Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy Birthday Nana!

Me and my Nana--May 1963
Today would have been my Nana's 99th birthday
She died just a few days short of her 95th!
The memories of my Nana--and her home on Poinsettia Street in Santa Ana when I was growing up--fill my mind OH so often. Roller skating in the back yard (this is where Gina broke her teeth out while we played Wonderama), eating frosted (and always slightly burned) Pop tarts on blue (gas station) paper towels, and drinking (ice-cold) milk out of glass bottles (my Grandpa was a milkman for Adohr Farms.)
The best memories of all are the long baths with (lots of) Mr. Bubble in my Grandparents' GIANT bathtub!
(I often wonder how big it really was…it was massive to me when I was little.)
One thing I truly remember is that my Nana never stopped cooking and cleaning. (I am sure that's where I got it.) I recall watching her organize cabinets, wash walls, darn socks, make pasta from scratch, roll meatballs, cook up delicious peppers and make great big salads in that GIANT wooden bowl! And no one did a better job washing my hair, cleaning out my ears, trimming my fingernails and covering me with Johnson’s Baby Powder after a bubble bath.
I always LOVED being at my Nana’s house…I felt so well taken care of and OH so loved.
Me and my Nana--May 2008
As I got older, my grandparents moved from the little house in Santa Ana to a mobile home, first in Orange and then in Lake Forest. Once they were within a few miles of me, I tried to stop by once a week or so to say hello. My Nana was constantly working on something--cutting coupons, cleaning out drawers, ironing, reading The Register--but would always stop what she was doing to make me a capicola sandwich when I came in. (God love her, she always told me I was getting too thin!)
But best of all, she would always ask me what was up. She knew me. She could read me. She asked deep questions and I told her the answers. She encouraged me to stand up for myself…and, ultimately, she thoroughly supported me when I left my marriage. “You’re only 41!” She said over and over and over again! “Your life is just beginning!” She’d go on to say that if she could have left my Grandpa 50 years earlier, she would have. She said it wasn’t done then--she just suffered—in silence—and "offered it up" for 67 years.
At the end, once my Grandfather died, she told me of her lack of love for him. Oh yeah, she took very good care of him, but he was never loving or kind to her. She spent a lifetime wishing things could be different. (And cooking and cleaning.) And she didn't want the same for me. Also, of course, since I was not married in the Catholic Church, she would tell me that I was never really married anyway. And, when I was able to see the Pope in Rome in 2006, she told me that it was a was OK for me to be single.
Thank you, Nana.

The key to all of this was her genuine relationship with me over my whole lifetime--I was 45 when she died--at a week shy of 95. Her amazing honesty with me toward the end of her life was one of the reasons I am where I am today. She was proud of me for living alone, for being independent and she LOVED that I was traveling the world! She knew that I was getting a second chance…a chance that she would never get.
My Nana took good care of me from the time I was born til her last days on earth. And I have to admit, the gift of her transparency and encouragement was almost as good as the bubble baths and Poptarts.

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