My grandmother passed away the other day. She was 93 years old. I was glad that I got to see her one last time on Mother’s Day. As she sat in the kitchen eating the ham and sweet corn that my uncle had made for us, she was constantly looking around, observing her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild: she said very little––just observed. As I was making small talk with my cousin and watching my niece designing her ideal 9th birthday party in her sticker book, I noticed my grandmother staring at me. She never said anything––just stared––almost as if she was taking in one, long, last look.
We called her Nana Yo. My mother joked to my youngest cousin and more recently to her granddaughter, that she got the name Nana Yo because she was the Yo-Yo Queen of the 1940’s. For us older kids, we understood it was short for her first name, Yolanda.
A few months ago, I learned that my grandmothers maiden name (Marco) was originally longer than what I had known it to be (Panasidi-Marco)––it was shortened when she arrived in America from her homeland of Marina di Caronia, Sicily, Italy. Funny what you learn so many years later.
A few years ago, I reunited her with her sister who she hadn’t seen or spoken to in almost twenty years. We may never know what the real cause of their rift was, however, both she and her sister both thanked me for bringing them back together. It was probably one of the most important things that I ever did for her.
Here’s a picture of her that I took in 2008 on a sunny day in her backyard. The old style curlers tightly wound in her hair. On the table beside her, most likely a Dewar’s––straight up, rocks on the side. If I liked scotch, I’d go drink one for you today. Maybe you’d approve of a fine Italian wine instead.