A lot of people associate St. Patrick’s Day with wearing lots of green so they don’t get pinched, or cute little leprechauns chasing after the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, or perhaps a piping hot plate of corned beef and cabbage served alongside a stout Guinness beer. For me, St. Patrick’s Day is none of those things. I’m not devoutly Irish ~ we only have a little bit of Irish floating through our veins. St. Patrick’s Day has always and will forever remind me of my Grandma Faye, and now it will include how much I miss her.
My Grandma Faye’s birthday and wedding anniversary were on St. Patrick’s Day. She was an incredible woman, head strong, an amazing cook, loving, hilarious, serving, feisty, loved the color red and leopard print… everything you picture a little old lady to be. We lost her to a fight of lung cancer the day before Mother’s Day in 2012 and it really feels like it was just yesterday that I was by her side in hospice, showing her pictures of my childhood memories and laughing about all the funny things we did together. I’ll never forget the way she was looking up at me, so happy that I had flown down to Florida to visit her, but also the look of “I want to hug you and I can’t. I want to say so much, but I can’t.” I remember her trying so very hard to reach up for me, but she couldn’t. I told her it was okay, she didn’t have to say anything, I knew what she was thinking and it was okay. She couldn’t speak, she was barely awake… she was just present and I could tell she was so happy I was there, as much as she struggled to show any emotion at all. She was happy. She was ready.
When she passed, it was literally moments after I left the room. I asked for a moment alone with her before leaving – I had to fly home the next day. I placed a wallet-sized picture of Zoey in her hand before I left, kissed her, and walked out, trying to keep my head held high, but also knowing that was the last time I’d ever see her.
I’ll always remember my Grandma Faye – the feisty little woman who could always make me laugh, the woman who nicknamed me Jessi Belle as a child, who took me to Disney World and Busch Gardens, who let me come stay with her for a few weeks at a time every summer as a child (back when flying alone at just six years old was considered safe and my mom could walk me onto the plane herself, buckle me in, then say goodbye). When I brought Zoey home from NICU, Grandma came and stayed with me for two weeks after I got my time alone with the new baby. She stayed during weeks 8-9 when Zoey was in the colic stage… she’d walk her around the house, singing to her, bouncing her, helping me keep her happy. She’d play with her while I pumped. She was so helpful and it was wonderful to get that time alone with her, just Grandma, me, and the new baby every day while Glenn went back to work. I cherished that time. I remember sitting on the couch just chatting for hours (literally) about everything.
I’ll always remember certain foods she cooked. She used to make panfuls of cannelloni for me to freeze for later meals, lasagna, stuffed mushrooms, meatballs, fresh sauce, and my all time favorite: her Italian anisette cookies and biscotti. I know how to make some of these things and I have her anisette cookie recipe, but for me, I think that is going to have to be something untouched. I won’t be able to make them the same way she did, I just know it. I need to just frame the recipe to preserve it forever.
I loved those cookies so much and she loved me so much that she would send me boxes for my birthday. She even sent me a box when I was on bedrest in the hospital with Zoey, and when I first moved away to college. She knew I loved them. I can taste them now just writing about it. Maybe someday I’ll get brave and try to make them, but if they’re not the same, I think I’ll feel like a failure, and you guys know how I feel about baking as it is!
I’m going to conclude this post with a few pictures of Grandma Faye. For me, this day is about her.
The day that Grandma and Grandpa became Mrs. and Mrs. Brancatto.
An incredible memory. All living grandmothers were together in one place. Left to right: Glenn’s mom (Tanna) and grandmother (Nani), Zoey and me, my mom (Rhonda) and grandma (Faye). May 2010
Little did I know at the time that exactly two years later, I would say goodbye to this incredible woman. Zoey was two months old in this picture. Precious time spent with a precious lady! May 2010
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.