Grandparents: A Rare Gem

Posted by Lloyd on December 14, 2009

The fact that my grandmother died on my birthday has always made me feel closer to her. I know that sounds like a morbid observation, but it is so true. It is just one more way that my grandma made me feel special, as she did all of her life. She was there moments after I was born, and I was there when she died, which completed our journey together on this earth. Grandma is with me in spirit every time I open a jar of fresh canned tomatoes, each time I drive by her favorite church, when the pungent aroma of fresh basil and parsley awaken my senses, and even when I turn on the television.

When I hear the announcer say, “Come on down, you’re the next contestant on the Price is Right,” I immediately think of my grandmother. The Price is Right was her favorite show. In my mind’s eye, I see my beautiful grandmother’s devilish smirk, her twinkling brown eyes, and the color of her stark white hair. If I close my eyes, I can still see her waving her cane at me. I always smile and shake my head as I remember my grandmother’s energetic physical presence, outgoing character, and determined attitude.

This little sprite of a woman, she was barely five feet tall, had an energy level of a workhorse. Theresa Nardo was a tiny whirlwind of power like a fierce tornado, which spun rapidly. The woman hardly ever sat down, but was always bustling about doing dishes, working in her garden, cooking, and visiting the many friends that she had made in her long life. Even while sitting, her arthritic hands crocheted or mended clothes.

From the age of eight years old, when she came to America from Italy, she helped her community. Since she was fluent in three languages, she wrote letters for both her Italian and Finnish pals. My grandmother helped many of her friends from the “old country” come to America. She aided them by giving them a place to stay, teaching them English, and even showing many how to cook–it was very common in Italy to have a maid.

My grandmother’s admirable determination and deep spirituality was responsible for her incredible zest for life. Dr. Brown, her heart surgeon, once said, “The only thing that’s keeping Theresa alive is that pacemaker and pure stubbornness; her heart is completely deteriorated.” Her faith in God and love of her family strengthened her will. My Grandmother had strong beliefs, which helped her through many adversities. Being the oldest of ten children, Theresa Nardo learned determination at a young age. Her rough childhood and the Great Depression were her best teachers. Living through the harshest of times only strengthened her.

Telling stories was one of Grandma’s favorite pastimes. Her colorful stories were always action-packed, and the various circumstances boggled the mind. Some stories were told with a hint of humor, while others showed her flair for drama. Her English was perfect and her voice was strong like her personality, which kept her listeners enthralled. Her spunky attitude was clear in each story she told. Her tales varied from the time it snowed to the rooftops, to the time my Grandfather was shot at by “The Black Hand”- a term used to describe the Mafia early this century.

Despite her spunky and opinionated demeanor, Theresa Nardo’s love for her family and friends was always apparent. The staunch democrat was known to spout off about her distaste of government policies, and she outwardly chastised republican politicians. She never missed an election, voting on Election Day was a priority. If she disagreed with you, you would know it!

My grandmother never turned away from a debate. She always used her outspoken viewpoint, determination, and stubbornness to help others. Grandma was always quick to volunteer her help. Whether the cause was a church dinner, raising money for a sick member of the community, or taking the time to share her knowledge, my grandmother was a giving person who used her abilities to help her community.

This strong woman inspired her family, friends, and community. This explains why she is so fondly remembered. My grandmother was like a beautiful gemstone. The harsh elements of many years enhanced the jewel’s sparkle. Her incredible spirit is still the topic of conversation at family gatherings seventeen years after her death.

In her eighty years of life, she gave all of herself. Her children, grandchildren, and friends were thankful for the time they had shared with her. If Theresa Nardo hadn’t touched my life, I would be a very different person. I can relate to Jimmy Stewart’s revelation in It’s a Wonderful Life. He realized how differently things would have been if he had never existed. That is how I feel about the influence my grandmother had on my life. She helped mold me into the person that I am today.

When I lost Grandma, I felt as if I had lost a part of myself. The memory of Theresa Nardo lives on, not only in the minds of the many people who she loved, but also in their hearts and souls. I loved her colorful stories, which are now my family’s most treasured heirlooms. She was truly a legend in her own time. Oh, how I long to hear one of my grandma’s tales just one more time! This diverse woman’s charisma touched everyone who knew her. My grandmother’s untiring energy, determined character, and feisty attitude were a distinct part of her charm.

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