I’ve never seen her wings. But I’m pretty sure sometimes, when the lighting is just right, you can catch a glimpse of the band of light over her head. A halo. Her face is angelic too, as you would expect of an angel. Her smile is enough to brighten a room. And her soothing voice and heartfelt words have pulled me out of the deepest depressions. She’s a saint in the purest of forms, sent, I’m certain, from up above to make this world a better, brighter place. She tries blending into the crowd, wearing normal [but totally hip] clothing. Her accessories are always dead on. Maybe that’s where I get some of my fashionista-ness. She’ll talk to a stranger. Tell them her story [and usually mine]. She’s proud and isn’t afraid to brag a little. She’s beautiful and strong and brave and inspiring.
She’s my grandma.
Her mom was born in Italy and came to America when she was just a young girl. She didn’t know much English. And she was all alone. She studied American government at a barbershop to get her American citizenship. And she made Cleveland, Ohio her new home. Planted roots. Got married. And had children. I never knew her, but I have no doubt in my mind she is the reason why my grandma is so strong and independent, too. My grandma is 100% Italian and very proud of her heritage. It would be such a dream to get to visit her home country with her. To see a new world through her eyes. To listen to stories of our family’s history.
My grandma eventually met a dapper young military man. A sailor. Vintage pictures prove back in his heyday, he was quite the looker. A 100% German boy dedicated to his country of America. Fought for it. Has the symbolic tattoos on his arm to prove it. He swept my grandma off her feet and they eventually got married. They had two beautiful children. Girls. The oldest, Gail. My mom.
I love hearing stories of my mom’s childhood in my grandparents’ old house. From what my grandma tells me, my mom was quite the rebel. She straightened her long, curly hair with a hot iron. She drove a badass car. She rocked it out in the coolest clothes, like super wide leg bellbottom pants. Skinny as a toothpick. And totally gorgeous. She was a good kid. Worked hard. And turned into a successful, empowering woman with a killer job. She married my dad in her young 20’s. Boy were they a sight back then. I appreciate them passing on their great genes! They graced this world with yours truly in 1981. That crisp, fall day, a bond was formed.
I obviously don’t remember the day I was born. But my grandma does. She talks to me about that day sometimes. She tells me she looked down into my big, brown eyes and I stared back at her. My soul remembers that moment even though my brain doesn’t. And since that day, she’s been my angel. And I’ve been her “dolly.” We used to go to the Great Lakes Mall in my hometown of Mentor, Ohio and she laughs as she recalls me dancing inside to my life’s anthem, Uptown Girl. I would sing along and didn’t have a care in the world, even though other mall-goers would stop and stare.
It hurts my heart that I can’t hop in the car and drive to my grandma’s house, just to have a cup of coffee or sit on the couch and chat about our days. I think I took for granted all the days in my past when I actually could have done that. I would give anything to steal her away to sunny Florida. To take walks on the beach or shop at the outdoor mall. It was a truly emotional week for me when my mom brought her down to Jacksonville to visit. Together, the three of us experienced my grandma’s first sunrise with the sand between our toes. I will never, ever forget that day.
Today, I am forced to settle on phone calls. But those phone calls are enough to brighten my whole day. We talk about nothing and everything and no matter the words, I always hang up with the biggest smile on my face. I am so truly grateful for those conversations. I am so truly blessed she is in my life. I can honestly say, I don’t know what I’d do without her. She has helped make me the woman I am today. She is one of the most incredible people to have ever walked this Earth.
She is an inspiration and motivation every day to do better. Be better. And love more.