Her Life

April Fool

Mom's birthday was in March which she proudly shared with her great-grandson Colin.  In addition to the birthdays she enjoyed in March she always had a special place in her heart for her "April" birthday boys.  Our dad was born on April 2, my brother on April 1 (that's right April Fool's Day), my grandfather (her dad) on April 15.  Two of her brothers were also born in April.  

We all have our tech tools to track our calendars but nothing compaired to that hand written list she used religiously to track special events in the life of the people she loved. If you looked at the list closely all April celebrations had asteriks next to them. 

When her eyes started failing I told her we could transfer the information onto a calendar and print it in large letters.  Needless to say I got "the look", she promptly told me that she would use her magnifing glass and when that didn't work her magnifying machine.  Each month she would check her list and get ready for the next month's birthdays.  She would read and read the cards (Hallmark of course) until she found just the right one.   While she was still in Florida her eyes had truly failed and she couldn't read the cards. One day I was talking to her and she said she read five until she found the right one for a particular birthday.  I asked her how she was able to "read" them and why five.  Mom proceeded to tell me that she made a "deal" with the lady in Hallmark, she would tell the salesperson something about the person she needed the card for and the salesperson would pick five cards and read them to her.  The "deal" was she had to pick one of the five.  Her eyes may have been failing but her creativity was surely still  in tact.

Once she got to Magnolia Gardens Laura or I would check her list and let her know whose celebration was coming up.  We would pick three cards  (five was a bit much) read them to her and she would pick the one she liked best. 

I will always cherish this handwritten list, it says as much if not more about mom then any  other keepsake.

I would like to use the list just one more time before putting it away in a memory box for Ian. 

Happy Birthday to our dad, my grandfather and my two uncles.

A special birthday wish to my dear brother on his milestone birthday.    Mom celebrated this day every year with such heartfelt pride.  Her beloved son became all that she had hoped for and more. 

The story of my brother's birthday will always bring a smile to my face.  Everyone knows my father had a terrific sense of humor and loved practical jokes.  My brother was not due until mid April but arrived on April l.  My father was so excited he called the whole family and tried telling them the news. No one believed him!  Call after call got the same response, "right Joe, April fool", it wasn't until later when mom confirmed it that he was taken seriously. 

April also reminds us of the loss of our beloved dad. Two such monumental dates in one month gives you pause.  I believe it serves a  reminder of life well lived by a good man and of the legacy he leaves behind.



Hearing their Voice

I waited to look at the videos until some time had passed and I could enjoy them not only with saddness but with happiness at the tribute to my parents life.  You can feel the love and happiness in the presentation by  Al and David; my parents loved Christmas and having family around.  I loved the video but the most moving part was hearing their voices for even just a moment.  Thank you Al and David for that gift.

Someone could ask  why the pictures don't include my family, simply, we were not physically there at the time.  The reasons don't matter at this late date, however, let's just say the peaceful saying  "agree to disagree" only arrived later in mom's life.

But I was always with them in spirit, I knew my brother, Nicki  and  their extended family would surround them with love and be there for them without hesitation.  As you can see their lives were full of happiness and peace.  What more could a daughter ask for.

I am thankful that my parents gave me the strenght to meet life as it comes, the ability to have compassion for others and to be there if someone is in need.  It served me well thoughout my life.  

Sharing the later years with mom, Dad and the family has been truly enjoyable.  I know there couldn't be two parents any happier for the legacy they have left behind  Thankfully, we have all inherited their compassion, love of life, moral fiber,  and love of family.  

Sounds to me like a job well done by two parents who lived life to the fullest. 

Suitcase Kids

We are all a product of the experiences we have faced in our life. Some dwell on and justify poor choices because of their life experience. Not mom.  She took each challenge as a life lesson that she would bank to use at a later date.  Her life experiences supplied the nurturing that she missed by not having a mother to raise her.

As a toddler, she lost her young brother to a tragic accident and shortly after, lost her own mother, who some say died of a broken heart.  At the time, her little brother, Johnny ,was two months old.  My grandfather didn't know what to do with eight kids ranging in age from 16 years  to 2 months ,so, like some kind of movie on Lifetime Channel, they took care of each other until a few years later when her older sister, my Aunt Nellie,  got married and the older brothers each got a place of their own.

The older siblings made arrangements to have the two youngest (mom and Uncle Johnny) stay with each of them one month at a time.  They were each given a large suitcase to live out of while they were "visiting" and so the "suitcase kids" came to be. 

