I no longer have any living grandparents.
My paternal grandmother died when I was two. I have absolutely no memory of her, sadly.
My paternal grandfather was quite the character. Nonno was a great guy, and some day I’ll write a blog post with all the great stories about him, but for now, suffice it to say that he was a major influence on my childhood. When he retired, he moved to the family home in northern Italy, and he died there when I was in college.
My maternal grandfather was also a major influence on my childhood, but I didn’t get to keep him around as long. He died in 1976, an event that I was, sadly, present for.
But since 1988, I have been fortunate to still have at least one grandparent.
That ended tonight. Ann Andreassi, my mother’s mother, died in her bed at the nursing home.
Gramma was the oldest of ten kids to my great grandmother, Grazia DeBacco. Nana, as I called her, was the matriarch of a huge family, and Gramma was her oldest kid (my mother is her oldest grandkid, and I her oldest great-grandkid). Nana (on whom I based the Star Trek character of Federation President Nan Bacco) died in 2003 at the age of 98.
My grandparents met just after World War II. Grandpa was from New York, but he was out in rural western Pennsylvania visiting family. His car broke down, and this was the 1940s, so these things took a while to fix. He met my grandmother and charmed the crap out of her, and not long after they got married. She moved to New York for him, but she never, ever liked it there. Nonetheless, they had four kids together, my mother, my twin uncles, and my aunt, raising them in a house in the Bronx.
Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding picture
Gramma babysat me a lot when I was a kid. My parents both worked full-time, and she’d often take care of me after school, and sometimes during the day when school was out. She had a pretty steady routine of game shows in the morning and soap operas in the afternoon, but sometimes she’d let me watch what I wanted to watch late in the afternoon.
My silly little-kid brain always thought it was weird that Gramma didn’t have a dishwasher when we did. So at one point, seven-year-old me announced, “Gramma, when I grow up, I’m going to buy you a dishwasher.”
After Grandpa died, Gramma immediately moved back out to rural PA. She shared a small house with Nana on top of a hill until Nana died, and then Gramma moved into a “high-rise” (five whole stories high, but a skyscraper by local standards) for elderly folks.
Neither of those places really had space for a dishwasher, sadly, so I was never able to fulfill my seven-year-old self’s promise.
The family having tea in honor of Gramma’s 86th birthday
About ten years ago, she came to visit for Thanksgiving, and it became obvious that she was having trouble remembering things. It was pretty obviously the early signs of dementia, and the subsequent months bore that out. Eventually, she had to go into a nursing home.
The last time I visited her was in 2011. My mother, the Infomancer, Wrenn, and I drove out to see her, and it was wrenching, to say the least. We kept having the same conversation over and over, and she kept thinking she was a little girl waiting for her parents to pick her up. It was horrible.
In a lot of ways, I said goodbye to Gramma five years ago on that visit. The woman who babysat me, who made me sit through The Price is Right and As the World Turns, who fed me wonderful food (both my chicken soup and my tomato sauce are at least in part derived from Gramma’s recipe), who took care of me so many times in my youth, was pretty much gone at that point.
Gramma on her 93rd birthday (which this year was also Easter Sunday)
This past Sunday, she lapsed into a coma. On Tuesday she woke up long enough for my aunt Monica to say she loved her and for Gramma to say she loved her, too. Then she lapsed back into the coma until she finally died on Wednesday evening, seventeen days after celebrating her 93rd birthday.
The funeral is Monday. I will still be attending some of Treklanta this weekend, but I’ll be leaving early to fly home so Wrenn and I can drive out to PA to say goodbye.
(And yes, Monday is my birthday. Spending my 47th birthday at my grandmother’s funeral wasn’t on top of my list of things to do that day, but such, as they say, is life. And death.)
Rest in peace, Gramma…………..