My grandmother died yesterday.

After Dan got home, he said, “I miss her already.”

My feeling is a little different. I’ve been missing my grandmother for years now. I feel like now I can begin to grieve. I wrote about it in this post two years ago:

In contrast, I have been losing Gigi for a number of years now. Her memory started fading probably 10 years ago. Five years ago, it started fleeing. And then about two years ago, she took a fall and fractured her pelvis, and her memory loss was, abruptly, memory lost.

When we visit, she says she remembers who we are, but I have my doubts. These visits are pleasant because my grandmother, despite her complete absence of presence, is cheerful. She isn’t angry, or depressed, or crabby. She just smiles and hmms and nods as we tell her our stories, remark on the weather, or talk about food. She doesn’t seem to be in any pain or discomfort. She is in good health, although my mother reports she is steadily weakening. Unlike Nanny, Gigi isn’t struggling. What would she struggle against?

If I had one wish before Gigi dies, it would be, for one day, to spend it with the grandmother I remember from, say, fifteen or twenty years ago. That woman, my children, and a tape recorder, for 24 hours. I would like Monkey to have something more than the vague woman she has met. Bun may not have any memories of Gigi at all.

Which leaves it up to me, I guess. To remember for all of us.

Olympia was a first generation American. Her parents’ love story is right out of an Italian romance novel — the older man spotting the teenage beauty in the piazza; his travel to America to “make his fortune”; sending for his love and her family. They had children; they lost a daughter in an accident when she was only 6 years old. My grandmother used to tell us how much that hurt her mother. The parents died within a year of each other.

My grandmother grew up in Little Italy in Erie, Pennsylvania. She was a hat check girl at the Italian Club, and later, worked in the Marx Toy factory. My grandfather, Frank, worked there too. I wonder sometimes how he caught my grandmother. She was a classic Italian beauty — small in stature, with dark eyes and hair, a smile that seemed to hold secrets. Not that my grandfather was not a handsome man. I just used to watch them bicker sometimes and wonder.

The story I learned later was that the house in which they lived — the one that wasn’t in Little Italy — was bought by my grandmother after her second son was born. Olympia and Frank had a boy, then a girl (my mother) and then, nine years later, another boy.

With an infant, two school-aged children, herself, her mother-in-law, and her husband all under one roof, my grandma decided it was time to move. Her MIL wasn’t going to budge from Little Italy, and it looked like my grandfather wasn’t going to either. He didn’t think they needed to move and he didn’t look at houses. But my grandmother was a working woman, too, and she had some money put away. So she found the house. My grandma gave my grandpa an ultimatum. She and the kids were moving; he could come with ’em if he wanted. My mom always said that until they moved there, her parents never fought with each other.

It was a great house for grandkids. My grandfather had a garden and there was a huge plum tree in the backyard. They had toys from Marx — a Big Wheel, a two-seated pedaled scooter. The basement and the attic were treasure troves. I remember Sundays of speeding around the driveway with my cousins; exploring upstairs and downstairs (even though we weren’t supposed to be in the attic); of dinners of lasagna and raviolis. I remember my dad eyeing his jelly glass of dago red suspiciously, and the men — my dad, his father-in-law and two brothers-in-law — sitting silently in the living room watching football.

I don’t think my dad ever had more than one glass of that wine each week.

My grandmother was a widow for more than 30 years. Frank died of his second heart attack, in the doctor’s office. She used to joke with my sister and me: “The first time you marry for love; the second for money.” We used to ask her when she was going to find a rich boyfriend.

She never did. She considered herself married…. well, I can’t say until the day she died. I don’t know what was locked inside my grandma’s head in the end.

We had just been in Erie in July, and had celebrated her 92nd birthday on the lawn of her long-term care home. I’m glad, so glad, we had the time with her we had. She may have faded from the lively Italian grandma I knew, but I like to think that somewhere in her heart, she still knew us all and loved us all. That she still remembered. Everything.

To My Mom, On Mom’s Day

My mom doesn’t read my blog.

I don’t know why, really, if she even has a reason. I suspect it’s more about the fact that computers to her are for work, are for getting things done. She turns elsewhere for entertainment, books or television, golf. She would find it silly to sit and read her computer.

And it doesn’t bother me that she doesn’t read my blog. I’m often surprised, still, that my dad reads it (hi, Dad!).

