My Corner, Your Corner: We celebrate Easter with heavy hearts this year

My Corner, Your Corner - Tony Callaio | March 25th, 2016 1:59 pm

To all Christians celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ this Sunday , Happy Easter.

My family celebrates this year with a heavy heart. I’ve heard it’s not easy to die, but watching a loved one’s flame of life fade into darkness has got to be one of the hardest things to watch.

Nearly 20 years ago on April 4, my father passed away during Easter week. Now, my family and I find ourselves facing the imminent death of my mother, who lies in hospice this Easter weekend.

Born in 1927, Mom arrived just before the Great Depression of 1929 that lasted through 1939. Her parents left Italy to seek a better life, only to be a part of that depression.

Mom’s father, Mariano Fanti, didn’t get to see prosperous times because he died of appendicitis at the age of 41, leaving my grandmother, Nella, with four young children. Mom, the third of four children, was without a father at the age of 9.

Because of hardships, Mom dropped out of school at a very early age to help support the family. My grandmother had to learn English and raise children in a land with which she was unfamiliar.

Not long ago, we discovered a photo of my mother shortly after her father died. She was sent to her cousin’s home in Yatesville while my grandmother made arrangements. Someone took a photo of Mom sitting outside, looking extremely sad. She had a Dutch boy haircut, a pretty dress and patent leather shoes.

Having her father, whom she adored, taken away from her when she was so young had to be the worst. Seeing her expression in that photo brought tears to my eyes. The pain on her face told the story. A 9-year-old is supposed to be playing, laughing and learning — not burying her father.

Mom eventually found my father, Frank, and married in 1952. Over the span of 10 years, she had three children and a miscarriage. She never talked about the miscarriage and it was one of those things I learned about later in life.

My mom was tough as nails and everything had to be just so. Maybe it was an Italian thing, but honestly, I didn’t appreciate what she wanted or expected from her family until I was older. She demanded perfection and order.

Sometimes, she carried it to an extreme. Mom and Dad purchased a parlor suit and she immediately had it covered in clear plastic. We didn’t sit on that furniture very often because we were not allowed in the parlor except on holidays. That plastic was on the furniture for 20 years. I thought everyone’s mom was like mine.

When my parents purchased burnt orange, wall-to-wall carpet (it was the ’70s), we had to remove our shoes to walk on it.

Mom was the best cook ever. There wasn’t anything she couldn’t tackle in the kitchen and, for those who loved Italian food, 323 Delaware Ave., West Pittston, was the place to be. Ravioli and sauce were her specialties.

Easter reminds me of how my older brother Frank, younger sister Maria, and I always had new outfits for Easter. My sister got a new dress and hat and us boys got a new blazer or suit with new shoes.

Following Easter dinner, we headed to the cemeteries to visit the graves of loved ones. Mom made sure we never forgot them.

As tragedy happened in the beginning of Mom’s life, it happened again at the age of 55 when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I felt more sorry for my mom than I did for myself. She was robbed of a father and then robbed of a husband.

Mom has resided in a nursing home for the last 18 months. Dementia has overtaken her mind, as well, and she has been either nonverbal or confused when she does speak. Earlier in the week, when they took her to the emergency room at Geisinger, I feared the worst.

While still at the hospital, I held her hand at her bedside. Instead of looking through me, she looked at me with her big brown eyes and smiled, then whispered, “Give me a kiss.” Those were the last coherent words she spoke. It was a mother’s final gift to her son – a son that will be forever grateful for all she taught me and showed me how to appreciate my life, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Quote of the week

“My mother showed us love, you know. So, it’s something we have to keep, until we have our own kids to pass it on to.” – Raymond Palmer

Thought of the week

“In the childhood memories of every good cook, there’s a large kitchen, a warm kitchen, a simmering pot and Mom.” – Barbara Costikyan, writer

Bumper sticker

“I blame my mother for nothing, but forgive her for everything.” – Mary J. Blige, singer

My Corner, Your Corner

Tony Callaio

Tony Callaio’s column My Corner, Your Corner runs weekly in the Sunday Dispatch. He can be reached at