Instead of this being a sad time for her and Uncle Johnny, she took a little of something she learned in each household.  She once told me that these lessons were the lessons she knew her mother would have taught her.  With no mom to relate to, she adopted the Blessed Mother as her own.  Anyone who has ever visited her knows she had quite a collection of statues of the Madonna.

While some called her Susan (actually Assunta), she was "Dolly" to those who really knew her.  Her brothers nick named her "Dolly" because they adored her which worked out great because she loved them for keeping the family together. 

Later when mom was in her teens, her brother Al and my grandfather bought a working farm with three houses.  Mom and Uncle Johnny were moved to the "country" better known as South Plainfield.  The house was a swinging door for friends of my Uncle Al with mom cooking for all of them. 

Mom found strength and determination at a young age. It never waivered.  At times,she could seem stubborn ,but her life experience taught her to chose one position and stick with it. She believed any concession would show weakness.    Thank God we found the phrase "agree to disagree" which became the closing arguments on any subject. 

I'm sure it would be a romantic story to say when my father proposed it was storybook.  Let's not forget this is Mom.  When Dad asked her to marry him she said "yes, with some conditions". That should have been his first inkling of what was to come. First, he could never do anything to break her trust and,second, he had to meet with her brother Al. My dad would have to get my Uncle Al's aproval to marry her..  Needless to say. my Uncle Al loved my father from the first moment they met.  Their love and respect for each continued throughout their lives.. 

We learned so much from our parents. They were a perfect blend of all the virtues and beliefs that a child needs to become a good adult.  The one thing that they shared with us was humor.  Mom even found the humor later when her memory started to fade.  I would ask what she had for lunch and she would say grilled cheese.  After about 10 reports of grilled cheese for lunch I asked her wasn't she tired of grilled cheese.  She said "Oh, I didn't really have grilled cheese all those times, it is just easier to rememeber."

I am sure to some, it appeared she had no fears other than snakes.  Later on in years, we discussed her life and she told me she always feared that she would die young like her mother.  She felt that meant she had to work harder to give us the guidance we needed.  Mom said she always worried that because she was raised without a mother she might have difficulty knowing what to do as a mother. She need'nt have worried. She was a pillar of strength thoughout our childhood, never showing a moment of indecision.  While my brother enjoyed the title of "only Italian son", she made sure she instilled in both of us the same  equal devotion for family and each other that she had with her brothers..  She made sure that her fears did not become our fears.    She told me that she was proud of the adults we had become. She was an incredible woman who chose the right man and built a life that was productive, successful and all she had hoped for.  

There is no greater tribute to mom than who we have become, not only my brother and myself but all the extended family  she adopted along the way. 

There is no son that has the compassion, love and the caring that my brother had for both my parents throughout the years.  They enjoyed a relationship that every parent hopes for. She trusted him fully and loved him deeply.  They shared a crazy sense of humor and a spirited difference of opinion on politics..  For me, I had a mother/daughter relationship in which she shared her deep thoughts and fears. We shared a rich history and memories of a time when her Italian heritage was so much a part of her life.

 My sister-in-law, Nicki was such an important part of this family . She blended right in immediate and helped maintain the balance we sometimes needed. Mom loved her like a daughter and appreciated the life that she and my brother had built together.

Although mom met my husband, George, late in life she welcomed him with open arms.  They had the same sense of humor and a great mutual respect.  He would engage her in conversations  about Judge Judy and the other Judge's shows she loved.   

Mom took joy in each of her grandchildren and great-grand children, taking pride in each of them for who they were.  She even understood the stubborness of some of them, telling me they were just like her when she was young.

Mom, i will miss you everyday.  One of your last worries was Johnny, you know not to worry. We have this.  Your grandchildren and great-grand-children will do you proud. After all, they are the product of a pretty great lady.

Love, Ann







Things about My Mom You May Not Know

            My Mom was a remarkable individual. She saw the world for what it was and had no illusions as to how hard or joyful life could be. She shunned conventional wisdom and had few, if any, regrets at her passing.  She was not impressed with someone’s status or wealth and accepted people for what they were, warts and all. Mom only had one base relationship attribute that she expected all others to share – mutual respect. This applied to family and friends equally and there were no exceptions to this rule that I am aware of.


