You just don't realize how much you can miss a person until they're gone. That's how it is now--3 months since my mom left Earth and returned to Heaven. I have heard it said that this is our "temporary home", and I believe it. The night before her funeral, I found slides of my mom and dad's wedding. In color! It was the first time I had ever seen them. I found it to be a sign that she and Dad--who returned home to Heaven in 2005--were together again, and I believe happy.
Since that day 3 months ago, I have had numerous signs that they are together and in a place of pure love. Butterflies and doves and Cardinals have flown around me in pairs when I am thinking about them. I find it comforting, and it gives me a peaceful, warm feeling inside. One month after my mom's passing I had a vivid dream of her where I felt her hug me as if she was standing in front of me, and I heard her voice so clearly. She was young and glowing! I had the same types of dreams about my dad when he died fifteen years ago. I found them beautiful. Those dreams helped me to see how their world and our world totally connect. I know they are there on the other side living in pure peace and love with all of the relatives and friends who have returned home as well. That, in and of itself, helps me to better accept that they are no longer physically here.
When my dad died in 2005, my mom became dependent on me and my husband and kids. I come from a very Italian family where my dad really did take care of everything, and so when he wasn't here to do that, she needed me. It was hard and at times stressful on me, but looking back, I'm glad she had me to do it, and from my dreams, I know in my heart that she was glad I was there as well. There were so many times that we talked about my dad after he passed and throughout the next 15 years, and it was comforting to both of us. It kept him alive! Now, I find myself talking about the two of them more with my kids and my grandsons so that I can keep them alive. My grandsons never got to know my dad, Great Grandpa Tony. That I find very sad, but they new my mom...Great Grandma Mary. However, they are little-6 and 4- so, how much they will remember is limited. So, I decided to create a book for my kids and my grandsons and for any other grandchildren that come in the future! A compilation of stories about our family, both sides--mine and Grandpa Jim's.
I know I'm not the only soul out there who has gone through this or is going through it. After my mom died, I felt like an orphan...that sounds crazy when I say it because I'm a 55 year-old-woman! But, I do because now, they are both gone. And there are times...many times when I miss talking with my mom or dad about life and about raising kids, my career or just a recipe that I can't remember. I miss talking about traditions and holiday's past, and when I was a kid. I am so grateful for memories and pictures that hug me as I age and journey into the next stage of my life. In my heart, I know they are both with me always.I sense them, and I feel their presence during the day when I think about them, or get into a quiet zone, or even when I'm busy in the kitchen, or reminiscing with my husband and kids or chasing my wild grandsons around! LOL....life is such a beautiful mystery full of so many emotions.
For me, life is understood after you live it, memories are there to comfort, the presence of those who have passed is real, emotions...though difficult at time are necessary to feel, and love is everlasting.
When I was little
time was limitless
I could daydream
all day long
and not worry
In my teens,
time sped up a bit
I had school, and friends, and crushes
a part time job…. Oh, and also
planning for college
and a career
But . . .
I still had time to daydream
But . . .
not all day long
And then, all of a sudden, the time for
daydreams . . .
became less and less
a job, love, marriage, a house, kids, a dog, bills
doctor appointments, holiday prepping,
caring for my parents, laundry, cooking . . .
An endless list of doing
became my life…
I’d sneak in a daydream here and there
with my kids
time was moving swiftly . . .
and alas . . .
Until one day,
I sat on the shore and stopped . . .
the whirlwind of my life for a few moments
it was there that I reflected upon the years
that moved by so swiftly…
building castles in the sand
beckoned me to join them . . .
and we laughed
and we played
and then . . .
We walked along the shore and gathered sea shells
one by one,
as the sun set against the sky . . .
We stopped by a bench
and stared at the vibrant colors of red, orange, purple and blue
that painted the sky
and we talked about dreams,
theirs, mine and ours. . .
and daydreams returned to my life
Fresh veggies, fruits, flowers, plants, baked goods and a coffee bar are all a part of the nestled, charming farmer’s market off of Starkey Blvd in Trinity Florida called Starkey Market!
This little spot of Heaven is completely out of a Hallmark movie, I kid you not! Small town appeal, but still urban enough for the up and coming Trinity area where rural and urban live in harmony!