So I don’t really have to spend time here wishing her a Happy Mother’s Day. I sent her flowers yesterday, and she and Dad are coming down for brunch today. So I’ll have the opportunity to say it in person — a fact for which I am infinitely grateful. I know lots of women and moms who aren’t lucky enough to be able to tell their moms, face-to-face, to have a great day, to eat a meal with them. My own mother is faced with a unique situation on this Mother’s Day, a mother who probably doesn’t remember that she is a mother.

I don’t have to tell you, who actually read my blog, anything that is great about my mom. Why I love her. Why she is such a treasure. She’s not going to read this.

But you know what? I think I’m going to anyway.

I’ll try to keep it short.

My mom is always there for me. And she’s there in a totally non-intrusive way. When I was planning our wedding, I said to her, “Do you mind if I have it in Pittsburgh?” I had been living in Pittsburgh for 10 years when I got engaged; most of my extended family lives here, as well as my husband’s family.

She didn’t mind at all. She gave me the names and addresses of a few people from Erie she wanted me to invite, but she was totally flexible.

When we were shopping for wedding dresses, she sat quietly while I tried on any number of gowns. Finally, I said to her, “Hey, what would you think if I had my dress made?” She responded, “You know, all these dresses you’ve tried on are very pretty, but they’re not really you.” So we traipsed off to a dress maker I knew and I got the dress I wanted.

When I was talking about Mother’s Day today, one of my co-workers mentioned that she didn’t want to tell her mother where they were taking her for brunch. “She’ll just change her mind,” she said, clearly exasperated. I am lucky enough to have a mom that’s not like that. She decided she wanted to come down today for brunch, but she pretty much left the planning up to me. I appreciate that.

I know there are things about my life that drive her bonkers, and that worry her. But for the most part: My mom has faith in me. She trusts me. She NEVER, and I mean NEVER, played the “this is what you should do” card with me regarding my kids. She NEVER told me I was doing it (feeding, changing, schooling, anything) wrong.

Not once.

When I lost my son, she grieved almost as hard as Dan and me. And her grief was two-fold: for her grandson, whom she would never meet; and because she couldn’t help me. She couldn’t protect me; she couldn’t kiss it and make it better. That was hard for her. I think she struggled with that almost more than the loss. (I think my dad, the ultimate “fixer upper” in my life, struggled just as much, too.) On the third anniversary of his death, she and my sister gave me an angel bracelet. She has never forgotten him, and she never shies away from mentioning him. I appreciate this about her too. I know she is an exception in the babyloss community.

She’s fun. My mom is the most fun Nonna in the world. She’s goofy, she’s silly, and she’s infinitely patient with her grandchildren. She doesn’t blink when it comes to changing diapers or feeding them, and when she’s done, she’s sweeping them off to her activity for them (children’s museum, zoo, Presque Isle) where she won’t just keep up with them — she’ll lead the way.

Becoming a mom has made me appreciate my mom all the more. When I talk about my frustrations with my girls, she often laughs. “You were perfect children,” she tells me, about us three peas — me, Dr. Bro, Dr. Sis. I don’t she says that because she doesn’t want to give me advice or because she actually thinks we were perfect. I think she tells me that to say: “I believe in you. You’ll figure it out.” Because she wants to see me do it. She knows I can.

That faith, that belief — I think that’s the greatest gift my mom has ever given me.

So thanks, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day. I know you won’t read this (unless Dad tells you to), but I hope you know how you feel. I hope the flowers and the cards and the smooches of your grand-daughters let you know: Your quiet belief in me has been the best thing you’ve ever done for me. I don’t know that I could repay that, unless I can pass it on to my own kids. But at least I can say: Thanks. I love you.

An Overdue Love Letter

Dear Flora and Kate,

I just wanted to take this opportunity, on the day before Mother’s Day, to thank you.

I have been your mom for more than five and three years respectively, and I know that I don’t make it look easy.

There is a lot that is hard about being a mother. There is a lot right now that makes my mothering a little challenging. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

But there is even more that makes all the hard stuff — the sleeplessness, the potty-training, the battle of wills — all worth it, every single second, every single “no” that comes out of your little mouths, every single knee in my back at 3 a.m. That “more” pretty much boils down to love, nay — LOVE. The huge amount that you clearly have for me, and the infinite amount that I have discovered I have for you, both of you (and your little brother or sister on the way). I never knew that love was infinite. Thanks for teaching me that.

