When Laura and Gabriel are at school, Father and Mr. Blasi are busy with the vineyard business, Mrs. Blasi is fussing with baby Leo, he’s teething and has been so cranky! I go and talk with Papi and Mami.
They may be Laura and Gabriel’s grandparents, but they insist that since Father and I are such good friends of the family I should call them Mami and Papi too.
They say they are my Swiss grandparents.
Mami says she likes to keep herself busy by helping around the house. Usually this means, walking around the house, straightening things, sweeping floors, dusting things with her hankie, and carrying food on trays to Papi in his bed. Sometimes she is very wobbly, and I carry the tray for her. Whenever I go into Papi’s room, he asks me to fluff his pillows, sit with him a little while, and read to him. Mami usually feeds him while I read. Mami assures me that Papi knows me, but he never remembers my name.
Papi always has me read the same book to him, Huckleberry Finn. He says it’s his favorite English book. I never finish it, but he doesn’t remember me reading it to him before, so I just end up reading the same part to him over and over again. Papi always falls asleep after he eats, while I’m still reading to him.
Mami says Papi is forgetting because he is old, but she is just as old as he is and she can remember lots of things! I think there may be something wrong with Papi. It makes me sad because he’s still so sweet and kind.
Yesterday, Papi was not his normal self. He was very grumpy and it took him a long time to fall asleep. He kept wanting his pillows fluffed, and he would keep mumbling things in German and Italian. Mami just smiled at him and did whatever he wanted so he would be most comfortable. I actually got through four chapters that day. Just as he was falling asleep, though, he looked over at Mami and asked, “Who are you?”
I left. I didn’t know what to do, I still don’t. Father says sometimes these things happen to old people, they forget. Even the people they love most.
When I was getting ready for bed on yesterday, Mami knocked on the door of the room Laura and I are sharing. She came in and sat on my bed for a while. She said she wanted to explain why Papi’s questioned made her cry (she is a pretty serious woman, so seeing her cry was really weird).
Mami told me their story:
“Who are you?” was the first thing Papi ever said to her.
Mami is from Italy, but she moved to Switzerland to get away from the bad things (she didn’t tell me what they were, just that there were bad things happening in Italy back then). She had just started working at a bakery in town and one day Papi came in. It’s a small town, so it was easy to see she was a new worker. Mami said Papi was trying to be flirty (I had to ask what that meant), but she said “I wouldn’t have any of it, I was working after all”. But when she got off work that first day, he was waiting for her. He waited for her after work everyday for three months before she finally agreed to go on a date with him.
I guess Mami was serious even back in those days.
Papi wanted to impress her, but his father only owned a small farm so he didn’t have much money. Their first date was a picnic! Mami said she was shocked that this is what she had waited three months for, but Papi made her laugh so much that by the end of the picnic she didn’t really care. Mami says on that very first picnic date, Papi told her that he would marry her someday. She didn’t believe him.
“Things just don’t work out the way you plan sometimes,” she told me.
Papi was determined as a young man. A year later they were married.
Mami said they didn’t have a lot of money at first. She was still working at the bakery, though now she was actually helping to bake the breads, and not just sell them. Papi was working on his father’s farm, but the farm wasn’t doing well. It was Papi’s idea to turn the farm into a vineyard, because Mami had told him all about the vineyard she had grown up on in Italy, and Papi was inspired.
Mami said that she had laughed at this as a silly idea! But Papi convinced her, and they started the vineyard.
It was so much harder than they thought, they almost went bankrupt (I think that means they almost lost everything and were homeless).
Finally, everything started working out, and by that time they three kids, Mr. Blasi’s three older siblings.
Mami said that Papi had a way of always making sure things worked out alright, even if it wasn’t always in the way they had originally planned. He would make it work. This made her smile when she said it.
Papi built more rooms for their house, it used to only have two bedrooms, now it has five. Mami said it took him ten years to make the house what it is now (and it’s beautiful now)!
Mami put in the gardens in the front yard, all the flowers and bushes; and in the backyard, all the veggies and herbs. When Papi finally finished the house, Mami found out she was pregnant one last time, with Mr. Blasi! He is ten years younger than his closest sibling (a sister, but I don’t know her name).
Mami patted my knee and said, “I am so happy to have children in her house again.”
Then, Mami showed me her wedding ring. Her hands hurt her now, so she doesn’t wear it on her finger, but on a necklace. It doesn’t have a diamond on it. It’s just a gold band. She says that’s all Papi could afford back in those days, but for their 35th wedding anniversary, Papi took it to a jeweler to have it engraved on the inside with the words “My Forever Love” in Italian (I can’t read it, but Mami told me what it says).
She laughs when she sees it because Papi’s Italian was never very good and one of the words is spelled incorrectly. He also had the outside of the ring etched, which is like engraving, I think. It kind of looks the same as the engraved things I saw in Venice. The outside of the ring has hearts for each one of her children, and in the middle are two hearts that are connected, for she and Papi.
It really is beautiful, and I told her I love it.
She kissed me goodnight and left singing a song in German, swaying back and forth.
I’ve seen Mother’s wedding ring, Father has it saved for me, it is engraved too, but I don’t know what it says. I don’t ask to see it because it makes him sad, but one day Father says it will be mine to save, and then I will read it. For now, I wait.
I dreamed about Mami and Papi being young again, smiling at each other, with all their kids in their home, dancing to that song Mami sang as she left my room.
I dreamed about golden rings on young hands, and old hands.
About tears and laughter.
About weddings, and baby cradles, and old Papi in his bed with his worn, red quilt.
I dreamed about Mother.
About her smile.
About Father laughing with her.
About Mother singing.
About her laying in her bed, with her light purple quilt.
About the machines buzzing around her bed.
About Father crying.
I woke up from my dream this morning, before the sun. I was crying. I didn’t want to wake up Laura, since we are sharing a room, so I went downstairs with my journal to the couch in the living room.
I’ve been writing for a while now.
Mr. and Mrs. Blasi is here now. I think they know I was upset. Mr. Blasi is going to carry me out to the field with some blankets, and we are going to watch the sunrise, while Mrs. Blasi gets some breakfast going.
I love my Swiss family.