Starkey Market is a warm, friendly environment where people from the surrounding area can shop, meet, play some Cornhole, listen to music or read a book while having a fabulous smoothie or coffee as they watch the sunset in the East! Wow! That was a long sentence, but well worth it!
Set on Starkey Blvd in Trinity, it’s butted up against the Starkey Blueberry Farms and the new Starkey Ranch development. Since my first trip to this quaint market of delectable delights, I have enjoyed large tasty Portobello mushrooms, juicy and sweet Tangelos, sweet dates, fabulous eggplant for my eggplant parmesan, sweet and succulent blueberries, brownies, a rich and delicious toffee nut latte, and the most perfect and vibrant Sunflowers and Snapdragons I have ever seen for my kitchen table!
And that’s not all! They also offer gluten free desserts, fresh baked banana bread, an array of specialty pasta, cheeses, bagels, muffins, organic maple syrup, and honey. The list of products is long including carved wood essentials for the home. This is not a place to make a quick stop and go, but a comfortable, inviting market where you want to stay and enjoy the products and surroundings for a bit as you unwind from life or maybe your commute!!!
A great little spot for all singles and families. They also host local musicians on Friday and Saturday night offering live music between 5-9! What a way to watch a gorgeous Florida sunset!!
This is definitely a place to put on your list of things to do and see. You will not make just one trip. Starkey Market will become a weekly if not daily stop for fresh produce and goods. Supporting your local farmers is just good karma!
Starkey Market is a Hallmark movie come to life in Trinity, Florida!
my memories are mine
they are mine forever
and no one
can rob me of them
some of the memories
make me cry
make me laugh
make me sad
make me happy
and . . . there are some
that cause anger
I hate to admit
well . . .
they cause jealousy
I hate to admit
and yes, some
make me regret
I hate to admit
but, no matter what
they all cause an emotion in me
and no matter what
they are memories that
still make me feel alive
. . . my memories are mine
embedded in my soul
for only me
"Food Brings People To the Table"
By Ria Prestia
Thanksgiving was a major feast at my house when I was little. It was an event that combined two worlds, Italian and American. It was a day where seriously the food NEVER stopped! I mean Italians know how to COOK and EAT! Not 3 courses or even 4… after a while you just lost count and your butt was sore from sitting so long at the dining table, but you endured it because the food beckoned you to stay! And it did bring everyone to the table, and that’s what food does—it brings us to the table! I think that most of my memories in my life revolve around a fabulous food gathering of some sort. I mean think about it, before a holiday or even a wedding what do people think of? “What’s going to be on the menu?” And really what is a holiday, any holiday, if the food is not planned and prepared and consumed?
When I was young and growing up in my Italian American home on Long Island, our FEAST started off with an AMAZING antipasto which was not one platter full, but two platters full of tightly rolled salami, and other delectable meats like pepperoni, proscuitto, and spicy capocollo. Along with the meat was cut up chunks of assorted and DELICIOUS cheeses like SHARP Provolone—not the mild one for nonprofessionals, ricotta salad (my favorite) and mozzarella. Then on the platter strategically sat marinated artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms, sweet roasted red peppers dripping in olive oil and garlic, black olives, green olives, and the shriveled-up oil cured black olives that were a bit bitter, but GOOD! In the middle of each platter sat the GEM of the ANTIPASTO—eggplant caponata! That was heaven! There was never enough of it to go around! Everyone loved it! Crusty slices of Italian bread were piled up in baskets that sat around the table and YES! Round one of the feast began with everyone (somewhere between 12 and 20 of us) digging in.
Round two was pasta. Not just any pasta, but manicotti. These delicious homemade pasta crepes were filled with a delectable blend of ricotta. eggs, cheeses, and seasonings and topped with a fresh meat sauce that was made that morning and mozzarella cheese piled on top like a mountain of snow was served along with meatballs and braciole. One would think that we'd be stuffed by then, but ah…NO…us Italians can go another round! I mean we're still in Italy and haven’t even started the traditional American feast!
Next came the Turkey! The main part of the feast. And yes, he was adorned with gravy, and cranberries and stuffing, but not the boxed traditional stuffing. Our stuffing was made from sautéing onions, garlic, chopped meat, sausage, raisins, chopped salami, pignolis, and parmesan cheese! Not typical at all! Mom made sweet potatoes that were boiled then sliced, fried, and then adorned with maple syrup, brown sugar, and marshmallows before being baked in the oven. There was stuffed mushrooms, stuffed artichokes, and batter dipped fried cauliflower and caduna! String bean casserole wasn’t invited until years later.
