This is my mother-in-law. Today is her birthday. Four weeks ago she was given two weeks to live, and she is still here. She has cancer, you see. She received her diagnosis on January 20, 2009. She’s been fighting it ever since.
She moved here from Italy when she was still a teenager. She didn’t speak English. She still prefers Italian.
She is small and I always think of her as a hummingbird. At the time I met her, a little over ten years ago, Tony told me he’d never seen her wear pants. She always wore a skirt, always looked impeccable.
She has been unfailingly generous to me. She has never forgotten my birthday, not once since we met. She always sends a card, and a check. This year she and my sister-in-law sent an Amazon gift card. Even after losing her son, even as she faces the end of her life, she remembered me on that day.
In many ways, Tony was like his mother. He, too, had to be busy. I never would have called him a hummingbird, but another creature that had to keep moving. A shark, maybe. He had to be working, Tony. Even on Christmas Day. He rarely took time off, and yet he worried constantly that it appeared that he wasn’t working because he worked from home, writing.
I wrote earlier this year about the first time I met my mother-in-law. It was July 4th, a broiling hot day. We spent a good part of the day in the basement of her house in Dedham, watching movies and enjoying the air conditioning. Later in the day she took us all out for ice cream, and I’ll always remember what she said to me when I placed my order: “Oh, Aimee, you like-a the pistach’?” It was a moment of bonding. A recognition that in spite of my obvious lack of Italian-ness, we had something in common. She likes pistachio ice cream too.
I hope she gets some today. I hope she feels my love, and Tony’s.