My Mother’s Daughters


Last Sunday I visited my mother.  She was in a great mood and I felt her love permeate like warm sunshine. Her kind, supportive words gave me that happy feeling inside that reminds me how lucky I am to have such a great mom.  She kept telling  me what a beautiful person I was, and I replied, “Of course I am, you are my mother, and I am just like you!” She looked at me with a confused look on her face and was quiet for a few seconds.  I could tell she was searching her brain and grasping for a memory.  Then she asked me with innocence in her voice, “Am I really your mother?” 

My mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s when I graduated from college thirteen years ago.  It is now so advanced that although she has met my two-year-old daughter, Mia, several times, she will never remember her. I am grateful that she is still on this planet so I can hug her and see her, but she is not the same capable, strong woman that she used to be.

My mother came to this country from Floridia, a small town in Sicily, forty-two years ago after she married my father who had been living in the states since he was a teen. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for her to live in a strange country, not knowing the language, and being away from her family. She was very brave. Even though she stayed home to raise my older sister and me, she embodied being a working mom in every sense.  Always cleaning, cooking, and taking care of her family. Like, ALWAYS. She was the quintessential housewife and devoted mom. She was so meticulous as a homemaker she would even iron towels and our underwear!  But I digress.

Everyday I think of her and everything she taught me. Not only about life, but of MOTHERHOOD. If ever there was a time I needed her most, this is it.  

So to survive this mothering thing without her by my side, I always have her voice in my head.  Talking in Italian, of course, since she never really did learn to speak English.  I even find myself saying the very same things to my husband and toddler that my mother would nag, I mean instruct, us to do for our own good.  Here are some examples:

While reading, please imagine a five foot tall woman with the strength of ten men following you around the house shouting at 20,000 decibels. You don’t want to mess with Mama Lucia.

State quieta e mangia tua pasta!
Sit still and eat your pasta.

Non caminare scalza!
Stop walking around barefoot.

Mette la giacca!
Put on your jacket.

Attento per la face!  
Literally it means watch out for that face, but she really meant “Put on some sunscreen dammit!”

And I also look at pictures like this.

Mia and her cousin Joey

My mom makes this exact face when she’s thinking.  It’s her quirky habit that, somehow, Mia picked up.  Mia is also bossy and yells (or I prefer to say, enthusiastically expresses her emotions) like my mom does.  In fact, I don’t really think of Mia as her granddaughter, she’s more like…my mother’s daughter.  Does that make sense?  My daughter, just like your children, are proof that life goes on.  They possess the best that’s in all of us and carry it through to the next generation. 

Even though Mia is too young to understand, and my mom is unable to remember, they are two peas from the same pod.  But Mia will know her, because I will teach her all about family and where she came from.  And it is most comforting to already watch Mia, upon seeing a picture of her grandmother, point and say “Nonna!”   To which I always reply, “Yes, that is your Nonna and she loves you very, very much.”


24 thoughts on “My Mother’s Daughters

  1. Thank you for taking the time to open your heart. My mother left us 8 years ago. I want her back. The memories aren’t enough anymore. During her last five years with me, I just wanted it to stop. The pain I felt the first time she did not recognize me, only those of us who have been through it can understand. They were the worst 5 years of my life. My mother didn’t know any of it, which I thank God for. For her dreams were real and reality was a dream. We cried together 30 years ago when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis; and we cried together again when they told her she
    had Alzheimers. My wonderful memories of her were before the disease. But, that in itself isn’t enough. I want her back. God Bless you for your abiity to touch a heart.

  2. Thank you Kris-Ann! That’s so adorable about Max. My daughter walks around with her hands behind her back just like my mom too! Love it.

  3. I am so glad that you enjoyed my post! It was so wonderful to write because I don’t want to lose all those memories of happy times. I love your family’s story — it is very similar to mine. I didn’t mention this in my post, but mother’s mom suffered from dementia and her mother-in-law also suffered too. My mom took of everyone and never complained. I wish you and your family peace, happiness, and strength.

  4. I’m late to this post…but have to comment. You are such a beautiful writer Mary Grace. My grandfather passed away when Max was about two, but there are mannerisms that he picked up from my Poppy that the whole family delights in. I think my mother is especially thrilled with the way Max stands with his hands behind his back, or always has to cross his legs when sitting.

    1. I would love to have you for a date my name is Brent I am single and I don’t have a woman at all I would love to have you for a date no woman would go out with me because I have a hear aid I am 44 years old man I hope you can take the time to text me I hope I hear from you thanks have good night

  5. I saw your post on Facebook from the Alzheimer’s site. You have no idea the joy it gave me! I lost my Mom at 85, 2 years ago to Alzheimer’s. She too was Italian, only from the north,Trieste. She married my Dad there, when he was stationed there.His family came over in the early 1900’s from Ireland. She taught herself how to speak and write(some) in English. She too left her family, only to return once, when Dad got stationed in Germany. She still knew us when she passed and we were so grateful to God for that blessing. I can still hear that Italian voice of hers, she was a wonderful woman. God was very good to us. I am now going through helping out with my mother-in-law at the nursing home, she has first stage dementia. I’m a mom and grandmother and I hope and pray that by the time my grandchildren are old enough to have families that God will bless them with a cure for this horrible disease. God be with all the caregivers that help take care of those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Thank you, for every post and every blog is a light at the end of our tunnels, it gives us all hope!

  6. Thank you for this story. You are very blessed in the relationship you still ave with your mother and that she is still so positive. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 2 months ago, and ately all she talks about is wanting to die. She sees no reason to continue to live with no interest of enjoyment of life. It is very difficult and very sad. Still, your post gave me encouragement and hope. Thank you.

    1. Deborah – I am so very glad that my post gave you encouragement through this very difficult time. My visits are not always this positive. But I really, really wanted to capture this specific time when she seemed like her old caring and nurturing self, because it was truly special. Having a mom who is suffering has taught me to really cherish every moment with her and to make the most of the situation by seeing the good that is all around me. I wish you peace and strength!

  7. Sis, you nailed it perfectly regarding mom! I was in tears when I took that picture of Mia because I knew that was the “foonja” mom would make. This is absolutely beautiful!! Love you!

  8. Absolutely love this.
    This hits close to home for me as well. I lost my mom while in high school and even though she is no longer with us I know she is watching over us each day and I am teaching my daughter what she taught me. This past weekend my mother-in-law was over and noticed a picture I have in my daughters room. It’s a black and white picture of a little girl (around the age of my daughter) and my mother-in-law said it looked like my daughter. Well, the picture is actually of my mother when she was that age and it just make me smile so big. It make me take a step back and realize that I can see my mother in my daughter each and every day; and even though she is no long with use she is still with us.

    1. I am so glad this resonated with you. Thank you for sharing your story about your daughter. It made me tear up!

  9. My dad, now gone almost 15 years, also suffered from Alzheimers. Although at the end he had no idea who any of his family were, I was always certain that he knew he loved us, and he knew that we loved him. I would give anything to spend one more day with him.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story about your dad. I am glad you were able to feel comfort in your dad’s love, despite his illness. I feel the same way about my mom, and it is truly amazing.

  10. this post is lovely and mia will treasure it when she’s old enough to understand. make sure you print it out and save it!

  11. I adore this piece, MG. A simply beautiful tribute to your amazing mom. Olivia has recently started recognizing my mother in pictures I’ve been showing her since she was teeny… “Mommy, that’s my Memere! She loves me!” and it melts my heart. Even though their grandmothers may not know them, as you said so eloquently, they live on in our children. Love to you!

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