It WAS INSANE how much food there was!
And then we rested. But NOT for long!
Next round was choices of cordials (for adults only) of Anisette, Cream de Cocoa, Amaretto, Galiano and fruit and nuts and finocchio—a licorice tasting fennel type of vegetable to help digest the food—was served with them! You think we needed it? Yes!!!
By this time, everyone was STUFFED, but the hours of being around the table brought much loved conversations of dreams, ideas, and memories.
I do admit that about this time some of the family members did take that walk around the block (my aunt Rosie and my uncle) while others (my mom and some of my other aunts) cleaned up dishes, while others stayed at the table talking and enjoying more cordials. Then everyone returned to the table and out came dessert! The white boxes Aunt Rosie brought from the bakery on Hyland Boulevard in Staten Island were finally being opened! And the pastries were carefully placed on the trays.
YES, I said TRAYS! Cannoli, Sfogliatello, rainbow cookies, pignolo cookies, pizzelle cookies, mini rum cakes, and sesame cookies, all hopped out of the box and sat on the table next to my aunt Lina's Italian cookies, Bocconotto and my mother's fig cookies, and the pies! Yes! There were pies too! Did I forget anything? I can't imagine I did, but oh, wait! The chestnuts! Yes “Don’t overcook them, Mary!” my dad would yell in his broken English, as he poured some espresso into his cup.
By then everyone was beyond stuffed and basically moving was detrimental to your health If you can believe it! And so, they (the adults us kids went and played or better yet, rolled into the den and watched television!) remained at the large dining table and played Pokino or Blitz for a few hours and then GUESS WHAT? The food came out again because everyone loves to pick at leftovers at night!!!
Today, I still have a lot of food, but through (34 Thanksgivings I have done) my dad, as he aged, told me to cut back on the dishes a bit. He thought we didn’t need it all, and I listened, and I did. The antipasto is now a smaller appetizer served along with other stuff like artichoke dip and mini meatballs cooked in a chili sauce and grape jelly glaze! It’s really good! A dish I acquired through the years from a friend who didn’t like to cook. They are SUPER EASY, 3 ingredients and delish!
The pasta is no longer a course. Under duress I stopped that many years ago, but I still think one day, I will return to that course! The stuffed mushrooms have stayed year after year, but the battered dipped cauliflower and caduna are not an “every year dish” (It’s a lot of frying and takes a lot of time to make). The desserts have diminished to just the pies and the fruit and nut course isn't there anymore.
Sometimes, I feel sad when I start to prepare the menu for Thanksgiving because in reality there is no way I can prepare every dish that I want in order to keep all of my childhood traditions alive along with my traditions that I have created with my husband and kids, and so through the years, I’ve tried to balance the traditions. One thing I do do is I make my own homemade caponata now, and I make sure there is a plethora of it!
Sadly, through the years, some people have returned home to Heaven (like my dad and my favorite Aunt Rosie), and others have moved to other states. I haven’t lived on Long Island since my husband and I married and then left for Florida with both my parents and his and some other relatives.
My own family has grown with grandkids as well. As much as it would be nice to have those days again, it would be impossible, but food allows us to revisit those wonderful memories and to have them present in our mind as we enjoy the present day and all of those that are with us at the moment. Maybe everyone can’t be physically together, but THEIR PRESENCE is there in my heart. Thanksgiving means something different to everyone, but for some reason I find the memory of particular dishes COMFORTING and UPLIFTING in SPIRIT. Not because they are food, but because THEY ARE FOOD THAT BRINGS PEOPLE TO THE TABLE!
The past that held her captive and lingered deep in her soul washes away through the warmth of the sun
The green envy of desire and needs is softened
The redness of pain that engulfs her heart is comforted by the rays of gleaming light that flows over her . . .
The spirit of love ensues and captures the wrath of fear that fires of bitterness have encased her in for years.
Pain has held her like a chain so tight wrapped around her neck and wrists—keeping her bound and captive.
The wretchedness of hatred that lingers within her has made her old and stolen the beauty that once was hers.
Her soul writhed in deep despair longs to be set free from the torture the past has given her.
