Nonna died last night. We knew it was coming, but it was still a surprise. She had a stroke on the 11th -- actually it was two, one in the morning and one later in the afternoon -- and lost the ability to speak and lost movement in her right side. I went down to Missoula with Derek to see her two Sundays ago, suspecting the worst. She was asleep when we got there, and looking at her I thought for sure her eyes would pop open and that she would jump right out of bed. She looked great! We sat with her when she woke up and stayed to meet the home health care provider the family was interviewing that afternoon. I don't know how much of the conversation Nonna could hear - she has no hearing in her right ear and wears a hearing aid in her left - but I think she mastered the art of faking it years ago. We left that afternoon feeling more optimistic than we did on the way down.
Last Sunday we made another trip to Missoula. Again, Nonna was sleeping when we arrived. She looked frail this time. When I held her hand it was skin and bones. But when she woke up she was more engaging than the week before. I'm not sure how much of what I said she actually heard, but we ended up laughing - belly laughs - for about twenty minutes. It was priceless. You can share a joke without a single word being spoken, and sometimes those are the best jokes. Nonna was rubbing my hand with her thumb the entire time we were there.
This week she had some good days and some bad days. Derek and I were making plans for the trip to Missoula this Sunday, so it was a shock when he called last night at about 9:30 to say Nonna had died. Although I wish I had the chance to see her again, I'm glad our last visit together was such a good one. I want to remember her with a smile on her face, sharing a laugh, sharing a secret. Everytime I saw Nonna she would say, "Here's my beautiful redhead," even if I looked my worst. She made me feel special, and for that I will forever be grateful.
Ann Cipolato. She packed a whole lot of living into 97.5 years. She left her family with hilarious stories, wonderful memories and fabulous recipes, and I am blessed to have been included in that family. Two weeks ago Derek's aunt Gigi and I were joking about me being a bad penny - I keep turning up. I don't think Nonna would have had it any other way.
I love you, Nonna, and I will miss you always. Rest in peace.