Remembering Who You Are; Part Three

I have been thinking over and over again about how I would like to write this article. I was mostly thinking about how grateful I am; you know, counting my blessings. When I realized that what I really want to say is so much more than just gratitude even though that is a major part of it. I’ve learned so much this year that I cant help but share it! Not only does this keep it fresh in my mind, but when you share love, love comes back to you. Remembering who I am and where I came from has had a profound effect on my life, and how I see myself and my circumstances and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Spending a lot of quality time with family earlier in October reminded me of where a lot of these gifts came from. I am so grateful to God for showing me so much about my life that I couldn’t live without. Literally. Practices that keep me at my best, practices that have prevented me from falling further into depression, God has taught me through my family. It is because of the lessons that my family has taught me that I was able to build my own strong family of friends. People who support me in all aspects of my life. I couldn’t be more grateful for the quality relationships that I have been able to establish throughout my life. The fact that I have many people who take the time to think about me at all is amazing! It fills my heart with so much joy to know the love that exists in my life and I’m so grateful that I’ve learned to take the time to appreciate it all because it is so easy to forget when we get caught up in the daily grind of life. You can easily get swept away in the tidal waves of emotions that a single person can experience in one day.

However, it is through the very humbling experience of learning how to properly take care of all aspects of my well-being that  I was able to recognize these gifts and implement them into my life. My Nonno Dino on my Dad’s side of the family is to me, a symbol of what it means to take care of yourself. He taught me a lot about what it means to be the best version of yourself every single day. I am so proud that he is my Grandfather. Our relationship wasn’t always perfect but he has given me a tremendous gift, and I am forever grateful. Nonno Dino is a leader, someone who walks the walk, and leads by example. I went with my Father to visit my grandparents during the Thanksgiving weekend. I’m glad that all things considered, they are relatively healthy, and happy. However, my Nonno recently turned 87, and his health is significantly better than the health of my Nonna who is 82. Nonna, who has always been your typical 1950s house wife of Italian decent, was always taking care of and putting everyone else’s well-being above her own. A lot of people confuse “well being” with physical safety. A lot of people think that if you’re not currently experiencing a mortal threat, then you aren’t in danger. Reading this, I’m sure you know that, that is not true. You need to pay attention to the warning signs before they get to an unavoidable situation.

However, it is never too late! Obviously, the sooner the better, but I will never deny someone who needs to be healed, because I know that every person who comes to you in pain is an opportunity to heal both you and them. That is why I take this blog so seriously. My grandmother has Dementia, and she has literally lost the ability to take care of herself. My grandfather who has always made a practice of self-care is in relatively good health. Other than a pacemaker, he still exercises everyday and does his best to take care of my grandmother in any way he can. He’s even learned how to do simple cooking and cleaning. The only reason he was able to learn these new skills so late in life is because he has very strong habits built into his everyday life. Skills that he’s learned at a very young age. For my entire life, my grandfather has always exercised. Every day, he does some sort of physical activity. He has always been active his whole life. He played soccer, skied, he lifted weights, gardened, rode his bike, or at the very least he would go on a walk with Nonna every day after dinner. He still gardens, goes for walks, completes household chores. He’s in excellent shape for an 87 year old man.

My grandfather would keep his mind active, he was always working on something. I remember as kids, my grandfather had a huge garden. He grew grapes, he had apple and pear trees, a tomato garden, he grew so many different types of vegetables! He made his own wine and moonshine. He would fix his own car, he had many habits, hobbies and skills. He would always say things like, “if you don’t use it, you loose it.” He’s right. My grandmother spent the majority of her life, thinking and worry about other people. She didn’t take much time for herself to pursue her hobbies. She didn’t exercise as much as my grandfather did. I’m not blaming my grandmother. Her circumstances were completely different. She didn’t have the same freedoms and societal expectations as my grandfather. However, it is because of the sacrifices that my entire family has made, that I am able to grow up in a situation where I can look back and see the difference. I have the choice. Thank you God for helping me to see these important gifts that both my grandparents have given me, and my entire family. Thank you for helping recognize the importance of choice, and how much power I have over my own well being.

In reality, my grandparents are the reason why I live in Canada. My grandparents on both sides of my family made huge sacrifices. Left Italy and everything they knew to start over in Canada. Yes, their siblings came with them, but at the end of the day all they really had were one another. It was because of them that I have the amazing parents that I have, and the life that I have. It’s not just the importance of self-care that I’ve learned from my grandparents but all of the greatest life lessons have come from them. If they can come to a new country, learn a new language, find jobs, build a family and a home from nothing, there is nothing that I cannot do. My nonni (grandparents) inspire me every single day when I think back and realize all that they have done for me, I don’t think I know of a greater love.

Photo of Nonno Dino Rinaldo, Nonna Maria Rinaldo and Nonna Maria Battaglia
My Grandparents celebrating “Grandparent’s Day” (my Mom’s idea). Missing Nonno Battaglia who passed away before this photo was taken.

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