The thick iron shield she’s worn melts, and the solitude of darkness is lifted.
Bitterness turns to love
Pain turns to Joy
And death turns to life.
I remember the day Daddy died as if it was yesterday. The phone rang, and I was half asleep, half awake as I fumbled in the dark to pick up the receiver. Quickly, I jolted up and said, “Hello” in a despairing voice. I knew it was one of my fears come to life—a call that changes your life in some way. A call most of us would like to avoid.
“This is Tara with Hospice. I think you better get over to your parents’ house as quickly as possible. He’s made a turn, and it’s imminent,” the voice said through the receiver.
Jumping out of bed, I quickly woke my husband and said, “We got to go,”
He responded as fast as me. Throwing on a pair of sweats and a T-shirt, I ran to wake up the kids. “Hurry-up,” I said. “We have to go to Grandma’s house. Hospice just called.” Within minutes, we were out the door and in the SUV. I was speechless—something that doesn’t happen to me very often. Imminent? How imminent, I thought.
The moon was out and there was light, but darkness was so deep. Streetlights were on and not another soul was on the road. The two-mile trip seemed endless. As I looked at my husband maneuver the vehicle, I wondered how my mom felt and how I would feel if it was my spouse who was leaving me. Random thoughts filled
my mind and emotions were growing quickly and attacking me from all angles, but I knew I needed to be strong. Don’t go there, I thought, stay focused.
As we pulled into the development, I saw the guard at the gate, and he waved his usual wave as we drove by. In my mind, I thought, I’m prepared, but deep down in the basement of my soul, I wasn’t. Deep down, I was twelve years old again, and I wanted this to be a bad dream, no a nightmare. I wanted my dad to live longer.
Before the engine was turned off, I opened the door and hopped out of the SUV leaving my family behind. Tara opened the door, and I headed towards the bedroom. “It’s getting close,” she said. I jutted into the room and quickly stopped. I saw my mom holding his hand, crying and begging him not to go. “What will I do without you,” were the words she said that wrenched through my ears. I went over to her and held her tight. We embraced and with tears streaming down my face, I assured her that everything would be okay. He was going to be okay, and so was she.
I grabbed my dad’s hand as he was gasping to hold on. Tara came up behind us, “It is imminent, but we don’t know how long. It all depends on him.”
I started to talk to him and tell him to go, but he was still hanging on. He was still gasping. He suffered for hours not wanting to leave. Tara left and another Hospice nurse showed up. He too was as kind as all the others were. Finally, I was sitting there next to my dad, and it hit me, he’s afraid, I thought. All of my faith was now looped into a tight ball. What do I do, I thought. He’s afraid of the unknown. No matter how strong he was, he was scared to go—afraid to leave. I remembered all the stuff I had read about death. All the things that I believed to be true, but without actual experience, I had only faith to rely on. I slowly got up and walked to the other
side of the bed. I noticed all the pictures of my family that showed all the years of his life.
My sister was in route, but she wouldn’t make it. He couldn’t last another nine hours before her plane landed. With one hand on the sheet, I gently touched his forehead with my other.
Adjusting his hair, I started to speak, “It’s okay, Daddy. Don’t be afraid. Just go through the tunnel and into the light.” I repeated the words a couple of times. I told him that it was pure love over there and that there was no pain, no suffering, and no hatred—just pure love. I watched as his breath went from extensive gasping—a gasping that had endured for three hours—to a calm breathing. I knew he was going home, and I wanted to stop telling him to go, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t. He needed me to help him go home. My mom and the Hospice nurse were by my side. My husband was there, by the doorway watching in stillness. The Hospice nurse urged me to keep talking to my dad.
My eyes swelled up with tears as I kissed his forehead. Leaning over him, I whispered, “Your soul needs to leave your body. The body is too old. You need to go home and everything will be okay. I promise that I’ll take care of Mommy. She won’t be alone. I love you, Daddy. Goodbye for now.” Then as if on command, I watched as his breathing diminish, and after a few minutes, he took one last breath, and he was gone.
I stood there crying. My mom, next to me was crying as well. I couldn’t believe that he was gone. I felt guilty telling him to go. I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to be the one who had this arduous task. There I stood looking at
him motionless, lifeless. It was the first time that I had ever seen someone die. It came over me like a rush of wave, there is a tunnel, a light, another place, I thought. No one could ever change my mind. The power of my words brought my father from his suffering into calmness, into peace. Where was he, now? When would I see him, again? When would I argue with him, again? When would I hug him, again?
