Florida Impressions, Round 2: Family Matters

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The Basi family, twenty-six strong, gathered on New Year’s Eve to celebrate a birthday at my parents-in-law’s house.

Twenty-six plus two, actually; the thirteenth grandchild is on the way, and that night we also had Nonny with us. Nonny is Christian’s paternal grandmother. She is 95 and recognizes no one, remembers nothing. Well, she recognizes her son…sort of…but I’m not sure she knows that he is her son. She’s continually astonished that she has grandchildren, much less great-grandchildren. I think I introduced myself to her three times that night.

I’ve only met Nonny a few times anyway, because she doesn’t leave the state of Florida. In pictures, she is an angular, stereotypical Italian woman. The nose, the eyes, the thin face. She looks like a woman you don’t want to cross. The kind of woman that daughters-in-law are terrified of. In fact, Christian tells a story about how she took a broomstick to the ceiling to wake up his brother upstairs.

But every time I have met her, she seems soft and sweet. And even now, when almost every moment of her long years has been wiped from her memory, she is universally charming—a woman I want to hug, to sit down with and plumb the depths of her experience.

Alex did as he was bid and shook her hand; Nicholas eventually made friends and consented to a little low-grade flirting. But Julianna… “Oh, that’s a beautiful name,” Nonny said. And was rewarded with this:

When we left to take the kids back to the condo to go to bed, Nonny asked plaintively, “But when will I see you again?” And I thought, you know what? We probably won’t see her again. And it made me sad.

The other memory of the night was the second-oldest cousin, an 8-year-old who adores the little ones, taking Julianna in hand and sitting down with her at the little table in the corner of the kitchen to play “itsy bitsy spider” with her. I was doing dishes when I realized that the crowd had grown. I poked my head around the corner and saw her 8- and 5-year old (male) cousins sitting there too. Five more minutes, and there were 6 cousins in Julianna’s royal court, doing pat-a-cake and spider and trying to make her do her “yay for the ____”  yell.


(this picture was taken a couple of days later, but her cousins are doing the same thing here. I didn’t get a still shot on NY Eve b/c I was too busy getting video!)

As you might imagine, Julianna took exception to being dragged away to go to bed. But as Christian unlocked the door to the condo, I planted myself across the path of escape. “You may be Queen of your cousins,” I said, “but I am the empress, and I say it’s time to go to bed!”

EEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!! she shrieked, which made me devoutly glad that it was 10p.m. on New Year’s Eve, so everybody was staying up anyway!

(This post is linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chattingatthesky.com

7 thoughts on “Florida Impressions, Round 2: Family Matters

  1. Chrissy

    RE: Nonny

    That feeling is exactly the reason I love my job. Even when I spend half my holiday weekend trying to make sure my newest client doesn’t freeze to death in a house where the furnace motor died on New Years Day!

    She’s from Wisconsin she says and the winters there, well, it’s way lower than 9, it’s in the negative 20’s. Yes, I agreed, you are just the type of woman who can survive those winter nights(aka- resets her short term memory every 15 minutes)- but your southern aides, I said, not so much. 😉 She immediately agreed that her very hardworking aides should not be allowed to suffer.

    What a lady!

  2. Mary Anne

    My grandmother is 97 years old and about as aware as Nonny. I saw her at Thanksgiving for the first time in a few years, and I took great pleasure in the visit.Even though she did not know who I was, her first words were, “I love you” and she gave me a big kiss. Too bad we can’t all be like that!

  3. My f-i-l says that if you go on long enough, a detail will catch in her memory and she’ll suddenly light up. I find myself reflecting on the circle of life, to borrow a cliche…the idea that babies are blank slates, who grow, have families of their own, and sometimes return to blank slates at the end.

  4. What a lovely picture you paint of Nonny. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone lose all sense of the past and even the present, but we still know who they are and that knowledge keeps us going.

  5. Nonny reminds me of my Nana. Her memory was completely wiped out, too, but she was always so sweet, with just a little bit of sass thrown in for good measure. She died two years ago, but I still think about her every day.

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