Addio, per Ora, Grandmother

We never know how long we have with someone we love, but when your grandmother lives to 94, you know to hold precious every moment together, every phone call. You know each one is a blessing, because it feels like a gift.

Being Italian-American, our family had not known of the custom of afternoon tea, but, being Italian-American, we took to it like ducks to water. After all, it fits perfectly with our love of food, family and long conversation. Having discovered afternoon tea in Atlanta, I was the ringleader, reserving teatimes for the ladies in the family whenever we were together again. Grandpa called it a “hen party,” which he politely declined to attend. Grandma was shocked at the lavish parade of courses and always brought some of her treats home to Grandpa.

Our tea adventures eventually encompassed visits to different tearooms in Georgia, Maryland and New Jersey. Over time, Grandma found it harder to hear, or remember what had just been said, but some things never lessened. Like her gladness to see her family, her frankness, her clever wit, her love and her outstanding advice. She is the one who got me to stop wiffle-waffling about starting Destination Tea, because she convinced me that anything I focused on would grow. That conversation happened at the afternoon tea pictured below.

One beautiful way of memorializing a loved one who has passed is to continue setting a place for them at the tea table. Even as I prepare to fly up for Grandma’s funeral, I know that I will not ever need to set a place for her. She sits with me, in my heart.

I give thanks, doubly. Firstly, for having had so much time with her. As an adult, I could learn about the person who is my grandmother. Let me tell you, all family bias aside, she was a woman I truly liked. Funny, sharp-witted, gracious, opinionated, but willing to listen. My grandmother’s guidance all the way through my newlywed and young motherhood years was invaluable. Once after I had shared her wisdom with a girlfriend, my friend asked, “Can I call your Grandma for advice? I need your Grandma, too.”

And secondly, but just as whole-heartedly, I give thanks for my mother. She is the one who brought Grandma to all our teas. Who helped her pack and travel to Atlanta and Maryland for family reunions. Who, as the years wore on, would remind us to speak up, and made sure we were all drawing Grandma into the conversation. Who helped Grandma get ready, consulting on her tea outfit. Who talked her into joining us one more time this past Christmas, when Grandma had forgotten about our teatime, and wasn’t feeling her best. My mother’s love for her mother is in every beautiful teatime we shared together. I thank her and I wish this for anyone reading: that you know the treasure that is Family and that you celebrate your times together, whether over afternoon tea or in your own way.

Fare well Grandmother, I love you always.