I was 17 years old when I left Italy for what was supposed to be a 3-month stay with my aunt in New Mexico which ended up becoming permanent. I’m still here 33 years later. And while it was my choice to stay, many times I must admit, I miss my family so much I can’t breathe. It would be so much easier if my family was in the same town I live in, or the next town over… I could even handle the next state over, but across the globe? I guess it would be easier if I didn’t like my family, but I adore my family.
The one thing that I try so hard to instill in my kids are memories of their grandparents. I try to get my kids to Italy every now and again so they cannot say they don’t know my parents or my family, but it’s hard, especially since Nicky’s condition not only makes it hard for him to travel, but I certainly would have more money to travel if I could work. It’s like everything works against me. Yet, I try.
The one thing that it’s probably the hardest is the language barrier. Both my sisters and their families know English OK, some more than others, but my parents… not so much. My kids know some Italian, but unless you’re constantly using it, it doesn’t necessarily stick. I know my kids are learning more and more of it each day, but, alas, it won’t be until we actually take the trek next year to Italy that I can hope for more Italian to stick for a long time.
One of the most important people in my life was my grandma Rina, pictured below in 1993. It’s not that I didn’t have other grandparents, it’s just that they all died before I realized how important that relationship was. I was only 13 when my mom’s mom died of cancer, and she spent those 13 years in and out of hospitals, enduring mastectomies, chemotherapy and God knows what else. She suffered a lot, there wasn’t much time for family get-togethers. Both my grandfathers, who unfortunately died soon thereafter, weren’t exactly the warm and fuzzy grandpas one can hope for, they were the adults and responsible for fostering a relationship with their grandchildren, which never happened. I was too young and one can’t exactly blame a child for a non-existent relationship. Had I been older it would have been a different story. Hence, as far as grandparents go, Nonna Rina (my dad’s mom) was about it for me.
Nonna Rina lived a long time, she died only about 10 years ago just a couple of months shy of her 102nd birthday, and the last time I saw her I asked her all kinds of questions about “how she met grandpa” and held her hand endlessly. I honestly cherished her. She was the sweetest grandma ever. I don’t think I ever saw her mad, she had the best disposition!
Three years ago while I was transferring old videos I came across one of this particular visit where she talked about not being able to travel much in her lifetime because of her “chickens”. Just hearing her voice with her unmistakable Venetian accent just brought me right back to her house. My grandparents owned a mini-farm where they grew all sorts of vegetables to sell, had all kinds of fruit trees and had a few animals as well. At one point she even grew flowers. Before I was born they had goats and a horse even, but by the time I came along they had scaled it down to just chickens and rabbits. By the time I was born she was already in her 60s. The first thing I used to do every Saturday when we arrived to visit them was to go see if there were any new eggs and she would bring me to see the baby rabbits. It’s memories I will cherish forever.
I was lucky. I had a grandmother that was sweeter than sugar and that truly cared. I know many don’t. I suppose in this life we need to recognize who cares about us and make sure to spend time with them. I wish I would have spent more.
To one of my guardian angels… forever I will miss you <3