There is a special bond between a person and their grandparents. The generation gap usually makes them fountains of knowledge and wisdom on subjects your parents or friends may not always understand. I’ve always had two of my grandparents in Italy, so I only saw them I few times a year. I recently, or what was in fact two years ago, but still feels extremely recent, lost two of them. Having never known my mother’s father that leaves me with one, my father’s mother, which feels a bit too overwhelming to think about for long periods of time, so I try to ignore it, and live in spite of it. I guess I don’t really have a choice in the matter.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or because they’re gone, but lately I keep finding myself thinking of all of them. Of the lives they lead; their childhoods that I don’t really know much about. About the choices they made and what they gave up. Things that seemed to come so easy to them that I seem to be impossible to me. Grandmothers who devoted their lives to love. To their men. To their children. And the most incredible grandfather with very different values and views on life. The roles seemed to be more etched out and the responsibilities more predetermined. I will always feel them near no matter how many years pass. What hurts though, is that what we had together is all we ever will have. There won’t be any new memories to create together. Except with my grandmother. Nonna Ida. Ball busting-Italian- cool as hell-housewife. In ways I haven’t paid much attention to the role she played in shaping me. But some of her lessons will never be forgotten.
She taught me to always walk with my head held high.
When I was about twelve or thirteen, I was visiting my grandparents in their summer home in France. My grandfather was at home and my grandmother and I were walking along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, eating ice cream. The early teens were an extremely difficult time for me and I was constantly at war with myself. Nothing was good enough. I felt ugly and lonely and overweight. Just odd, I suppose, which was all nonsense. I had developed this habit of staring at my feet when I walked and my grandmother had in turn developed a habit of her own, where she grabbed a hold of my chip and pulled it up. This silent battle went on for a few weeks before she stopped in the middle of the Promenade, grabbed my chin and didn’t let go. She said ‘what are you doing? Why do you keep looking down when you walk? Not only do you give off the impression that you are invisible and that people don’t need to pay any attention to you, you also happen to be missing everything that’s going on around you. The beach, the waves, the people. That’s enough! Basta!’ and of course, with her quick Italian wit, she added ‘besides, you don’t want to become a hunch back do you?’ No grandma, I’d rather not develop a hunchback, thank you. It stuck anyhow, and my eyes have looked up ever since, no matter the mood.
She taught me that love needs to be fought for.
I used to refer to my grandparents whenever I talked about love. I used to refer to their nearly 55 year old marriage and all the hell they conquered side by side. I’m pretty sure countless hearts broke the day they decided to separate from each other. Our pillars in the family. And they did separate so I guess their love won’t go down in the history books as an epic one. But the fight behind it might. My grandmother fought with her life for it to work. At an age when you shouldn’t have to. When things should run smoothly. I remember us having a fight once, years before I know her and granddad were having problems. We were driving through Rome and I was so mad I could barely hold my tears back. We were talking about how much one should fight for their partner. She was arguing how easily people left each other these days, how quickly people were exchanged for others. How people were too soft to get their hands dirty. My mother had recently left my stepfather so I took it as a personal attack, which of course it wasn’t. She was talking about herself. I just didn’t know her fight had already begun. I would have left. At the first bump I am fairly confident I would have thrown in the towel. I am the type of person she was referring to because the fear of losing time or courage is too prominent in me. But maybe it’s not about winning, but knowing that even if you don’t make it you did everything you could. And we know she did.
She taught me that life is for the living.
In a lot of ways my grandmother is the typical Italian housewife. She makes home made pasta, she takes care of her family, she watches a telenovela before she falls asleep and she puts her family before everything else. In a lot of ways my grandmother is not the typical Italian housewife. My grandmother flew to Hong kong by herself at nearly 60. She has a bad-ass scar on her knee from when she clumsily climbed on a long tail boat in Thailand in 67. She goes to all-night bridge tournaments on the beach to play cards at 4 am in the morning and sometimes she doesn’t answer her phone because she’ll be in a food court with her fellow widowed friends sampling wines in the middle of the day. My grandmother has three grown children, two of which have moved abroad. She separated from her husband at 68 and lost him at 70. But she is living her life to the fullest. And that is the greatest lesson of them all.
Welcome to Wildflowers & Wayfarers. A travel blog sharing adventures abroad from all corners of the world.
BACKPACKING IN THAILAND AND THE 23 PICTURES EVERYONE RETURNS WITH
THINGS I LEARNED FROM MY GRANDMOTHER
THE ANDERSEN BOUTIQUE HOTEL