Goodbye to my Nona - she was one hell of a lady

Warning; This post is R rated due to inappropriate language

Just last weekend I was out in BC to help celebrate my Uncle Rudy and my Auntie Dena’s 50th wedding anniversary. It was a great party, but also a really lovely weekend. All of my sisters ( except one) were able to make the trip with their husbands and kids. My cousins and all of their kids were there, friends of my Aunt and Uncle whom I have known my entire life were all in one room together celebrating love that has lasted 50 years. That in itself was a beautiful thing.

There were many changes this trip that took some getting used to as well. It would be my first time seeing my 96 year old Nona in a home. I was fortunate to have been able to spend the last Christmas with in her own home and we even washed dishes together.

Now my Aunt and Uncle have moved into her house and I had prepared myself to feel sad at not seeing her house the way I always remembered it. But walking  through to door, I felt nothing but happiness, it was like new life had been breathed into the bones of the house and I knew if Nona could see the changes and how happy my Aunt and Uncle were there, she too would have been happy.

I got to see Nona 3 times over the weekend. All of us made a trip out to see her at one point or another and she mentioned how happy she was to see us all. She had slowed down a lot even from when I saw her at Christmas, but she was still Nona and managed to make us all laugh. My sister, my nephew,  my mom and I had gone for a visit and when we arrived, Nona was asleep on the chair in her room with her feet up on a foot stool. We woke her and she lowered her feet to the floor so that we would all have somewhere to sit. My sister on the stool, mom on a chair and my nephew and I on the edge of her bed. Even though we had just woken her up, she was alert and interested in the  stories we were telling her about the party.

When it was time to leave, we asked her if she wanted her feet back up on the stool and she said ‘Not til we are done with kisses.”. It made me laugh out loud. We each gave her a kiss and told her how much we loved her and then we lifted her feet back up onto the stool and left the room.

My Nona was always saying things that made me laugh. She had the tremendous ability to laugh at herself, which I have been told by her health care workers is something to be cherished in someone her age.

Just over 20 years ago now, I had just moved to Toronto and I was dating a guy named Andrew. Mom and Nona had come for a visit, she would have been in her 70’s at this point and we had decided to go watch him play soccer this one summer afternoon. It was hot. Toronto hot, and it was humid.

We arrived as they were still warming up and we took our place on the bleachers. There wasn’t a lick of shade and very little breeze. I could tell the heat was getting to both my mom and my nona. I noticed a tree at the end of the field behind the goalie and suggested we relocate to the grass and watch the game from there.

We settled down onto the grass just as the team began to take practice shots on net. Each time the ball managed to sneak past the goalie, he would curse. Fuck, shit, son of a bitch, etc. And each time he would curse my mom would “tsk” and inhale to show her disgust. This went on for what was longer than seemed possible until finally, I said “If his language is bothering you, we could go sit back on the bleachers”. My nona shifted her weight, leaned back and crossed her arms and said with an ever so slight Italian accent “He can Fuck all he want, I’m not moving from the shade”.

The response was instantaneous. My mother and I erupted in fits of laughter. I had never heard my nona use that word before, but it had just flew out of her mouth with such emphasis. It was amazing.

Suffice it to say, we watched the game in the shade.

A few years later (Nona was in her late 70’s at this point)  when I was living in England, my sister, mom and nona came over for a visit and we all went to Italy together. We went to the town where my Nona had been born and we saw the house she grew up in, took her around to call on old friends and went and spent time with relatives I had never met before.

On our road trip we stopped at a gas station along the way to get some lunch and use the rest rooms. Nona, my sister and I all rushed to the ladies room as it had been a long time between stops, we opened the stall door and discovered that there was no toilet but merely a ceramic hole in the floor. This was new to all of us and we asked Nona if she was going to need some help. She said no and that she would be fine, she entered and closed the door. A few minutes later, the door opens and Nona emerges with a slight smile on her face. She looks at us and says “Bulls eye”.

That was Nona. Always making you laugh when you least expected it.

I got a call from my mom last night. My nona had her dinner and sat in the dining room at the home for a bit and then she went off to her room. For whatever reason, a nurse poked her head in to check-in  on her and Nona had passed away.

It was how I always wanted her to go, quietly in her sleep without suffering. I suppose I got what I wanted, but it doesn’t make saying good bye any easier.

She was a one of a kind lady and I know that each and every one of her kids and grand kids is feeling a huge loss today. But we can all remember how made us smile even when she was washing our elbows in the tub with Comet and an SOS pad, how she could fill a house with the smell of fresh baked bread, how we would help her roll the home made gnocchi with a fork in her kitchen, how until her late 60’s she never told us she loved us, but would always respond “Me Too”, how she hand plucked every dandelion that dared to show it’s face on her lawn. The list is long.

Nona – you were one of a kind and you will be missed.