Friday afternoon in the mountainous coal mining region of Pennsylvania, we buried my grandmother. She was ninety-four.
It had been more than fifteen years since I had been to my father’s hometown, and I was awash with a multitude of memories and emotions. A very ethnic Italian and Polish community, it was like walking back into time 50 years. The mountains were beautiful. The bloodlines were interesting.
I met cousins and second cousins and uncles and aunts. With names like Lorenzo and Luigi in my family, I knew we were very Italian, but when I heard my Dad called “Johnny” over and over again with thick accents, it hit me just how deep those bloodlines ran. Of course, everyone there was either Frankie or Johnny or Jimmy. There was also Uncle Mimi, short for Dominic, and his daughter, Dominica. Everyone talked with their hands and emphasized the first syllable in their words and pinched cheeks. It’s been a long time since someone pinched my cheeks, but, bless their hearts, I think every Great-Aunt pinched mine on Friday.
My father’s life has not been easy. My father’s family has not been easy. Losing his own father, Alphonso, at the age of 11, my dad’s life was turned upside down. You see, he didn’t just lose his father that day… shortly after the tragedy, Daddy’s brother had a complete breakdown at 16 years of age. Uncle Larry has been institutionalized with paranoid schizophrenia ever since. My grandmother also suffered a breakdown and Daddy was sent to live for a while with his grandmother who only spoke Italian. His mom, my grandmother, was never the same, and the memories I have of her consist of a short (4 feet, 10 inch) woman with stringy gray hair, huge black eyes, and a very dark, foreboding house.
The way I look at it, even though she physically passed away 3 weeks ago, Daddy lost his mom 48 years ago. He lost her to a disease that ravages the mind and steals away life. He lost her to dysfunction and paranoia. And as I looked around on Friday at all our family, I was sad. Sad for my Daddy who never knew the joy of growing up in a healthy home. I was sad for my uncle, who looked around bewildered from his wheelchair. Sad because this, too, is a result of the fall.
Yet, in the midst of sadness, there are the reminders of life.
There is the smile of a little girl.
There’s the joy of my Buddy, who grinned from ear to ear while reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
There is the beauty of God’s creation all around.
There is the promise that Christ is not in the grave. That He is risen, and He is here to meet every need.
There is the warmth of my husband’s hand, reminding me that he’s beside me no matter what.
And there is always Bear. Notice he is boxing with the Notre Dame flag.
And there are my bloodlines. I love the bloodlines of my ethic Italian family, but there are lines that run deeper still. There are the lines that run to the Cross, to the promise and heritage of my Father in Heaven. Those are my bloodlines, too.
I am a daughter of the King.