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I Only Met Her Once

Hey, Friend.

In my household I am not allowed to share any new ideas after 9pm. 

It's just a bit too late for new ideas, according to Italian. 

Doesn't mean I stop having them. 

This week my new idea was - “lemme share few stories from my book with folks receiving Lettters To Friends and see if anyone wants to buy a copy, oh, and if someone had a miscarriage recently or their friend did, I will send them a book for free - shipping and all”. 

Well, this idea is definitely costing me ….lol… , as I am sending NINE free copies and counting to women who went through this experience in the last few weeks.

And I don't care, because look:

So, before I share today's story…

if you want to buy a book for yourself or a friend, here's the link.

If you don't want to buy a book, but want to cover shipping costs for someone like this:

… you can send me $5 below - thank you!

Now let me take you back.

We are visiting Campora, a little town in southern Italy, and the town where my husband's uncle and grandmother still live in a small apartment. 

A painting reproduction by Kandinsky on the wall. The dining room chairs are wrapped in plastic. A large dining table in the middle of the room - underutilized. Photos of faraway relatives and Nonna herself - here at a youthful eighty five. That was eleven years ago. 

Now, almost completely deaf and unable to discern her own volume, she screams every sentence, occasionally, flashing a smile through the few remaining teeth. “Mangia! Mangia!”

She is “all there” - sharp as a tack. Yet, the ageing body, and a recent hip injury has her sitting in a chair all day, covered with blankets, and looking off into the distance. Her day is punctuated by meals.

Wake up, use the bathroom, eat breakfast.

Get seated in the chair by the space heater.

Sit until lunch.

Eat lunch.

Use the bathroom.

Sit some more.

Then dinner.

Sit in the chair, and watch the same mindless trivia show on TV that was running last night. And the night before.

Maybe nod off.

Have some fruit. My husband's uncle - her son - will cut up the fruit in small pieces, so she can swallow - peel the pear, skin the kiwi.

Go to bed.

Repeat the next day.

Is she happy? Is she bored? Is she in pain?

I feel pity, and then sharp guilt. Am I projecting?

I don't know anything about her. 


I wish we shared a language, so I could ask. 

Meanwhile, my husband relays to me that Nonna has been grumpy because she thinks it will be the last time she will see us. 


After breakfast, I move from the kitchen to the living room, where Nonna is sitting in an armchair, with her legs propped up on a plastic chair, with two blankets, covering her legs, and a space heater beside her. 


She is wearing a navy toque with the NY logo on the front. She is cold all the time now.

I make myself cozy in the corner of a sofa, to the right of her. If I scooch over, and she turns her head, we can see each other. 


Few minutes later she starts shuffling. The housekeeper assists her up to her walker. After breaking her hip last year, she has to lean onto the walker with most of her weight, and make small trips. 


Few steps to the bathroom, rest. Few more steps. Then repeat on her way back. 


After the bathroom, she rolls around the walker, and instead of heading for her chair, slowly shuffles around the dining table, and heads straight for the couch where I am sitting. 


Of course, she could have just called me over - I am literally ten feet away - yet… this feels important. 


I sit up. With another couch to my left, the dining table to my right, and now Nonna on her walker straight ahead, I feel slightly ambushed. 


She looks straight at me, and says something. I make out “tutti”, “domani” and “partenza”. “All”, “tomorrow”, “departure”. 


“So, that's it, you are leaving tomorrow”, I translate in my head, filling in the blanks, and my heart clenches. 


She continues to speak in her raspy voice, unnecessarily loud, mostly because she is hard of hearing these days. I only understand an occasional word here and there, so I create a monologue in my head. “Be well. Take care of each other. Say hello to your mother”. 


I get up and gently lean into the walker, placing my head on her shoulder. She starts to cry. Few moments later, I sense her moving away. She hates this emotional shit as much as I do. That's why we get along - despite the language barrier. 


She reaches into her pocket for a handkerchief and wipes her face, her hand shaking. As she starts to turn her walker around, to set out on the long journey around the dining table, and back to her chair, I slowly drop tears into my herbal tea. 


This is human life. All of this. All order of things. She has lived a long time. Soon it will be her time to go. Then it will be mine. Hopefully not too soon. But probably too soon anyway. 


And maybe my grandson will marry a nice girl from a different culture. And we won't speak each other's language, but will get along anyway. And I will get to feel this pain all over again, but this time from the other side. 



If I am ever so lucky.

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