Eleven years ago today, June 20, 2002, my mother, Anna Catherine “Kitty” Violi, died.
She had complained of chronic weariness for some months. As the sister to three IU Medical School graduates who had done their Residency at the Mayo Clinic, Mama was careful to follow the proverbial “doctor’s orders.” She had regular checkup. Each morning she took her high blood pressure medication, thyroid medication, acid reflux medication, multiple vitamin, and baby aspirin. She ate healthy, as most Italians do, with little meat, lots of shade and dark leafy green vegetables, fish, fruit, and little processed food. Mama also walked her neighborhood nearly every day. Granted Mama was 87, but she looked more like a 70-something with lovely, unlined skin, clear blue eyes, and silvery gray hair.
I loved her dearly. She was my mother, best friend, confidant, oracle, anchor, source of family lore, the dearest grandmother to my daughter, the lynchpin of our family. Her laughter, sense of fun, delight in family and friends, merriment in the sheer joy of life infused those around her with added spirit. An outstanding cook whose interest in new recipes piqued her interest throughout her life, we ate with brio at her table.
Emblazoned upon my memory is the warmth of her smile, the lilt of her voice, our daily kisses of adieu, of telling one another, “I love you.” After eleven years, one would think the memories would fade, the sound of her voice would dim. That has not, however, been the case. She made me a better person, even after her death. I strive to recall her feisty spirit, how she faced challenges head on. I try to emulate her compassion, her kindness, her celebration of family. Several years after my daughter Anjelica was born, I told Mama I had come to the realization that a great part of being a good parent is getting over oneself. I said that while having a child was a humbling experience, it was also the most rewarding, how this toddler had enriched my live beyond measure. Mama smiled, nodded her head, and whispered, “Yes. Exactly,” and she gave me a hug. We both understood I had finally grown up myself, finally, in my mid-30’s.
The 2002 Father’s Day weekend stroke that rendered her silent was deafening when her flame passed 72 hours later.
I miss her hugs, yet she is present everyday in my heart, and that makes me smile.
Ciao for now.