I woke up thinking about my nonna

I don’t know why…

So I’d like to share with you a little about my nonna Concetta

She wore black for like 50 years after my grandfather passed away

She used to have really long hair

I remember being a kid and watching her in wonderment comb it and then put in a bun

She never wore it down so I felt like I had gotten a peak behind the wall

She took care of me during the school week

My cousins and I would go home for lunch and she’d be always be ready for us

It’s funny to me now

But back then she never missed a lunch

She always sat with us

She didn’t eat

I don’t know when she ate her lunch

But during our lunch time as we spoke to each other in English

She sat with us

Just being with us

I remember once my cousin was telling a story and said the word ‘stupid’ to describe someone

And she backhanded him lightening fast

Because she thought he had called her stupid

I remember hiding a grin and a laugh

One time my cousins and I took our time returning after school

We approached with a big group of friends

She was waiting on the veranda

Yelling and screaming in Italian

Putting her hand in between her teeth

I can’t explain it

It’s an Italian thing

Anyway

My cousin was so embarrassed in front of his non Italian friends

That he told everyone our nonna was a witch and had just put a spell on everyone

When no one was around she would sit on the couch and play cards on her lap

But as soon as someone showed up at the door

She’d sweep the evidence under the couch cushion

I don’t know why she didn’t want to be caught playing cards

But it always bothered me

Maybe she felt she’d be judged

I don’t know

As I got older I didn’t see her as much

I didn’t speak to her as much when I did see her

Embarrassed by my broken Italian that I had once spoken well

I’d say the usual greeting and whatnot

But didn’t really talk to her like I once had

We’d go visit her and my cousins would be there

We would sit at the table and laugh and tell stories in English

Reminiscing

And she would sit there

Like old times

Just smiling

Being with us

She got sick and older and frail

I went to the hospital to visit her

It was late at night

My cousin left to get us something from Tim’s

My nonna looked scared

I got up and went by her bed

She looked up at me and I whispered

‘Ti amo tanto Nonna’

She smiled weakly

Eventually she got better

She went home

I visited again

I got a text from my cousin

Saying la nonna had died

It actually autocorrected to the nonna had died

That stood out then

Like she was the only one

She passed away at home

I went to see her one last time

I went to her room

Where she laid in her bed

She looked so small

So frail

So unlike the strong woman I’d looked up to my whole life

There was so much I wanted to say

So much I wanted to thank her for

Time had run out

But it didn’t matter

She knew

I just didn’t realize no words were needed for her to understand

She always did

Ti amo tante e per sempre

What is it about a death that makes you evaluate and question everything?

I think it must be the finality of it and the possibility that each of us might pass away before we’ve done/said/felt something we have determined to be important.

And if we fuck it up

That’s it

There’s no take backs

No do overs

There’s this one chance at life

Yet, to fuck up is inherently human

We make mistakes

Sometimes we learn from them

And sometimes we keep making them over and over again

And yet to say at the end of your life (however long that might be)

That you have lived and will die with no regrets

Is kind of a beautiful thing

A lie undoubtedly

But indeed a beautiful thing

Much in the same way that fairy tales are beautiful

Or heavenly tales of the after life

Each of those beautiful in the way that can never be true

Real life stuff isn’t beautiful in such an edited way

It’s messy

And it doesn’t play out in such a fantastical way

There’s not a before

Not a once upon a time

Not a singular event that changes us

And then an after

Not in such a seamless order anyway

There’s lots of before moments

Lots of events that are detrimental to who we are

Lots of events that are completely insignificant in the greater scheme of things

But there’s not one final culminating scene in which the fairy tale closes

We don’t know when it will end

We don’t know when our life is over

And so we live it the only ways we know how

We segment this great big life into days and weeks and months

Not knowing when we will run out of them

We go on this way

Until we simply have no days left

And the story ends

Sometimes abruptly and with a bang

Sometimes quietly and with a whisper

And each of us never knows how the story ends

Up until that final moment

What will be replaying behind our eyelids as we take that last breath?

Will it be relishing our own versions of the happily ever after we lived?

Sprinkled with some regrets but overjoyed with all the things we did do

Or will it be filled with visions of a life that we never really lived?

Weighed down with regrets that could have been chances if not for the fact we didn’t take them

Once upon a time I knew how I wanted my story to end

But my head got stuck somewhere along the way

And I’ve become stilted by some life altering events

And now I can’t reimagine a happily ever after

That includes me

Let alone

One that stars me