Category Archives: grandparents

Grandmas Gone Wild

As I sat in the waiting room of the doctor with my mother, a conversation developed over a new photograph hanging on the wall. It was the doctor’s two beautiful daughters, who just happen to be part of the Olympic Field Hockey Team.

We were all expressing how happy we were for these young women and of course, how proud the doctor must be of their accomplishments. Personally, I was wondering…how the heck do you get not one, but two of these kids?  

I was laughing to myself thinking about the sport careers of my kids, which was pretty much null & void. My son was 5 years old when his T-ball career began, but his heart was never really into it after the first practice when he ran over to me with his little angry face and boldly stated …”I don’t like it mom, that guy thinks he’s the boss of every body!” Um, the coach? Olympics were pretty much out of the picture at that point.

Not only are these young ladies exceptional athletes, they both attend Princeton University, they are beautiful and hold on to your seats…they are nice. Hmm…I started to notice a change in the room..something was brewing.

The room got quiet, the twitching started and the conversation took a 360 as the Brag Books started to surface. Oh, it was a full-blown episode of….Grandma’s Gone Wild!

Almost in unison they were thinking…Ok, enough about these golden children, let me tell you about little Bobby & sweet Susie. Suddenly the gloves were off and these little grey haired women were foaming at the mouth as they waited for the bragging to begin. Bring it on ladies, bring it on!

Across the room one woman laid out her granddaughter ‘s entire softball career, including her devastating loss at State Champs this Summer. Apparently loosing at State Champs is much different from just regular ole loosing, especially when your grandma is telling the story. 

Then *BAM* in the left corner we have a West Point Cadet, who didn’t even require an interview. Why? Because he was just that wonderful. Over in the right hand corner we now have a 17-year-old freshman at the University of Chicago and we end the show with a grandson who plays that game “where you kick the ball.” You better believe he was the best ball kicker anyone has ever seen.

Clearly competitiveness has no age limits, not in this waiting room any way. Feeble grandmothers suddenly have blood thirsty fangs as they try to out trump one another for the best grandchild on the planet award right before our eyes.

It was getting very heated, especially after the West Point cadet, that certainly seemed to raise some eyebrows. I decided to take inventory…ok, 2 canes and a walker…hmm this could get ugly!

The winner was clearly chemo grandma who slammed everyone down. Not only is she the mother of genius children, they both married genius spouses who just also happen to have genius parents. The kind of parents that helped design the Atom Bomb. I know that card couldn’t wait to jump out of the deck. 

So what happens when genius sperm meet genius eggs? They spawn super geniuses who are at the top of their classes at the best universities in the world. Of course they could be on magazine covers with their stunning looks, but their brains are much too large to waste on such nonsense, they chose to save the world instead. You could hear a pin drop as she continued to take down the opposition. POW… WOW… SHABAM!

Just as the nurse came out to retrieve this Super G-Mom she slowly got out of the chair. Faced the room and let us all know they also have a grandmother who kicked cancers’ ass … TWICE! Dam! She certainly knew how to close a show.

My mom just looked at me and said “when you really have the best, you don’t have to say a word.” Slam dunk!  As if I didn’t already know…Enjoy the Ride! 

Momma, You Were Born This Way

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I decided to pay homage to my mother … Venita.  My mother is the oldest of three children born to her Italian immigrant parents Vincenzo Torcini and Maria/Mary Landini in 1926.

Vincenzo left her life at 4 years old, shortly after the Great Depression entered. This left her mother faced with the burden of raising her young children alone, without any means to do so. After this abandonment, she suffered from what would most likely be considered a nervous breakdown today.  No welfare, free housing or valium for Mary. 

Years later my mother was told that the apartment they were living in had caught fire and her mother was under the impression that the children perished. That pushed her over the edge and lead her to the breakdown.

Scenarios like this were not uncommon especially amongst immigrant families during the Great Depression. Many of them could not find work to support their families, because they could not speak English. This frustration, piled on top of economic pressures led to abandonment and in some cases suicide.

This tragic set of circumstances left my mother and her siblings in the care of the Catholic Charities in Philadelphia. They were placed in an orphanage, followed by what was called a Shelter. This was emergency lodging that was set up in order accommodate all of the families that had become homeless following the Depression. Some were run privately and were set up to serve cases like that of my mother’s family. These children needed homes until their parents were able to support them again.

My mother and her brother, who were only 14 months apart, were separately placed into homes. Unfortunately, their sister and youngest of the three, died of malnutrition while waiting for placement. The children were taken to several different homes before settling into somewhat permanent residences. My uncle was raised by an Italian family in South Philadelphia, while my mother was raised by an Irish woman in North Philadelphia. To this day my mother refers to her as “the Irish woman who raised me.” She rarely refers to her by name, which was Ellen O’Malley. Ellen was a widow at a very young age, never had children of her own and never re-married. It was her single lifestyle that allowed her to open her home to these children.  Giving children to single women..now that’s a switch. 

Ellen O’Malley a/k/a “Auntie” cared for my mother from the time she was 7 years old until she was 16. There were other children placed during her time with “Auntie,” however they had parents that remained in their lives with weekly visitations. These children were just waiting for their parents to get work to rebuild their lives, but this was not the case for my mom. Her father never did return, and her mother remained at the hospital until her death. This left my mother to just wait, wonder and hope.

Auntie did the best she could to raise her. However, she did not express herself in a maternal manner. This is understandable since the other children had mothers in their lives and she most likely didn’t want to impose.

Mom “Venita” enjoying lunch prepared
by Evan, one of her 8 remarkable
grandchildren.

To this day when my mother talks to me about her own mother, I can hear the yearning of unanswered questions in her tone.

At 85 years old she is still left to wonder if her face resembles that of her mother or father. No pictures, no trinkets, no memories of her own and surprisingly…not one ounce of resentment.

What is her secret? How did my mother raise (4) children of her own without ever experiencing the love and nurturing of her own mother?

I have to conclude … Momma, you were born this way.  She is a humble and loving person who gained strength from her hardship that resonates into the enormous love she has for her own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

The reason I chose the title for this Blog is because my mother Venita enjoys Lady Gaga. You heard me…the same day the photo above was taken “Just Dance” came on the radio. My mom asked “Is this Lady Gaga? I saw her on The View in the cutest black and white outfit. If I were young, I would have that dress.” This was followed by “she’s a smart girl.”  I was so grateful she wasn’t referring to the Meat Dress. 

At 85 she is a hip hat wearing, organic eating, interesting, funny, strong Lady Gaga loving Democrat, who enjoys going to the movies, solving crossword puzzles, dropping hilarious one-liners and LOVING her family with all her heart. But most of all … she is my Mom. Enjoy the Ride!

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