I will be writing periodically from my corner of the world to tell you a little about my life and the struggles I’ve seen as a caregiver. For those who don’t know, I’m a caregiver to my grandmother. My grandmother is so much like a mother to me that I call her “Ma”. She, in turn, calls me “daughter”. I’m also the lucky mother of two gorgeous little boys, Dante Domenico (three and a half) and Gino Angelo (eleven months old). I truly represent the sandwich generation!
I was born in Cosenza, Italy in 1984 in a beautiful villa, built by my family, in a small town called Marano Principato in Calabria. The view of the mountains is unparalleled. I am very lucky to have been born in this magical place and I am fortunate to call it my second home. Other than my immediate family, the rest of my family all still live there.
In the 1980’s a United States citizen was allowed to bring only one non-U.S. citizen family member to the United States at a time. My mother, who had U.S. citizenship, brought my father to establish our life here with my uncle, Zio Franco (my mom’s brother). I remained in Italy with my Nonna Lidia and Nonno Mimo (my grandparents) and Zia Marisa (my mom’s sister). I continued to attend school and chase the chickens around the property, crying and begging my grandmother not to kill them for dinner that week (haha). Zia Josephine in Paterson, New Jersey applied to be my sponsor so that I could receive my citizenship. I waited to be approved for close to one year. I then flew here with my grandparents and Aunt Marisa to live in West Paterson, New Jersey. Soon thereafter I moved to Totowa, New Jersey where I was raised and attended school.
I lived my entire life in the same house with my mom, grandma, grandpa, aunt and uncle. Even though I was an only child, my aunt and uncle were like older siblings to me, hence why I call them Marisa and Frankie. My parents separated when I was only 5 years old and my father moved back to Italy. My remaining immediate family rallied together and showered me love, affection and memories. In fact, one would say I was a bit spoiled because as the old saying goes, “If mom says no, ask grandma,” then grandpa, then Frankie, then Marisa . . . Someone was bound to say “yes”.
My mom was a single hard working mom, with no American college degree. She worked long hours while going back to school part-time to attain her bachelor’s degree. My grandparents would take me to school and pick me up; grandpa would discipline me; and grandma would spoil me rotten, cooking for me anything and everything under the sun whenever I wanted. Family members would take me back to Italy for many years to see my friends, family and continue my heritage, traditions and way of life. I even went for an entire summer with just my Nonna and Nonno and boy did I learn what it was like to be a young Americanized girl in Italy with two veryyyy strict Italian grandparents.
Needless to say, as all of you probably do, I have a ton of beautiful long lasting memories which have helped me through these last five and a half years of caregiving for my grandparents. I will share some more of these memories as you get to know me, my family and the joys/struggles of caregiving.