Rose Mary S.
Dec 26 1909~Nov 22 2010
I lost my Noni this week.
I want to tell you about her, all the things I remember about her and how much she meant to me.
She was 100% Italian.
She was an amazing cook.
She was a tiny, petite little woman.
She wore high heels, always. (Really high heels)
She never learned to drive.
She carried chicklets in her purse, always.
She loved to go on Sunday drives.
She colored her hair until about 10 yrs ago.
She had short hair as long as I’ve been alive.
She was born in this country.
She had 3 brothers and 1 sister.
She lived through the depression era.
She was a factory worker.
She married a man that was 100% Portuguese.
She eloped with him.
She was married for 73 years. (Amazing)
She has 3 beautiful children.
She has 10 beautiful grandchildren.
She has 25 beautiful great-grandchildren.
She has 2 beautiful great-great-grandchildren.
She lived a long life.
She was almost 101 years old.
She died at home with her eldest daughter and two of her gorgeous granddaughters at her side. She went to finally be with her husband that she was away from for over 8 years.
There are many things I am sure I don’t know about my Noni. I wish I had asked her more questions.
She was adorable. Everyone loved her. She could be very blunt at times, I attribute that to her being 100% Italian. There were times that she just kept quiet and other times she made her feelings clearly known. She told it like it was. Between she and my Gramps, they produced three pretty strong willed and intelligent children. Those children created ten very strong willed and intelligent grandchildren. The legacy moves forward and all ten grandchildren are grown up, each successful in their own unique ways. Most have their own families and children. All of those great grandchildren, with the exception of a few, are growing up together. Just as my cousins and I did.
This is most of us. Missing only me.
We all played at Noni and Gramps’s house. We slept over all the time, in fact, I don’t remember a time when Noni or Gramps ever said we couldn’t sleep over. One or two of us would be there playing and someone would get the bright idea, “Hey let’s see if we can sleep at Noni’s tonight.” She would always say yes. We climbed trees and played games. We spent endless hours playing hide and seek. We used to play house in the basement. They owned an old house and the basement was really creepy. There was one area that was separated from the rest of the basement and it was all dirt. Gramps never wanted us to play there. It was a fairly large, dim area. Noni once told me that when they bought the house it was all filled in with dirt, rock and construction debris and that Gramps had dug it all out. When some of us were bad, (I wont mention who *cough*) she would say, “The wolf is down there and he’s gonna hear you being bad. You better behave!” Now, today…I would never say this to my kids, but back then that’s what they did: scared the crap out of you to get you to behave. I laugh now, but I was scared to death, we all were, of that area in the basement. I still won’t go back there.
I was very thin as a child. I was a dancer. I ate constantly and probably burned more calories than I could ever consume. She used to tease me and say I had a tapeworm. Do you know it wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I actually found out there really was such a thing as a tapeworm?
When I would sleep over by myself, I would get hungry late in the evening. (Big surprise, this still happens to me.) She would always take me into the kitchen and let me have a snack. Sometimes she would join me and eat something too. I remember one particular time, I was maybe 10, she was saying, “When I woke up today I sure didn’t think I would be up at 11 pm having a snack.” We giggled with each other.
I slept at her house a lot after age 11. My father was a long haul truck driver and my mother was a nurse who worked nights. My brother and sister are much older than I am and were no longer living at home. Rather than stay at home alone I would stay with Noni and Gramps. I would cry sometimes at bedtime because I missed my mother and Noni would come in and sit with me and comfort me.
As I grew into my teenage years and was driving, I used to stop by after school or for lunch. The kitchen always smelled amazing. No matter what she cooked, it was delicious. When I had my first child at a very early age, and out of wedlock, she and my Gramps used to watch him for me so I could go to college classes. I remember when I got pregnant. I was so afraid to tell them, afraid of them being disappointed in me. I remember I wrote it in a letter and had Noni read it in front of me. I’ll never, to this day, forget the look on her face. She was shocked, no doubt about that, but she didn’t judge me or look at me differently. She is the one that told Gramps. He looked at me for a moment, silently, and then asked if the father was who it was and I replied with a simple “Yes.” That was it. No judgment or condemnation from either of them. If they felt it, they never let it show.
My son was the third great-grandchild. He got to play at his Great Noni and Gramps house just like I did. He climbed trees and explored the back yard and got all the same love and care from them that I’d received. He was particularly close to Gramps but he had his tie to Noni, too. They loved him, and he was blessed to have that.
As I got older and started getting tattoos, they never judged that, either. In 2003 my husband tattooed a portrait of my grandparents on my upper back. My Gramps had already passed. He never got to see it. My mother, who hated tattoos, is very proud of this one. I went to visit my family a few weeks after getting the tattoo done and when I walked into my Noni’s house, I knelt down in front of her to show her. She just quietly stared at it for a long while. My mother was there and said “That’s you and Daddy. Isn’t it amazing?” My Noni, quick as fire, replied, “I know who it is!” I laughed, we all did. I think she was just shocked that you could actually make a tattoo look like a photograph. She seemed in awe of it.
The last time I saw her was this past August. Over the last year, her mind started to get a little senile. (Not unusual, considering the woman was 100.) When I walked in, she didn’t recognize me. It wasn’t because of her mind, though. Truly, I believe it was because I look a bit different now than I did the last time she saw me two years ago. My hair is different- it’s bright red- and my face seems to have changed a bit too. I asked her, “Do you know who I am?” She looked at me a few moments and then I said who I was. Recognition dawned, then. “Ohhh, M,” she said. “You look so beautiful.” Wow! She has always given all of us compliments, but this was different. Her eyes were so big. It made me tear up. I thanked her, kissed her, and hugged her.
We chatted a bit about my husband and my two little ones. Then we talked about my oldest and how he is nineteen now. That shocked her, too. We haven’t lived there in over ten years, and although she saw him two years ago, it was hard for her to imagine him being nineteen. In between chatting she would stop and say, “Wow you really look swell honey, you really do.” It was strange and wonderful at the same time. The next day I went to see her again and she recognized me immediately. We talked about all the same things, though. It was cute, a repeat of our conversation the prior day. I told her I loved her more times than I can remember, on both days. I kissed her cheeks and stayed kneeling on the floor in front of her, holding her hands the entire time.
I knew when I said goodbye to her that day it would be the last time I would see her.
She was a diamond in the rough. She was a rare breed.
A truly beautiful Rose…
The legacy you leave behind honors you and Gramps, both.
I love you Noni.