Wednesday, February 3, 2016

• When Real Life Intrudes

With all the fun that Wildomar has been going through the last few years, once in awhile you get a dose of reality.

Today such a dose was delivered in the form a phone call letting us know that my wife's mother had died.

The face of an angel.
She was 85 years old and had lived a varied life that sadly ended today. 

She was born in Sicily during the time of Mussolini. The things we've watched from old news reels, or documentaries of World War II, she lived through as a child. The Nazis, the evasion of the allies, the food shortages that followed for the average people.

She was married at the tender age of 15 and had her first child before she was 18. She had four children while in Sicily before 1960. Much of the time that she was raising her family, her husband, my late father-in-law, had to work in Germany on a worker's visa. He spent many years apart from his family in order to provide for them. He actually worked there long enough to earn a small pension from the German government (like social security) that lasted until now, for his widow.

In the early 1960's their eldest daughter was married, and later immigrated to Toronto, Canada. 

Within two years, the rest of the family immigrated there too. In the late '60s my wife, Grace, was born. 

Grace was the only one in her immediate family that was born in the North America. Interestingly, my wife is several inches taller than even her brothers. The proper nutrition that could be had in North America, compared to post war Sicily, was most likely the reason for the height difference.

In the late '90s I met my wife online, quite by chance, and within 6 months we were married. However, I had no idea how immigration worked, and Grace was stopped at the airport because we didn't have the correct paperwork. So instead of going to Hawaii for a honeymoon, she remained stranded in Canada until the next May.

I had a chance to spend extended visits with Grace, and my in-laws, over that Winter, and really grew close to both my father-in-law and my mother-in-law. They spoke nearly no English, and the Italian I knew was the proper Italian and very different from the Sicilian dialect they spoke, but kindness doesn't need verbal language to be transmitted.

In February of '99 my grandfather died of a heart attack at the age of 66, and Grace was allowed to come visit for a few days to go to the funeral. I had the chance to send my 10 year old daughter to visit Grace, and her (my daughter's) Italian grandparents, during that spring break. While there, her nonna (grandmother in Italian) taught her how to knit. 

To this day, my daughter is still never without her knitting bag, and her style of knitting is a carbon copy of that of her teacher.

In Winter of 2003, we had the honor of having my in-laws stay with us for 8 weeks. It was a great time having them here. They marveled at a February heatwave in the 80s. They were both such good sports, never complaining, even when most evenings ended with my son and me playing Tiger Wood's Golf on Game Cube. They sat there watching us battle it out, night after night.

Some of you are thinking I may be polishing the apple a bit too much here, but I can tell you that my in-laws were as good as any could ever be. I wish they could have come year after year, escaping the harsh Toronto Winters, but my father-in-law was already in his 80's and flying wasn't good for him.

One year we visited and had my mother-in-law star in one of our ItalianLessons101 videos. She was making brodo — soup. 

Grace's father died in 2006, and we lobbied heavily for her mother to come to California to live with us, but the extended family blocked our efforts.

As time pushed on, Grace would talk with her mother nearly every day on the phone. Though she was 2600 miles away, she was the only one of her adult kids that took such an active interest. Sure she was included in the family events, but even with a big Italian family, that leaves a lot of time where an isolated woman would be left alone.

Year after year the family tried to persuade her to sell her home, and downsize into smaller place closer to the rest of the family. She lived in Toronto proper, but as the years went by, the rest of the family moved to the suburbs and she had become isolated from those that could tend to her needs. But she didn't want to move, and no one stepped in, even though it was becoming apparent that her eyesight was now all but gone.

Last September things came crashing down, literally. The home she owned was built in the 1920's and part of the plaster on the bathroom ceiling fell down. It was then that everyone knew she had to move, and no more jerking around about it. The plans were to sell the place and have her relocate in the area near her eldest daughters live in.

The problem is, no one took charge. They actually were putting a lot of the responsibility on this 85 year old, nearly blind woman. As I mentioned before, Grace would speak with her mother nearly everyday and I'd hear about one plan then another. Just when we thought she was headed in one direction, something else would get in the way.
Grace and her mother November 2015.
All this time I was telling Grace that we just need to fly back east, pack her an overnight bag, and bring her here. If she lived in Buffalo, that would have happened years ago, but that international border isn't as easy to get across as we like to believe.

Grace did have a chance to visit her mother last November, and spent more than a week there. It wasn't the type of visit she'd/we'd had in the past, where it was all about visiting and eating various Italian delights. It was more about trying to get the house sold and her mother into a new place to live. Even with all those distractions, and her failing eyesight, she did make the recipe in the video above (know as Wedding Soup in America) and Ossobuco.

As recently as two weeks ago we seriously discussed going to get her. Though she was a permanent resident in Canada, she was still an Italian citizen and her passport had expired. There was no way we could do jack about getting her to California.

There's more to the story, but it's not for public consumption.

As the title of this blog mentioned, when real life intrudes, a person is given perspective on what is important and what isn't.

For as much as Wildomar is a fine place to live, it's just another town. The pettiness that goes on here can be entertaining at times, but is worthless just the same. This is no swansong for Wildomar Rap, but we'll have to see how much energy I'm going to invest in it.

It's been a great avocation, but real life keeps intruding.

It's time to hug your living relatives, while you reflect on those dear to you that have passed away. Be well.

 •        •        •

Death Leaves a Heartache No One Can Heal, Love Leaves a Memory, No One Can Steal. 
—From a headstone in Ireland

Wildomar Rap tip of the day: you don't get the time you've wasted added to the back end of your life like stoppage time in a soccer match.

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