Giovanni & Giuseppina – 70 Years
We all gathered at St. Peter Martyr’s Catholic Church. There were over 200 people there to celebrate a renewing of vows on my grandparent’s 70th wedding anniversary. Their friends and family were there to witness a rarity. How many can accomplish 70 years together and both be healthy of mind and body well into their 90s? As they entered the church to make their way down the aisle, we all stood. I glanced at my father and saw him dabbing tears from his eyes with the white hankie that was always in his pocket. And then I lost it. As did the other 200 people. There wasn’t a dry eye in the church. Tears of joy. My grandparents thought this was all a little bit silly, but they humored us. As they walked down the aisle holding hands, they were grinning. With their other free hands, they reached out and greeted those closest to the aisle. The ceremony was in Italian and they giggled throughout. I felt so lucky and so blessed.
I was 21 years old on that day. With my father being their youngest, my grandparents were already old when I was born. As I entered my teens, my prayer would be that I wanted them to be around to see me graduate high school. They were. Then my prayer was that I wanted them at my wedding. They were. And then my prayer was for them to still be with me when I had a child. As I stood watching them, I gave a silent prayer of thanks and thought to myself, I have a baby in my belly and they are still here.
My grandfather passed just before my son turned a year. There was an unexpected knock at the door one afternoon and when I opened it, there stood my mother and one of my aunts. I knew. “Nonno,” I said. He had not been sick. He just went to sleep. I remember telling my mom and my aunt that my prayers regarding them had been answered. After my son was born, the milestones of my life that I wanted them to be a part of were complete. Still, it was so hard to let go. He was the patriarch of our big family. We wanted him to live forever.
My grandmother lived a few more years without her beloved Giovanni. It was difficult on her because up until his passing, they still lived in the same house where they raised their children. The one with the shed, and the fig, apple and loquat trees. They took care of each other. That all changed for her, but she did okay with the love and support of family. She missed him terribly and made frequent visits to the cemetery. I accompanied my father on occasion when he brought her there. It was gut-wrenching to watch her lay over his grave and cry his name over and over. “Giovanni, Giovanni.”
That we could all be so fortunate to know that kind of everlasting love.