and the tears came altogether unexpected and unbidden. Like a torrent of unknown remnants of grief that will never completely go away, my body shook with the intensity of it.
No more music pulsing through the cab of Strider. I could no longer bear to hear anything else but the sound of my rasping sobs. And like a mantra, I kept repeating, "Nonna. Nonna. Nonna." How is it that I can function like a normal human being most days of the year, but now, so near the anniversary of her death, I am reduced to a hopeless mess?
Two years ago I was taking shots of rum every night just to calm my wracking cough and to calm my frayed nerves. Two years ago I was grabbing handfuls of minutes for sleep - on the immaculately maintained oriental carpet in the upstairs living room....on the 55-year-old sofa downstairs.....on the reclining chair....in my arms resting on top of the kitchen table made by my Nonno's hands so many years ago. Between the shifts of rotating Nonna with my father and uncles so she wouldn't get bed sores, the moments of choking back the bile and tears when changing her diaper, and the hours of desperation praying by her bedside, I lost all knowledge of the world outside 172 Marrano Drive. Occasionally the outside world tried to demand my attention: new landlords looking for a signed lease to an apartment in Brooklyn, an employer needing me to work remotely, friends and family checking in. To all of them I had the same reply, Later. Not Now. No. I'll call you back. What I really wanted to say was, Fuck off! Don't you know my world is ending?
During those last days, memories of Nonna failed to solidify and I was left with only the feeling, the sense of her in my life over the last 26 years. Nonna in the kitchen. Nonna sitting on the front porch. Nonna in the garden. Nonna's laugh. Nonna cleaning. Nonna singing. Nonna keeping the equilibrium in the family.
Her passing was like a thread coming loose on a hem that continues to unravel over time until the whole garment is undone. In some ways, it has brought everyone closer together. In others, the difference is palpable. In all ways, I still wrestle with the seeming meaninglessness of it all.
Tomorrow we will celebrate my father's birthday with somber hearts.....as we will for the rest of his life. And the mystery is this: life and death so closely intertwined that one cannot exist without the other....at least not in this world.