The best part of being your mom is watching you girls grow. I am fascinated by the little people you are becoming. I am fascinated that your daddy and I made you, somehow, especially every time I see your little bodies walking away from me, on their way to their own adventure. Or even to just eat some cereal in the morning.

Flora, you ask questions about every thing (which sometimes gets us in trouble). You are an independent agent, often getting your own snacks and drinks, dressing yourself, brushing your own hair and teeth, and otherwise telling me, confidently, “I can do it.” (Could you learn to wash your own hair, soon? Because my back is already killing me.)

Kate, you are my pistol, my feisty girl, my always-in-motion child. If you’re not moving, you’re not happy. which sometimes gets us in trouble. You want to do everything your big sister does, except when you emphatically don’t. You are less about asking questions (at least to this point) than you are about poking stuff.

You both have taught me more about myself than I realized there was to know! I’m actually more patient than I suspected (although mileage may vary). I like talking to you guys — or, more to the point — listening. You’ve reintroduced wonder into my life (although it’s sometimes the simple wonder that I can be so very exhausted at the end of the day. Although maybe that’s Bud’s fault). I like rediscovering the simplicity of being a vegetarian, or being a Catholic, or, you know, digging in the dirt (worms!).

And I love being loved and being needed by you. Kate, even though your middle-of-the-night trips to my bed are sometimes because you’ve wet yourself, cuddling up with you after we get you changed is… renewing somehow. Flora, you keep me thinking, and I’m so glad I’m here to answer (or Google) your questions!

Thanks. Keep up the good work. I’m pretty sure you’re not the only two who are growing in this relationship.


He Completes Me

I’ve been all over the place (in my head) with today’s post, and under normal circumstances, I would have just let it go.

But it’s Dan’s birthday, so I have to say something. I’ve already told you 10 reasons why I love him, and I answered the questions on this quiz.

It is in reading over these two posts that I realize what I think a lot about our marriage, our pairing.

I was reading not long ago about “opposites attracting”, and I left a comment about how in my marriage I feel it’s less about being opposites than about how Dan is strong where I am weak and vice versa.

Dan is the warmest, most social person I know. He is all-embracing, all-empathetic. I love going places with him, and even though I roll my eyes at him sometimes, I love watching him be with people.

He tends to get down on himself, and I do everything I can do to be supportive and encouraging. I think I’m actually getting better at this.

He tempers my anxiety, and I try to lift him up when he’s depressed. (I usually sic the girls on him, because have you ever tried to be depressed around cute, giggly children? Especially ours?)

I am more artsy, but he is more cultured. While I tend to be creative, he’s actually a dreamer. I am by far more level-headed and practical; he is more emotional, and could teach a dramatist about passion.

He is sincere, and I am sarcastic.

He teaches the girls about desserts while I feed them healthy meals.

We are equally bad at a few things, but because we are together, we are working to improve together. We don’t want to let the other down.

And that means a lot.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work;
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?

— Ecclesiastes 4: 9-11

I’ve Seen The Future

I was bathing Kate the other night (as I do every other night). Her hair was full of suds and piled up on her head.

She turned, and I noticed a few strands of hair curling down beside her face.

And suddenly I saw what she would look like on the day she goes to a formal dance. Or the day she gets married.

Her hair piled on top of her head, artfully curled, with one or two curls framing her face. Her smooth, light skin, her dark hazel eyes.

And it shook me, all the way to my core, as painful as a punch to my chest. It made my heart hurt — a good kind of hurt, the kind of love that speaks of being willing to live or die for a person. The kind of love that wants to hold on tighter than tight.

But knows that some day it has to let go.

Over Here

A while ago, I was asked to write a guest post at Glow in the Woods. Kate of Sweet l Salty and a Glow in the Woods contributor asked me based (partially) on the fact that I’m more than six years out from the death (and birth) of my first baby.

I am constantly sobered and heart-broken over the fact that a site like Glow in the Woods needs to exist. There are new babylost parents out there every day. When I stumble across another mother or father who has lost a baby, I want to reach out to them. Kate asked me what I would tell a newly bereaved parent. What I will tell every newly bereaved parent.

This is my answer.