The room was still for how long? I don’t remember. Then there was a rush of preparedness. There were so many things to do and no time to grieve. His body needed to be picked up for preparation for the funeral. I still don’t know where all my strength came from. When it was time, and he left with the funeral attendant, I realized that he would never step into that house again. The home had changed. My mom’s life had changed and, so did mine. I couldn’t ask his advice anymore or call him on the phone and hear him say, “Hi Tootsie, how are you?”
He moved away to a place where I cannot get in contact with him.
Years later, I still miss him. Time hasn’t changed the bottom line—he isn’t here anymore. There is still emptiness deep within my soul, but my faith has helped me believe that he is in a better place—a better world.
The cancer had taken its toll on him. It started without a warning and ran very quickly through his body like a triathlon marathon. There was no stopping it or slowing it down. It was on a mission—it had a life of its own. No matter how hard he fought, it was stronger. He got a little time—a few months. He was eighty when this hit and took his life. Some people may claim that he lived a full life, and he did. But when you are slapped across the face and told, “Two months more, maybe,” what do you do? How do you grasp an entire lifetime in a few months? How do you right the
wrongs? How do you ask for more time? Acceptance was hard. Deep down, I knew he wasn’t ready to die, but who actually is? Who is ready to leave what they know, and the people they know to go to the unknown or unremembered?
My dad died right after my fortieth birthday. That was almost nine years ago. I wrote this directly after his death when the details were so clear. His death awakened me to the fact that time is not guaranteed to anyone. The number of years we get is a secret that only our soul knows. What we do with that time is what we take with us—nothing else.
Something must end for something to begin. The full moon to the new moon symbolizes release and new beginnings. It is a cycle that continues like an ever revolving staircase that keeps going higher and higher away from the darkness or the demons of the past that keep hold on us.
Memories of regrets, disappointments, and unpleasant experiences plague all of us. And yet, we are told to forgive, let go, give it up to God, the universe a higher being. It seems so simple and yet it is difficult for many of us to do. Laughter, I think seems to help. When you can reflect back on a not so happy time and laugh about it, well than healing is happening. You have released it. Sort of like the Griswald's Christmas. Many of us have had moments like that...the holiday that went haywire and all hell-broke-lose! One day, you just have to laugh about it. Time heals normally unless you're like the old lady in the movie Moonstruck who curses the plane her sister is on because she stole a boy from her many years earlier! Mama mia! Let it go!
Maybe it's why we love comedians. They take everyday life, politics, and chaos and turn it into a ridiculous moment that we laugh about. The lighter side of life is necessary because the serious side will way you down too much.
Time is an illusion, but for us who live with it, it seems really real. Don't waste it. It's a precious gift. Memories are a choice. Choosing the ones that seem sad all the time will make you sad. Choosing to remember only the good ones will always make you happy and give you hope. It is a free-will choice. A choice that sets the path to your day and life.
Let go of what makes you sad. Make a real effort to see the silver lining in the good of a bad situation. Try hard to gravitate to love instead of fear and worry. I plan on making that my priority in 2014. I know it's hard. Other people have a way of trying to bring us down, but life gives back to you what you give to life. There is no need to judge people or try to change them. Eventually, life will change them.
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
"Let's get married," he said smiling.
"And raise a family?" She asked.
"A girl as beautiful as you are," he said as he softly kissed her lips.
"A boy as strong and handsome like you?" She added.
He gently took hold of her hand as they walked on the grass.
"She'll have soft, long fingers just like her mom."
"He'll be rugged and tough. A protector, just like his dad," she said as she squeezed his hand.
They stopped walking and stared at each other.
He looked deeply into her eyes. "Only two?" He asked playfully.
"Maybe three," she said with a smirk.
"Or four or five," he added laughing.
"A whole tribe!" She yelled.
"A family!" He exclaimed.
"A big family. Full of love, " she added.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I love you, too," she whispered back.
"Let's get married," he said.
"And start a family?" She asked.
"Yes, with the first one," he added.
Ria is an author who lives in Florida with her husband, her children and her faithful lab. One of her passions is to reflect on life through the written word.