Sunday, July 20, 2008

Aunt Rose


This week has been incredibly busy. The kids just left this morning and Don's parents are still here in town. The boys have loved getting loved on and I know it will be hard for them tomorrow when it is just back to the same ole-same ole going on.

This week my family felt an incredible loss. My Aunt Rose passed away. Words can't even describe how sad I am about this. Not only is the world without a great person, my family has lost the last person in that chapter of our history.

In 1912, when she was 19, my Great Great Grandma Laura Borrelli (who I am named after) came to America from a small town in Italy called Casamassima, near Bari. The story has been told that she was very spirited and her parents sent her to America to live with family that had already made their home here. She fell in love with Nicola Festa and after they got married, they had four children.

First born in 1915, was my Great Grandmother, Arcangela Festa (Great Grandama Lee to me). Next came their only son Salvatore (1917), followed by my Aunt Isabelle (1919) and last born, my Aunt Rose (1921). I don‘t have many memories of my Uncle Salvatore (or Sam as he was usually called), he passed away when I was younger (in 1982). Neither Aunt Isabelle or Aunt Rose married. My Great Grandma Lee married Nunzio Gaggiano; the son of her parent’s best friend and they had five children.

When I was a child growing up, I had a huge family. My grandparents had a family of 9 children and still were close with family of the previous generations. Both Aunt Isabelle and Aunt Rose were as big of a part of my life as my Great Grandma Lee was. Birthday parties, Christmas, and some events in between, they were a constant presence in my life.

In my head, their names just flow together. As long as I can remember, they had even lived together. My mom has great memories of a cottage "the Aunts" owned in a small town called Highland (now called Derby), in New York. A few streets down from that cottage is where I remember waiting with my Great Grandma Lee for my Mom to bring my sister Leigha (named after Grandma Lee) home from the hospital.

Just over 5 years ago, my Aunt Isabelle passed away, and a little over a year after that –my Great Grandma Lee passed away as well. I remember being so heartbroken, knowing that they wouldn't have the chance to meet my children. Ever since Aunt Isabelle passed away, my Aunt Rose has lived alone. At about 83 years of age, she had a major surgery on her corroded arteries and came back stronger than ever. She was active in her church and we all knew it was important for her to feel independent.

Now she is gone and it just saddens me to know that chapter of our family is gone. No more going to their house, where -like most older Italian women- they would try to fill our bellies up with good food. No more big encompassing hugs, with their arms around me and the same perfume they have worn my whole life wafting around me. No more wandering around their house, asking them questions about the history of their furniture and knickknacks, or who was in the pictures they had out.

My family is huge and being added to all the time. My Grandma Bette (one of Grandma Lee's daughters and my Mom's Mother) has over 50 grandchildren, plus more great grandchildren. I have cousins two and three times removed that are my dearest friends, even though we are across the country from each other. This closeness was all originally fostered by these women that are no longer with us. It is an odd feeling to know that our generations are shifting, and now we have moved up a notch.

So sad that the chapter is over before I was ready to close the book.


Erickson 5 said...

Thanks for your comments on my Blog. Both of our families lost an incredible family member. My thoughts go out to you.


Annie said...


What a beautiful tribute! Thanks for posting all the family history, too. I honestly didn't know any of that stuff. And now it is all documented in cyberspace forever.

I've really missed you this past week, more than you can imagine. We need to get together again soon!



a portland granny said...

What a loving tribute to your Aunt and the history you provided was so interesting. You have had a rich loving background, and like all families, loss begins to occur and each generation in the family moves up a notch.

I am now the matriarch of our family--for the past three years. I wonder how I got here--time passed so quickly. But it is the natural order of things...and so we accept it and step into our place when it is our turn.

Thanks for sharing your very moving story.