Given the depth of talent and moving writing on tap at Glow in the Woods, I just want to add that I am terribly humbled by my inclusion. I have not examined my loss (except as a reader of other Glow in the Woods contributors) through Buddhism, for example. I find Chris’ contributions especially helpful; in his words I recognize what happened (is happening) behind my husband’s eyes from that day and forward. I don’t know that I’ve ever thanked him for that. (Thank you, Chris.)

And thank you, Kate. For even considering me worthy of writing at Glow in the Woods. That my writing attracted the attention of such an amazing writer as you is honor enough.

Christmas Bullets

Unfortunately, I have to sum up Christmas in bullets instead of in photos. Apparently someone in my house (someone whose camera needs new batteries, I think) got a hold of my little P-and-S Olympus, and smudged the lens. Wish I had noticed before I took all those pictures Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Oh, and I have to do some serious red-eye removal in any case.

So: Christmas Eve, etc.:

• You would have thought my MIL was feeding 50 people on Christmas Eve. There were twelve of us, eight adults and four kids. We adults did our best (truth be told, the kids didn’t do too badly, either), but we barely put a dent in all that pasta (and more).

• But we did have a very nice time, and some very nice wine.

• I managed to get Kate into bed Christmas Eve by 9 p.m. (with one minor meltdown). Flora I don’t think went to bed until about 10:30 p.m.; I was in bed before midnight (not by much).

• Even though we had to drive to Erie Christmas day, it was still pretty low-key. We slowly opened gifts, Dan & I had coffee (from my belated anniversary gift to Dan, pottery mugs), the kids played. We managed to get everyone together for noon mass, only to drive down to the church to discover there was no noon mass (I’m an awesome Catholic).

• Gray, wet drive to Erie. Completely uneventful, except for the occasional whine from Flora: “Why is it raining?”

• If it had been snowing the way it was raining, we totally would have stayed home.

• Up in Erie, more gift-opening, more food, family, some wine. A late night for the kids, again, with accompanying (and not unexpected) meltdowns, but all-in-all a nice, successful day.

• Saturday was yet another low-key day. We had a big brunch, then Flora, Nonna, Dr. Sis, and I went to the The Princess and the Frog. It was Flora’s first time at a movie theater (which she kept referring to as a ‘theodore’), and she was appropriately awed. We shared some popcorn, cuddled up in the fourth row (Nonna & Dr. Sis had to sit elsewhere) and made it through 90 minutes.

She really liked the movie (she already is asking for it on DVD). After about an hour, she asked a couple of times, in a whisper, “Is this almost over?” She didn’t seem too scared or too upset about anything, and she liked the story. She can even summarize it for you!

I liked the movie, too. A great twist on the typical princess story, plus really fun musical numbers.

• Saturday night, we ordered take out.

• Saturday night, H and I went to Brewerie for a couple of beers, and to get caught up. She is looking well, and her family seems to be doing well. Last year was tough for her and her family. They are taking things one day at a time.

• Sunday was probably the busiest day: Church, brunch with my best friend M, out to visit my grandma, G.G. to the girls. That last was hard. It’s difficult to see the lively woman I knew for so many years so completely erased. I don’t know how my mother and her brother do it.

• Home. The kids were so tired they were practically spinning in place. Dan and I managed to get them bathed and in bed around 7:30 p.m., and I think they were unconscious before 8.

• Two days later, and my house still needs a butt-load of organizing/cleaning. I haven’t unpacked the suitcase (read: laundry) yet. But we’ve another three-day weekend coming up, and we’re not doing anything. (Except dinner at my ILs on New Year’s Day.) (Sorry, Polar Bears. But you all have a good time, now.)

Hope everyone’s was at least as good!

He Sang at Our Wedding

He was a big guy. I mean, when he hugged you, you were rather thoroughly hugged.

He loved music. He traveled with a set of percussion instruments, some of which he showed my daughters on a recent trip to Pittsburgh. Monkey was, of course, fascinated.

He loved my husband. They knew each other for 20-odd years. They used to camp together up at Kinzu. Those are some of my husband’s best memories.

He sang at our wedding, a song by Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe called “The Meeting.” (For those of you keeping track, those are the members of Yes, minus Chris Squire.) I think I cried hardest during that part of our wedding ceremony. It’s a gorgeous song, and he had a beautiful voice.

