Posts Tagged ‘Boarding House’

95 years and 3 months ago, the oldest of 11 children was born to Italian immigrants.

The mother had immigrated to the States and turned her little house into a boarding home and sponsored other immigrants who came to American from her little town in Italy.

One immigrant was a shoemaker by trade and just figured he’d jump the ship to America one day. He didn’t know anyone here.. let alone a woman who gave people from her town a place to sleep and meals to eat. In fact, he didn’t even know anyone on the ship.

When the ship landed and he was told that he wasn’t going to be able to get off of it, one of the men who this woman with the boarding house had already sponsored told him about her.. and then told her about him.

Feeling bad for him.. they concocted this story about being engaged but were too poor at that point to afford to BE married. They figured that no one would be able to turn him away after hearing how he scrimped and saved to buy a ticket to be with his beloved.

They were right.

Over the collective cloud of  Awwwww the ship’s steward’s notified the captain of this poor couple’s plight and he announced that he would marry them.

Right there.

On the ship’s dock.

There really wasn’t much they could do except go along with the charade. So they got married… right there.. on the ship’s dock. I can tell you that this woman was NOT pleased in the beginning and gave the her new husband a hard way to go .. but eventually this man won her over and she fell in love with him.

They had their “marriage” blessed by the church and a year or so later, their first child was born.

A baby girl they called Mary.

Mary grew up helping her mother cook for the boarders, cleaning the house and caring for the 10 children that were to follow her.

When she was 20, a man came to stay with them. He was just into his 40’s and had returned to America to find work as a carpenter. He had never married. Not sure why.. but even HE knew that it was just about time to settle down and so he evaluated his options and figured the 20 year old daughter of the boarding house owner would make a good wife and mother.

So he courted her.. and eventually asked him to marry her.

She agreed and they went on to have three children of their own. The oldest being a girl.

Their first born daughter is my mother.

Mary is my grandmother.

And after 95 years and three odd months, she took her last breath.

My grandmother was an amazing woman. I know that most people say that about their grandmother’s but she honestly was.

Unlike most woman of MY generation, my grandmother lived for her family. Lived for caring for them. That was her job and she reveled in it.

We used to joke that she could feed a Roman Army any time.. night or day.. because her refrigerator was always over flowing. She was mortified if she thought you left her table hungry because for her.. food cured everything.

Depressed about breaking up with your boyfriend? Here.. eat something.

Having problems with your job? Here.. eat something.

There were times when I would stop over after work just to visit and she would INSIST that I eat.

HER: Eat something.

ME: Not hungry, Nonna.

HER: What? Not hungry? How come?

ME: I ate already.

HER: You ate already? How could you eat already? Here.. eat some of [whatever]

ME: But I’m not hungry.

HER: What? I can’t believe it..

That conversation :: or variation of it :: went on all the time. Worse was when her hearing started to go and you literally had to shout I’M. NOT. HUNGRY.

You didn’t know if her “WHAT?” was because she couldn’t hear what you were saying or because she just couldn’t believe that you didn’t want to eat.

She was also very tolerant of the strays I brought to her house.. whether 2 legged or 4 legged..

One time..  long after my grandfather had died and she had moved to a smaller house..  I was living in an apartment with my psychotic ex-husband when we found a stray dog. Cute little thing.. almost like Toto from the Wizard of Oz.

I couldn’t bring him into my apartment and it was too late to take him to the SPCA. My mother already had a dog who was psychotic in it’s own right so the only other place I could bring it was to my grandmothers.

Mind you.. for as good as my grandmother was… for as sympathetic as her heart was.. animals in her house just didn’t happen. My grandmother was beyond meticulous when it came to cleanliness and we used to joke around that she would wait with a can of Pledge cocked and ready for a piece of dust to fall on her furniture!

So even though I didn’t want to.. I felt too sorry for this little fur ball so I called her and asked her if it would be alright if I stayed over JUST ONE NIGHT with the dog and I PROMISE. PROMISE. PROMISE. not to let it get into anything or jump on anything or pee anywhere.

She said okay because I was her granddaughter.. because she loved me.. and because she knew how worried I was about this dog.

So what was the first thing she did when I arrived with it?

Feed it, of course!

I could go on and on.. there are so many stories and so many of her quirks that just make us double over and laugh :: a rite of passage for all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren was dusting the brass tips of the dining room table legs ::

When you reach her age, it’s inevitable that things will start to go wrong beyond the normal aches and pains. Eventually, her heart started to become weak and she would suffer congestive heart failure and wind up in the hospital. This happened a few times over the past few years and each time we held our breath.. waiting.

This time, when she went into the hospital, the doctor told us that there really wasn’t much they could do. She had one leaky valve in her heart.. another was only functioning at 20%.. and at 95 and some odd months.. they couldn’t operate.

It was a waiting game and one that caused my family a lot of stress. No doctor, no matter how talented they are, can give you the exact date of of someone dying. If they could, my grandmother would have died years ago.

I believe she remained with us for as long as she did because she was well loved.. she wasn’t alone.. never lonely.

Out of all my cousin’s, I was the one that always lived close by so I got to see her more often then they did. I’m thankful for that.. I’m thankful that I got to share things with her that they didn’t.

The last day she was here, I told my mom and my aunt that I was going to bring them dinner. All afternoon my grandmother was asking my mother “Where’s Leese? Where’s Leese?” .. and my mother would tell her that I would be there with dinner.

She liked that. For some reason, no matter how many times I told her that whatever culinary delight I brought with me was prepared by Chief, she always thought I cooked it.

When I got there she looked better then she had in the previous two weeks of being in the hospital. She had color.. her voice sounded stronger.. and even though I knew she was never going to be “well” well, I didn’t get the impression that she was as ill as she had been.

We were there for about an hour when she started to fidget in her hospital bed.. complaining she was tired. So an hour earlier then we normally left, we said our goodbyes and I kissed her on the forehead and said, “.. love you” like I always did.

The following morning, my mom called me to tell me that my grandmother had passed.. with no drama or trauma.. in her sleep.

It’s hard knowing she isn’t here anymore. No matter how prepared you are for a loved one’s death.. you’re never really prepared.

It feels like the sun is less brighter.. that the night sky has an extra star.

I have no complaints.. more importantly, I have no regrets. There is no question that I will miss her..  that it will take time for me to get used to her not being near me.

But she is in my heart.. where she will remain until I too, take my last breath.

Te Amo, Nonna.  Lo mancherò