What do you give a great-grandmother on her 92nd birthday?
I asked Abby that question when she woke on Friday morning. My husband’s grandmother was turning 92 on Saturday, and Abby told me she wanted to give Great Nani something so that she would know she is VERY special.
“Abby, that’s at the top of your birthday list.”
“No, no Mommy, it could take care of her!”
“What else could you give Great Nani?”
“A dolphin – or a shark! She could keep it in her bathtub.”
“She could, but it might bump her when she’s taking a shower. We don’t want her to fall down.”
“Oh, that’s right! Hmm,” Abby said, index finger tapping on her temple, and then she pointed it straight in the air. “I know! My heart! I want to give her my heart!” Abby tucked her chin into her left shoulder and cradled her arms in front of her, twirling all around. “That’s it, Mommy! I’m going to make her a heart right now!”
She ran to her cubby and grabbed her yellow supply box. Out came the glue sticks and markers. For the next twenty minutes, Abby designed an elaborate birthday heart, complete with sunshine, banana, apple, heart, and 3-D flower.
It was beautiful. The perfect gift for a beautiful woman.
The fact that my four-year-old feels deep affection for her comes as no surprise to me. Rose Prizzi Perry is an amazing person, the unsung hero of a remarkable family. Born as the oldest of four girls into a hardworking Italian family, Rose quickly learned how to support and encourage those she loved.
She married Army Veteran, Paul Perry, and spent many years raising their three children, Linda, Paul, and Ron. Nani’s long hours at the shoe factory as well as those spent bending over her well-floured kitchen table making pasta, fashioned her into a patient, diligent soul, not to mention an outstanding cook.
I have gained much from her quiet example, one that never broadcasts but simply lives out her undying devotion to family and friends. Her relentless quest to please reveals her immense desire to make every person feel valued and appreciated, known and loved.
Christian and I love to spoil Nani. One of his co-workers told him about a top-notch Italian bakery, one known for its cannoli, which happens one of Nani’s favorite desserts. We smiled on Friday when Christian’s mother relayed Nani’s message, “Don’t bring anything to the party on Saturday. But if you bring the cannoli, bring the big ones. Not the little ones, the big ones.”
Nani’s been there, through the good and the bad. I can’t count the number of times she told me she was praying for us, tearfully clasping our hands the few times we got to see her in the midst of our hospitalization crises.
I distinctly remember one phone call during which God used her to speak into our lives in a powerful way. I don’t remember the words but will never forget the way she held nothing back, declaring her love for Christian and I and our critically ill children. That night, her tenacity and encouragement strengthened me and carried me through an extremely dark and difficult time.
I will never forget it.
How ironic that Abby wanted to give Nani the one thing that she has always freely given to others. Nani taught her children well, children who taught their children, one who now teaches little Abby.
What goes around comes around.
Thank you, Nani, for investing so much love and life into the hearts around you. Thank you for your gentle laugh and winsome ways, your giving spirit and open arms. Thank you for your steadiness and grace during the storms of life.
I love you as my own and cherish the years I’ve been blessed to have you in my life. My prayer for you is that you will continue to enjoy the fruits of your labor as well as good health all the days God gives you.
Many I pray they be.
Happy Birthday, Sweet Nani!