He had family here, but when he came, he almost always stayed with us. He was fussy: He brought his own pillow, and a little alarm clock. Often his own milk or cereal, too — he was diabetic, so he was careful about what he ate.

He usually came to see us once a year. He loved Penn Brewery, and tried to get here for Ocktoberfest. He came for Christmas every year, to spend a little time with DearDR’s family.

He was such a large soul, such a generous heart. He was beset by troubles and struggles — financial, emotional, health. Yet, he always was smiling, he always was laughing about something.

We don’t know of his last days. The last time I spoke to him it was in early June. He was trying to come see a band playing the Arts Festival. If he wasn’t in too much pain, he said. If it was okay, he said. I was worried because the girls had strep, and I knew he was compromised because of his treatments (he had cancer). He ended up not coming in; on the phone message, he sounded exhausted.

I hope he found peace. I know he found love.

We’ll miss you, Tim. May perpetual light shine upon you.


Due to our break-neck summer schedule so far, we haven’t taken many neighborhood strolls this year. Tuesday night finally found us in the thick of the neighborhood kids for the first time.

My neighborhood is pretty kid-friendly. The street below ours in a dead-end, so traffic is light, and certainly doesn’t travel very fast. Plus the sight line are really good. Kids ride their bikes or play kickball in the street with no worries.

There are about eight children (not counting Bun & Monkey) in the ‘hood, ranging in age from 3 to 12–14. Including Bun and Monkey, there are six girls and four boys. One of the boys was the love of Monkey’s life last summer, although her enthusiasm for his attention has waned somewhat.


Last night, after wrangling Bun out of someone’s yard (I really have to teach my kids about property lines), I wandered back to the group of kids. I am the only mom around, unless the 3-year-old ventures out (he has two older sisters, too; the mom is sweet, but holy cats she talks alotandveryfast); my kids are too young still to go around the neighborhood by themselves. I heard one of the boys say, “Monkey likes Chris*” in that sing-songy way that means someone is being teased. She broke away and walked toward me. Nothing else was said.

But there’s are some interesting dynamics in the group. And before I list this out, let me disclaim: none of this is sexual in nature at all.

Monkey has a crush on Chris (which does seems to have faded — she hasn’t mentioned his name once today), but Jimmy seems to be crushing on her (Monkey). Stevie has a crush on Malory, although Madison thinks he has a crush on her. Teresa loves making Bun laugh and playing with her (there’s a 3-year age difference). Malory is blithely her own person — and besides, she’s much more mature than any of the boys in question. Ashlyn is the oldest girl in the group, and you can see how she feels self conscious about hanging out with the “kids”, but has no one her own age around. She and Madison chat a lot, and Malory sometimes joins their group, and sometimes plays with the kids (Malory is 9, I think).

Also, although I feel awful saying this: I don’t like all these kids. Or, I like them all, but sometimes I think a couple of them act like real a-holes. Chris and Madison, who are brother and sister, can be real jerks, and not just toward each other. Chris rides his bike WAY too fast without regard for where the other kids are. When he gets yelled at (for example, by Ashlyn), he whines, “I said I’m sorry.” And Madison treats everyone kind of shabbily. It leads me to wonder what it’s like at home for them.

In general, though, it’s a good group. Last night, they all played together in Malory and Teresa’s backyard (they have a swing set, slide & sandbox), and it was nice to watch.

I’d like to get my hands on a backyard playset, come to that. I wouldn’t mind them all coming up to our yard. If anyone knows of one going second hand, let me know. Time to get on Craigslist!

*Formerly 7. Names have been changed because they are all very innocent.

Happy Father’s Day

Dear Fathers,

Whomever and where ever you are, I hope you get to do what you want today. For DearDR, that will mean sleeping in until it’s time to make pancakes with the girls. For my dad, I’ve no doubt that means golf and good food. For Dr. Bro, probably grilling something meat-based and lots of beer. For my BIL-IL (SIL’s husband), probably just hanging at home. Maybe Niece will take a day off from spontaneous tears (fingers crossed for ya, BIL-IL). My FIL: good food and good family and good naps.

I hope you don’t get too many ties. I hope your grandchildren send you cards with their own artwork in them. I hope you get a weed whacker or a new pair of shoes or whatever other manly gift you desire.

I hope that being a father (and an uncle and a grandfather) makes you happy.

God bless fathers. Have a fantastic day.