Angelina DeDomenico was a short stocky strong woman. Her home always had the scent of something great on the stove or in the oven. Her Italian dishes were made with love and care. Her stern face would break into a beautiful jovial smile when we all came through her front door. Even as she was beginning to forget everyone, she smiled a smile that you knew she loved you even if she could not remember your name. As she got older, her broken English turned became Italian with a little English thrown in for effect. But she would tell stories and laugh so hard that you laughed without really understanding the context. She died at the beautiful age of 96.
For someone who feels as deeply as I do, I was somewhat cold with my father then. As I look back almost 30 years, I realize that I just kept repeating “but she lived such a long life.” And although my dad agreed, his tears and heartbreak continued. I struggled to understand as I was not even 30 yet, my mortality and that of my parents seemed so far off. Although I never told my dad he shouldn’t be upset, I am sure some of my thoughts and feelings focused on her long life. We shouldn’t be sad, we should celebrate someone living that long with no really illnesses. I didn’t really understand what my dad was going through.
Now, almost 30 years later, as my parent’s age into their 90’s I realize just how ridiculous those thoughts were and how shallow and cold I was. As my friend Danny said the other night to me, “it’s still your mom.” Yes, it is still your parents and the thought of going a day without them brings me to tears already.
Much of my adult life people have come up to me at events and talked about my mom. She was generally the oldest person on a dance floor and wouldn’t get off. She had energy abound, and was the life of most parties. I remember being at one of my nieces sweet 16 celebrations and my mom was the person on the dance floor with the kids most of the party. I was always so proud to say she was my mom, the woman who could out dance most young-ins.
This past year, at my niece Karli’s wedding, she could barely dance. She was on the dance floor for one or two songs and then needed to sit down. Harsh reality of aging began to hit me. Recently we were in Atlantic City, a place that always seemed to breathe life into my mom, and she would grab my arm to slow down. She sat down more than normal and asked if we could leave earlier than I expected. Each a sign that she was slowing down. Each a sign that I needed to begin to prepare for a change in my life.
As she continues to slow down, become more forgetful, I feel my heart break just a bit more each day. Yes, she is in her 90’s. Yes, I am blessed that I have had her for so long. Yes, I know all of that, yet I find myself crying myself to sleep many nights with the reality that I will have to live a chunk of my life without her counsel, her humor and her wit. I will have to face a life where she isn’t my best friend, reminding me to be strong and independent. This reality continues to weigh on me.
I know I am blessed to have her for as long as I have, for her to live into her 90’s. I now understand what my dad was feeling. This is still my mom. My heart breaks a little day by day as I know my time is becoming limited. So I take each moment and I hold it dear to my heart; my parents are the only ones who love me unconditionally and I will never take that for granted. I wish I hadn’t for so long.
Yes I am blessed.