Standing at 5’1, my Italian grandmother lived in an apartment attached to our house. Forty years she worked in factories and restaurants, waiting on people while making friends everywhere she went or worked. Her last job was at a grocery store named Zazzera’s located in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. Every time my mother took us grocery shopping, I knew Nani would always have a candy bar hidden behind the register. Whenever my mother would become upset with her she always made a joke and laughed about the situation. Since the day I was born, not a moment went by when my grandmother was somehow in my life. From picking me up at the bus stop in third grade, to taking me to basketball games in eight grade, to cheering for me in the stands during my high school soccer games, my Nani never missed a beat So many days were spent either sharing sleepovers throughout my entire year of kindergarten or grabbing dinner at her house at night. She had this uncanny ability to forgive and forget as though it were the easiest thing in the world. That is one of the most influential characteristics I have taken from my grandmother. In addition to this, she genuinely cared about others. Our neighbors lost their daughter tragically a few years ago and my grandmother was one of the first people over with a bowl of breaded chicken to make sure that everything was fine and they were eating properly.
I knew I could always count on Nani for anything. Any fight that occurred between my parents, siblings, or I, I knew I could escape to Nani’s apartment to get away. Growing up, she was my confidant, a person I could trust no matter what; She carried a secret of my sisters to her grave. Anytime I would jokingly ask her to tell me, Nani always would say no and change the subject. I knew I could count on her for anything. Her laughter filled up a room and carried throughout the hearts of anyone that heard her.
My Uncle Sam had been dating my Aunt Carol for a number of years and in July 2004 they finally tied the knot. Approximately two weeks later, Nani was in the hospital. Her breathing had been a bother to her for a number of years; she could barely walk thirty feet from her door to our front door. Between fifty years of smoking and forty years of working in factories that may have contained asbestos in the air, cancer quickly spread from her lungs into the rest of her body. Her illness quickly took her life away. Many trips from the Hershey Medical Center near my uncles, to my uncles house in Dillsburg, back to her home in Vandling. Finally, it had gotten to the point where it became easier to have her stay at my uncles. Throughout the first semester of my senior year of high school, my final season of soccer was whirling by without her in the stands. Every weekend I tried to make my way to my uncles near Harrisburg to visit her. I remember offering her a cross I had received on a retreat I attended my junior year in high school known as Kairos.
Nov 4, 2004 came around and I was on my way to taking the SAT’s with my friend Brandi. My whole family, except my father, was down visiting my grandmother. It was a long weekend and we had plans to visit a local college as well as one near my uncle and then to visit my grandmother. After finishing the SAT’s, I phoned my father asking to meet for lunch, but instead he suggested I simply go home. I thought he was being a jerk and I got upset. When I got to my house, my driveway was full with my uncle’s, sisters, brothers and parents car. I thought Nani was home for good, until I saw my uncle walk out of my grandmother’s apartment, with her family portrait from when she was younger, in his hand.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
And as my uncle walked over and put his arm around me, I didn’t even have to listen to what was next,
“Nani’s gone,” he responded.
My Nani touched the lives of our neighbors, friends and family. Along my brother, sister and cousins, we had a number of friends who paid their respects at her wake. Not a day goes by that I do not think about her. She is in my mind and in my heart always. That cross I gave her while she was sick hangs in my apartment above my bed, along with a letter she sent me when she would stay for a number of weeks at my uncles in Dillsburg. We were pen-pals, best friends, and grandmother and granddaughter.
Suzanne Brady is a fourth-year student majoring in Spanish Education. She can be reached at SB619873@wcupa.edu.