Sunday, December 16, 2001

The Legacy of a Hero

This section is dedicated to a truly remarkable woman who, just by being herself, had a profound impact on the lives of everyone she came into contact with. She was my Aunt Rose, the oldest girl of eight kids, and a mother and mentor to the entire extended family. She passed away just over a week ago, after a long battle with multiple illnesses.

Being the oldest girl of eight children in a small town in Italy is not an easy task. However, there was never any doubt that Auntie Rose was well-equipped to handle such a responsibility.

She taught my father, the youngest brother, how to read and write so that he wouldn't have to go to kindergarten. She was a surrogate mother to all her siblings, and led with a strong mind and an open heart. No matter what crises or problems arose, she was always there with sage and wise advice, or just an ear to listen. She was a friend, a confidante, a leader and a mother to the entire family.

Auntie Rose was smart as a whip. She skipped grades in elementary school and excelled well past her peers. However, in her day and age, women didn't pursue higher education. She married my uncle Genaro, and made her career as a talented seamstress. Her sewing machine was several decades old, driven by a large foot pedal. She never upgraded to a fancy electrical one - why would she need to ? The old one still worked.

When we were kids, I remember our parents dropping us off at her house while they went on weekend business trips. She had a massive cherry tree in her backyard that we loved to pick cherries from. Every time we went over there, she always had pasta, homemade sauce, homemade cookies, and a cellar full of the soda we liked. It was always waiting for us. She sometimes made pasta from scratch, shaping each individual noodle with her own two hands.

She lived her life to love and to give to others. Her door was always open; not once did we ever have to knock. No matter when we would drop over, with or without notice, the cookies were always on the plate, and the coffee was always in the pot. Her home was everyone else's home. Her greatest joy in life was entertaining and providing for her guests.

The summer before I left for California, I played in a CIBC softball league. One of the parks in use that year was literally right up the street from Auntie Rose's house. One particular game, I made sure I had my car with me, as I usually grabbed a ride from my teammates. While the rest of the team went ahead to the bar, I dropped by to visit my aunt and uncle.

I walked into their house in my softball uniform, covered in dirt and smelling like a stray dog. Sight and smell notwithstanding, the sheer joy on Auntie Rose's face is something I'll never forget. She brought out the cookies and coffee and we enjoyed a nice, relaxed coversation. For me, it was a mere 45 minutes out of my life. For her, dropping by just to say hi was the greatest thing I ever could have done.

She was like a mother to me, and to the entire extended family. She treated my cousins, my sisters and I with the same love and attention she gave to her own two children. There was no measuring her capacity to love and to nurture. She touched the lives of everyone she came into contact with.

Auntie Rose and I did have our share of disagreements. We had some serious discussions over the years, and at times we simply agreed to disagree. She was opinionated and strong-willed, but she never tried to force her views on others.

I remember, as a child, not wanting to take a bath when I was over at her place for the weekends. I was probably about 8 years old at the time. We used to fight about that, as I always refused to get in the bath. One time, I finally gave in, and let her bathe me. She was just as gentle and kind as my own mother.

Last June, when I was in Toronto, I somehow knew that it may be the last time I would see her. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to say goodbye. I said to her, "Auntie Rose, remember when I was younger and I didn't want to take a bath ? It wasn't because I was a dirty pig or I didn't like you. It was because I didn't want you to see me naked." She said "Oh, whatever you have, I have too !", to which I replied "Well yeah, but I was only 8." She laughed heartily at my embarrassed confession. Looking back, I am thankful I had the chance to tell her that.

Throughout her life, Auntie Rose took a lot of responsibility with her siblings, and had more than her share of work. She had a tough life at times, especially in her last year, when multiple medical problems in quick succession plagued her. No matter what life dealt to her, she never once complained. Many in her situation would wallow in self-pity; she dedicated her life to God. Many would have passed unprotestingly; she held on for many months longer than any doctor could ever have predicted. She was a true fighter, her strength immeasurable by human standards.

Now that she is gone, I have made a promise that I will continue her legacy. I will be the aunt to my friends' and sisters' kids that she was to me. I will have an open ear, an open heart, and an open door. I may never be able to make pasta the way she did, but I'll always have cookies for my guests.

If I could give half as much as she could;
If I could love half as much as she did;
If I could touch half as many lives as she did;
I would be truly blessed.

See you on the 20th.



Post a Comment

<< Home

Keywords: Andrea Di Lecce, andrea di lecce, Andrea DiLecce, andrea dilecce, Andrea Abrahamsen, andrea abrahamsen, Slinky, slinky, SlinkyGal, SLiNKyGaL, slinkygal, SlinkyDee, slinkydee, Toronto, toronto, San Francisco, san francisco, San Jose, san jose, softball, Seido karate, volleyball, blog, emotion, philosophy, funny, jokes, musings, psychology, EMT, EMS, emergency medical services