March 26 ē 07:14 AM

Grandmas have special place in the world

May 06, 2009
It's New Year's Eve and I'm at Nonni-Across's house. It's right across the street from where I live, which is why we call her Nonni-Across. I'm about five, and Nonni is babysitting me and my sisters while my folks go out to a party. We are thrilled to be there because she spoils us. She doesn't speak English, but my sister Roseann understands everything she says and I get some of it, too. It's not all that important anyhow because we're happy to be there with her.

We get to stay up late and watch Lawrence Welk on tv. When midnight rolls around she pours us a little shot of something—I don't remember what—and then we get down on our knees right there in the kitchen and say a prayer for the new year...

Nonni-Across used to sneak us chocolate bars, telling us in her broken English to hide them under our shirt so we wouldn't get in trouble for having them. And if we were getting in trouble for one reason or another, she'd step in front of us and be my dad's mother—the one he had to listen to.

The memories are foggy and faded, but I miss them nonetheless. I think about how fantastic it would be to have a close relationship with such an interesting, strong grandmother growing up and later in the adult years. The older I get the more I appreciate how special it is.

Shelby Couch, age 17, of Dryden knows all about it. Shelby writes about her grandmother Luann Zapella to honor her on Mother's Day. Her piece is something I picture I may have written had fate given me the opportunity. It's so honest and sweet that I'd like to share it. Here's what Shelby has to say:


Not that many people have a Grandma Lulu. My Grandma Lulu is truly one of a kind. When I was a little girl Lulu was my sugar mama. She always had a bowl of M&M's on the counter and a plethora of flowers spilling over her planters. Grandma was ready with a kiss or a hug if I hurt myself, and a handkerchief to wipe away my tears. Grandma would buy me the socks with the dainty lace on the hems; the ones mom would not buy because she thought they were impractical.

As I got older, Lulu took on a different role. She still had her legendary bowl of M&M's and made the best grilled-cheese sandwiches, but she became my confidant. Any time I had a problem, whether it was an argument with my parents or balancing my hectic schedule, I went to Grandma for comfort food and good advice. Grandmas always give the best advice. Grandma was with me through all of the important events of my life. When a family wedding prevented my parents from attending my Confirmation, Grandma was supporting me in the closest pew she could find. Finding my way through the pressures of being a teenager, Grandma was my rock. Not many Grandmothers would let their fifteen-year-old granddaughter practice driving in their shiny red Cadillac with the gold rims; Lulu did. One of the best things about Grandma is that she always trusted me to find out things for myself, knowing that sometimes even the best advice is lost without experience. If I fail-ed or made a mistake, Grandma was there to cheer me up and make sure I learned from it. Growing up is hard, but I can always count on Lulu.

Grandma and I have a lot of funny stories over the years. There was the time I tried to drive my little white truck over a not-so-little snow bank in her driveway, the time my younger sister got gum stuck between her toes and when reading a tag in Grandma's car she pronounced the word upholstery as ub-strawl-it-ee, or the time Grandma lost it when a cashier tried to cheat her. Grandma is a sweetheart, but you are gambling with your life if you make her angry. Lulu does not deal with imbeciles; behind that sweet face is a backbone of steel.

Lulu is all that is special about Grandmas and more. She brings over chocolate bunnies for Easter, makes the best homemade soup, and spoils her grandbabies. I hope that I can be like Lulu and always look at the funny side of life. She loves to tell the story of me as an infant when I noisily messed my diaper at my Grandfather's funeral. I used to be embarrassed by that story ,now I find it incredible that she could find humor in such a sad event. My grandma taught me that everyone needs a sense of humor to get them through the rough times. My Grandma has taught me many things, but mostly I learned that a girl cannot grow up all by herself—she needs a grandmother. I love you, Lulu.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms and grandmas. You are valued and appreciated.

Email Catherine at

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