reminds me of how fortunate we all are. We’re not a typical family.”
Matt has been wanting to say something. “He changed our life as much as we changed his. Edsel made us—I’m gonna start crying—he taught us to be less spoiled and appreciate what we have and—”
He starts breaking down. “My college essay, it was all on him. Half the places I got into, I probably shouldn’t have, but my paper was about him.”
Monday morning, Jenna and Stacey are out early riding bikes. Jenna, a triathlete, ends up doing 25 miles. At the beach at 11:30, Andy walks over the dune, and the family is stunned. Carol grabs a camera to capture the rare moment. That night, the dinner is a bigger party than ever, expanded to include neighbors and in-laws.
Tuesday morning, the Giunta men pull together enough friends to golf in three foursomes at Avalon Country Club. And Tuesday night, the siblings decide to bend tradition and do the dinner honoring their parents at home instead of a restaurant. At this dinner, Andy is usually called upon to make a little toast, which, according to Matt, goes something like, “Love is love is love.”
The moment arrives, and Andy raises a glass and makes his speech. Nothing poetic or over-the-top, just a short and sweet toast to family, to a great week. It’s a good toast—what would you want to change?