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Being home with my mother Pia this past year has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Who would think that taking care of a 93 year old woman would swell my heart with gratitude, overwhelm me with tenderness and love, and teach me life’s most precious lessons.
Pia has embraced her challenging physical issues with grace, thankful for all the wonderful things she is still able to accomplish on a daily basis. Her mind is keen, evidenced by the stories she tells her great grandchildren, never forgetting anyone’s birthday, and never having to look up phone numbers for her morning calls. Pia is amazed to have lived longer than her six siblings, her only living brother being ninety years of age.
I am thoroughly enjoying my time with her, our breakfasts and our special lunches. I can’t help but laugh thinking back to when she first came to our home. It was my routine to quickly prepare lunch for my kids and eat something at the kitchen sink as I cleaned up. She admonished me, saying, “Tonia, what are you doing? Stop eating at the kitchen sink!” Meals are to be enjoyed and shared. Sunday is her favorite day of the week and especially Sunday Lunch with my family. This was her jurisdiction, but she has passed on her white chef’s apron to me.
My family bursts through the door on Sunday and echoes of “Hello Nonna!” fill the basement. I do not answer because I know that they are not meant for me…yet. The first hugs and kisses are always for Nonna Pia! As I prepare the food for the table I look over and see five young adults crowded around her on the couches. They ask her questions of her time on the farm when she was young; they show her their phones and explain all the things they can do with them, and they tell her about their week. They love Nonna Pia’s stories and she enjoys their attention.
As we gather at the table the grandchildren encircle Nonna Pia at one end. No matter how poorly she feels Pia always perks up during Sunday lunch. She sits there quietly eating, taking it all in. I watch her and see that her eyes are full of admiration and love, and I feel the tug on my heart strings. They leave and I finally sit down with her.
“Tonia, you have a beautiful family! You have the largest family now. You are fourteen!” She reminds me every Sunday.
In the evening she insists on waiting for my husband to return for dinner, refusing to eat without him because she feels it is disrespectful. I clear the table and help her up the stairs to her room. At the bottom of the stairs she stops.
“Good night Gianfranco. Sleep well!” She looks towards the budgie…”Goodbye Chee Chee!”
Pia can hardly make it up the stairs lately pulling herself up with her arms and hands on the railing, one step at a time. I guard her from behind. She loves being in our basement; it was her domain, where she used to bake and make homemade pasta.
Pia has a bedroom and sitting room over the garages. I help her into her nightgown and robe and put her legs up onto the couch so that she can watch her television programmes for a while. Around nine I tuck her into bed, covering her snuggly and kiss her.
“Good night ma, I love you.”
“Thank you, Tonia. Thank you for everything you do!”
Sometimes I tell her that no thanks are required, knowing it to be futile. Her fear is that she will become a burden. She does not realize that having her in my home over the last thirty years has been a blessed gift to my family.
Beautiful, gracious, giving, kind and wise, Pia is most definitely what I call a woman with an indisputable audacious attitude!