It's been a year and some since you have passed, and you've been on my mind lately. I'm not sure if they're little subtle hints that you've been dropping from God's right side or not, but you've been clouding my mind with simple memories and reminders this past week. Needless to say, I miss you.
You knew I didn't have any sort of grandparent representation besides you, and you made up for that. Every birthday, holiday, and call you made meant the world to me, and even though you lived in California the majority of the time, you always made sure I was doing okay. Whether it be about school, dance, or even boys, you knew exactly what to say that Dad couldn't really touch on. You knew childhood life was hard for us, and maybe that's why you moved down here for that little while. But, that's what I needed: I needed a woman to nurture me in the way I haven't been.
I remember I was in trouble once for being disruptive in class, and my parents weren't handling it well. I came home to you — you cooking a big vat of ravioli in red sauce — and I just sat and cried to you. You took me in to your once bedroom, sat me down, and said, "You're different, my sweet angel. My free spirit child." To this day, whenever I do something different or make power moves, I think of you saying that to me, and that gives me the strength to keep going.
Thank you Nonna for making me feel normal and strong when all I was doing was being me.
Once you moved back and I got older, you got sick. You were fragile like a paper doll, and we kept getting calls that your health was worsening. But, you kept going — you lived for years more, fighting. Until one day, you couldn't keep going.
I was sitting at my former work place — I worked for my former dance studio — and my dad got the call that you had hurt yourself. As my parents were frantically figuring out what to do, my dad had me call you: and you answered. For the first time in my life, you couldn't remember me: and I was crushed. You kept repeating, "who is this?" and every time I forced my name out of my choked up throat, my heart would skip a beat. Until you finally remembered me, and said, "my sweet angel, how's my free spirited little girl?" and poof: you forgot me again within a second.
It was that day that I realized you weren't going to last forever.
Years later, your daughter and my aunt called me, telling me that you had only a couple weeks, and that I needed to say goodbye. I was estranged from my family, and I was living with my boyfriend and his family. I called you for the last time, you were weak. The call was similar to the previous one: I had to repeat my name several times till I heard a soft coo, "my sweet angel, where's your dad?", and I broke down. A couple days later, you passed away, and were free from all pain.
Then, a miracle happened.
My boyfriends mom — who was helping me through it — recommended I go to a medium: someone who could help me get through my funk and help me through issues. So, I went, and he saw you.
He said, "behind you is a beautiful olive-skinned woman with long black hair in an apron. I believe she is your grandma, isn't she?". INSTANTLY, I felt chills. The medium said, "she says to keep going, sweet angel." To this day, I still look back on that recording, and get chills.
Nonna, thank you for your childhood with me.
Thank you for the endless Twilight Zone marathons, every pearl you ever gave me, and *trying* to teach me to cook. Thank you for introducing me to my little cousins, and thank you for being mediator between my parents and I. Thank you for the memories at Christmas, where you made Panettone and other Italian delicacies. Finally, thank you for accepting me for who I am. It was because of you I felt I could be as loud as I wanted, and as different as I could be.
Now, every time I watch the Twilight Zone, eat honey and fig ice cream, and chew Trident gum, I feel you surrounding me. Your disease, pain and old age may have taken your life, however you still live on through me.