If, today, you and I were able to sit at your kitchen table and talk over a cup of coffee just one last time, I would …
… tell you to pour some Sambuca (the good kind, not the generic anisette you always settled for) in our cups. Today is, after all, your eightieth birthday.
… bake you a batch of sesame cookies; the kind I cursed Stella D’Oro for not making anymore the year you were dying and kept asking for your favorite cookies.
… bring you the biggest bouquet of carnations (your favorite flower) I could buy to decorate your table.
… tell you how sorely missed you are by your children and grandchildren.
… tell you how Gianna, who by the way has since days after you died proclaimed herself as Nanny’s favorite, declared sitting at this very kitchen table that it isn’t fair that her Nanny died when Nanny’s sisters were still alive. She, of course, made this declaration in front of your youngest sister. Judy and I didn’t know how to respond so we both said something about missing you too and turned away before we burst out laughing at the look on Aunty’s face.
… tell you how ironic it is to me that Debbie’s housekeeping style mimics yours. She prides herself in her hospital corners and the perfect symmetry of the towels in her linen closet. She is obsessive, the rest of us not so much.
… tell you how shocked I still am that in our family where women live well into their eighties and nineties that you did not live past seventy years old. Cigarettes and lung cancer stole decades from you … from us.
… tell you how proud you would be of Jamie. She is the teacher you and Dad always wanted me to be. She teaches troubled kids in an inner city school system and she reaches them.
… let you know your wisdom still guides our family. When Michael had to tell his daughters that he has lymphoma; he and I discussed how you would handle the situation. What would Nanny do became our guiding force. It was difficult but we met each of the girls at their level of understanding and made it through. Although, he is still undergoing treatment his doctors have told him that the treatment is working and he is cancer free. He did not need any help telling the girls that news.
… tell you I get it now. I used to get angry when your Christmas presents and birthday presents were things for the house. I always blamed Dad for not giving you something for you. Now, I understand that he was giving you what you wanted.
… tell you how grateful I am that you were my mother. You taught each of your daughters to be strong, independent women. I get my strength from you. You taught me by example. Ironically, friends have commented over the years how they admire my strength and how calm I am in the face of adversity. I smile and tell them that it has never occurred to me that I had a choice other than doing what is necessary. My mother taught me that I can handle anything that comes my way; I honestly never realized that not trying, not dealing with what life sends my way was an option.
… tell you I’ve kept my promise to make sure we still got together as a family to celebrate holidays after you passed away. And, that I do my best to make them magical for the girls. It hasn’t always been easy; some members of our family can be difficult, but then you knew that when you asked me to promise you the holidays would continue on in your tradition.
… share with you how shocking it is to me that Gianna is starting high school this fall (and Jenny is in upper school). Gianna was starting kindergarten the year you passed away. They both still seem like little girls to me.
… tell you that I would give anything to be able to sit with you and talk about my life; that I still after all these years still want to call you to share my latest news.
… wish you a happy eightieth birthday and tell you that I love you.