Monday, November 30, 2009

For Nonno

Summer is long gone and winter is just around the bend, the smell of snow and burning wood lingering in the air. Labor Day gave way to Halloween and the beautiful fall leaves that once shivered with laughter have made their way to their earthy graves. Thanksgiving has just passed and I though it only fitting to incorporate a nice theme of — well — thanks into this blog post.

I feel that I've been rather absent these last bunch of months, as I take a look here and see that my keyboard has gathered the kind of dust that only comes with the passing of a season in what feels like the blink of an eye. I've been taking a lot more photographs these days than I have been putting my thoughts into words. I don't know if this fits here, but I suppose it's as good a place as any to talk about my grandfather.

I'll never forget the day, about 5 years ago, when I went over for Sunday dinner to find him not feeling well. I'll never forget when we found out he had Parkinson's. I'll never forget the day he went into the nursing home, the day my grandmother realized she couldn't care for him anymore by herself, the day she sold the house full of my childhood memories. I'll never forget the day I allowed myself to fully realize what was happening, breaking down in my mother's arms in the kitchen, absorbing the fact that the day I had been dreading was rapidly approaching. I'll never forget celebrating his last birthday with him on October 11th and then walking into his room on October 18th to visit him only to find my grandmother, mother and uncle standing over him as the priest read him his last rites. I'll never forget telling him about all our amazing memories and that, yes, it was ok for him to go. He needed that permission and I knew it. I'll never forget my grandmother standing over him, pulling his barely conscious body into her arms and saying, "It's time, Berto. Go to sleep's time. I love you."

And I'll never, ever forget getting the call at 2 o'clock in the morning on October 21st that it was finally over.

The next couple of days are some sort of a blur in my memory, clear and yet not. It happened pretty fast as he passed on a Wednesday, the wake was on Thursday and he was buried on Friday. I held my 8 year old cousin throughout the entire funeral mass and burial, her 13 year old brother by my side. I will tell you one thing: when we all arrived at the church, his reaction as they pulled the casket from the hearse broke me. He buried his face into his father's chest and wailed. As we went through the day I watched my whole family — cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. I studied their faces, watching as the veil of grief settled into their individual features. I looked down at the youngest ones and, all I could think was, I only wish they had gotten a chance to know their grandfather as I knew him, young and vibrant and smart and sassy. Hahaha, what a wise ass! I miss him so much.

This was not the post I set out to write, and yet somehow this is the post that came to be. There's a part of me that wants to erase it all and write about what I originally came here to write, about Thanksgiving and yummy treats and wonderful family, but the bigger part of me is letting this be as is. Because, in truth, this is a post about Thanksgiving, about giving thanks for all that he was to me and all that he still is. Every time the wind picks up and whips through the empty space around me, I know he's there.

Everyone had their thing: my grandmother buried him in his favorite newsboy cap (so typical of an Italian immigrant), my mother put a photo of him as a baby surrounded by his four siblings, mother and grandparents, and my aunt held on tight to his masonry trowel. I wanted him to be buried with the photo book that I had made the previous Christmas, one for him to keep in the nursing home and one for Nonna to keep with her at home. It held pictures of all of us, young and old through the years, with an inscription in the very beginning that read:

Siamo tutti angeli con una sola ala, possiamo volare solo se ci abbracciamo l'uno con l'altro.

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.

He's there now, buried under the shade of a beautiful and grand oak tree. We've been back several times to visit and each time my eyes find his spot, that hole in my heart burns, like wind on embers, with as much intensity as it did that early October morning. I guess that's how strong a love like that operates.

I love you.

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