Theresa Anne Delgatto Spinelli: November 27, 1929 – May 19, 2013

Who Cares if it’s Raining

- Vincent Frank Spinelli II

 

In loving memory,

Theresa Anne Delgatto Spinelli

November 27, 1929 – May 19, 2013

Wife, Mother, Matriarch

When Mamma prayed, good things happened – people changed.

Not much more than five foot tall, but mountains big and small crumbled all away when Mamma prayed for you.

 

I. There isn’t much to say.

It’s half past midnight, and we’ve been sitting together like this – on and off – for about a month. This is the time when family and friends are supposed to spring forth bearing best wishes and sympathies. This is when I am supposed to kneel at your side, express my inner most love and beg for forgiveness – that peace may find us both through the gesture. My mother – your daughter – should be weeping on your arm, and I should be humbled by the sight.

You would have none of that. … so I’ll put pen to paper in a futile effort to encapsulate within words the sum total content, value, and legacy of a life.

II. Who cares if it’s raining?

Twenty-someting years ago, we were sitting in the back of a twilight blue Dodge truck – camping out. The old man was standing in the rain, fully equipped with slicker and trucker cap, attempting to light a Coleman grille so he could boil water for coffee. I’m pretty sure he got it going; he was good with that type of thing. It takes patience, a lot of patience and a soft hand. Soft in intent and motion, because a belt sander and all the finishing glaze on earth wouldn’t have erased the scars and callouses he collected through the previous 50 weeks of the year. To your credit, you pretended they were made of the softest velvet when he would touch your cheek to kiss you. Then again, maybe – to you – they were.

We were on vacation – at Cedar Point. … a water park, go karts, mini-golf, full amusement park, and campground. My pre-teen mind was a blur with a countless number of different scenarios for exploiting the awesome power that lay before me. At least that’s how I felt before waking up that morning. You were already putting on makeup, which is a feat in and of itself. A ‘robust’ Italian woman managing to do her hair and makeup in the back of a pickup truck is something that everyone should witness at least once in their life.

But it was raining. It was pouring, in fact – a torrential downpour of the likes I had never seen, or at least it felt that way. Maybe this was penance for the shoddy mix-tapes I forced you to listen to while on the road. Did God hate Kriss Kross too?

As I went on lamenting the loss of vacation to the tyrant storm, you looked at me as if I had three heads. “What’s the matter with you?”, you barked; suddenly you made it my fault. What’s the matter with me – me? I didn’t make the storm clouds, the rain, or the park’s insurance regulations regarding operation of large electric powered rides during rainstorms. So where did you get off putting this on me?

“You got shoes on your feet, right?” – yes.

“You have food in your stomach?” – as I shoveled down another Swiss roll the old man had procured during his adventure to the campground general store.

“And you don’t have to go to school, everyone’s here, and everyone’s healthy. What more do you want?”

At the time, I didn’t see the wisdom or the heartfelt truth conveyed during that very simple conversation. You had to put a rain slicker on me and coax me into the park that day. While you probably took some pleasure in observing, several hours later, that you were right – that we had a great time – you didn’t see the idea you had planted grow until a good 10 years or so later.

I know; we already had this conversation, but maybe someone else can learn from it. I won’t spell it out for them. You didn’t spell it out for me – it’s something that a person just needs to ‘get’.

III. Just one third.

That’s all I’ve known you for: one third of your life. Our relationship is not unique. You shared similar ties with your siblings, your daughter, and your son. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of your impact on my world, and you were already 50 when it started. Rode hard and left with nothing in reserve – you had to know that would be your fate if you were going to take on raising another child from scratch at that age. You’re smart; you knew. … you just didn’t care, and I am so very grateful for that. Barring catastrophe, most people are blessed with a far longer time to know their parents. I’ll take what we have, thank you very much – those were your retirement years. Those were your ‘tour the world’, ‘winter in Florida’, carefree years. I’m honored that you felt me worthy of that sacrifice.

IV. I don’t need anything.

You’ve inspired us to carry out our lives in a manner that scoffs at the idea of regret. Many parents tell their children, “Don’t do something you’ll regret later.” I’m actually not sure if you ever even used those words. You lead by example; even now, your suffering is an example. It sets a standard for responsibility and loyalty that I can only hope to one day come close to emulating. A life spent leading, providing, loving, and guiding; it is no surprise that I never knew what to get for you on holidays.

“I don’t need anything”, that’s what you would say to me. “Write me a card”, you would offer in protest. As if ‘buying’ a card was even too much – just scribble something together on a Post-It Note, and you would’ve been happy as a pig in slop. The price tag on your shoes and the number of nick-nacks in your cupboard never meant anything to you.

I understood that – after a while. We all understood it. It is not by accident that there was never a question as to what would become of your husband after his debilitating stroke. You protested, insisting that it was too much work, and that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. There was no arguing with me. Yet, because of that decision, he has enjoyed a quality of life that is far greater and more fulfilling than he could anywhere else. And his presence; his presence inspires me daily. He remains, to this day, the object of your affection – and my personal hero. After 3 years – 3 years that you fought to give to us, long after all that you had committed to was accomplished – when you could fight no longer, he sat next to me and held your hand for nearly 14 hours. He summoned whatever fragments of his soul and sanity remain to honor you, and to grieve in what capacity he is capable of. “Mama’s sick.” – it radiates through my memory even now, as he wept for you. I am made whole by having been able to help him reach this point, to be able to fulfill his duty as a husband.

You made him strong and filled him with happiness. He tempered your mettle and made you compassionate.

V. I love you.

And you loved me. Love can do amazing things, crazy things. It brought us all back together when there should have been no forgiveness. It gave you the strength to throw me out, and the humility to let me return with my dignity. It gave you the resolve to see me through a time when I thought there was no recovery. But, my God, were you ever proud when I graduated. Your father and your beloved husband spent their lives at the mercy of one of the world’s largest steel plants. You were grateful for the opportunities that employment offered your family – both as a child and as a a married woman. But you would be damned if that fate were to befall your children, of which you counted me as one. It was your hope that I be able to determine my own fate, decide who I did or didn’t want to work for, and to enjoy the freedom of choice that your generation had only dreamed of.

The last conversation we had – it was choppy, broken, and I was going on with a monologue in a generally pessimistic tone. You cut me off and made yourself very clear. “I love you. I love your mother. Stop talking bad about yourself. And stop taking shit from people.” Those may very well have been the last words you uttered in this life.

It has etched an image in my mind – there’s a picture outside your bedroom of you holding me as a baby… and the look on your face. These are the bookends of our relationship, your compassion and your unrelenting will. In that, and for much more, I find you so very beautiful.

VI. Last lesson.

That’s it; that’s all I have to say to you. No regrets. No worries. There are things I’m sorry for, but you already know that. We are kinetic – fluid – in our relationship, and it works. We hid nothing from each other. You’ve lead with a grace, purpose, and foresight that has made me everything that I am today.

Now, Ive been at this for over 4 hours, and I am no closer to doing justice to all that you mean to us. I just hope that someone, somewhere – not for me, not for us, but for humanity – that someone understands when I ask…

So, honestly, who cares if it’s raining?

 

 

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