            I never saw my Mom scared or unsure, especially when my Dad was alive. She never worried about money, world affairs, or that she was loved.  She was not a hypocrite, she meant what she said and she could take any abuse she caused herself when taking a position she believed in.  

            My Mom was a warm and loving individual and she made the things she did seem easy. She could multi-task before the term was popular. Mom was a great cook and we had the typical Italian family meal every Sunday at about 2 o’clock. The cooking process would start Friday night, continue all day Saturday and be ready right on time regardless of any other task she had to perform. There was never an acceptable reason to miss the family meal on Sunday. This was important to her because we could not always eat together as a family during the week because my Dad worked two jobs and had a very limited time to eat dinner.

When I was younger I can remember having so many people at my house for weekend parties that I would have to sleep at a neighbor’s house. Mom, along with help from my Dad, would take care of everything –party hostess, cook, serve, entertain and clean.

Mom’s New York relatives were all great and interesting individuals and I enjoyed hearing my Uncle Carmine singing Italian songs after a few glasses of wine and playing bocce ball with the grownups – and them cheating and taking my money. My Mom made feeding and entertaining this large crowd seem like child’s play and I never heard her complain about all the hard work that was involved.

Mom would always prefer that my friends came to our house to play and hang out. She went to great lengths to make sure that our home was fun and entertaining for my friends. It was only later in life that she told me that this was one sure way of keeping an eye on me and keeping me out of trouble – she was right. Occasionally Mom would even sit in with my friends when we played poker and it was always fun, even if she won.  

In fact, on a very limited budget my Mom and Dad managed to have a very nice home with a large yard to play in and a built-in pool with a cabana, outdoor grill and kitchen. Mom always had food on hand to cook a full meal for about 20 people and every conceivable snack and soda a kid or adult could want – we never ever ran out of anything and had a separate store room just for the snacks and soda. We were poor but my Mom and Dad never let that fact interfere with our enjoyment of life.

Mom was able to find the delicate balance necessary to take care of herself and the needs of her family and others. I remember when I was very young that my Mom won a contest for weight loss, before it called the biggest loser, and was flown to Los Angeles to be on a TV show. My Mom was the pioneer or today’s reality stars. I also remember that her flight was on the first commercial flight of the new Boeing 707 –the most advanced jet of its day – and that the plane had landing trouble on the return flight. She was scared to fly ever since.

Mom and Dad enjoyed going out and having fun. After I was married, going to college, and still living at home with our first child, Terri, they developed a love of Jai-Alai and went almost every Saturday. At Jai-Alai she and my Dad would sit in the first and yell at the players if they caused them to lose a bet. Mom was unusually lucky and one time she hit the pick four three times in a row within two weeks.

Mom always said I was a republican because I was involved in “big business” – I am actually an independent – and whenever we discussed politics she would end any argument with the phrase “What do you know you’re a republican!” She actively campaigned for Kennedy and saw him as a great president. 

            Christmas at my house was a giant production; with my Mom as the production and procurement manager and my Dad as the maintenance man (he would put all the toys together). I did not know at the time that Mom would max out all of their credit to make sure that we always had a great Christmas.

It was never really about the gifts themselves but the thought and time she put into making sure that everyone enjoyed and appreciated what they received. She always told us that we should never take for granted any gifts we receive, that we should never expect  or feel that were are entitled to anything, and that we should always be thankful for the love of family and friends even if there were no gifts.    

            Mom could also be tough as nails. If you crossed her mutual respect line you stood the chance of becoming a “non-person”. For regular Italians the “non-person” is the equivalent of the Sopranos making you a “missing” person. Becoming a non-person meant that your name was not mentioned in her presence and that, to her, you ceased to exist. No one was immune from potentially becoming a non-person, including family members.

            While it may sound like a bad thing Mom’s philosophies about non-persons did serve as a teaching tool for me. It made me realize that she had the right idea but just carried it too far. I modified her non-person rule to be one of acceptance that there will be times when individuals can agree to disagree and that it is sometime best to remove yourself from a situation before the disagreement gets out of hand without malice toward the person.  Mom taught me that when I cannot agree with someone to continue to pursue my own path and encourage others to pursue theirs. 

             For anyone that became a non-person to my Mom I would tell you that she truly only wished you well and it made her happy that you went on with your life and were happy and successful. 

            There are other thoughts about Mom that I will add as they come to mind but for now I would like to tell my Mom that I will always love and respect you. You will be truly missed by all those individuals you helped throughout your life but I will miss you most of all……love al