Brave Part One

22. September 2016 Gina DeNicola 7
Brave Part One


As I sat in the airport waiting for my connecting flight, I leaned against the wall and closed my eyes. Mexico is my final destination with my baby sister. I took a deep breath because that’s what they tell you to do to relax. I was sitting right next to a pizza place, and all I could smell was pizza, and the smell instantly brought me to 1970 something. It’s a Sunday, and we walk into my Grandmother’s house and the smell of tomato sauce, meatballs and garlic fill my mind. I kept my eyes closed and transported myself to her kitchen and all the comfort that came with those familiar smells. I had to open my eyes for a second to make sure I was still in Chicago, then I closed my eyes again, and the smells from the pizza place brought so many memories flooding into my mind.

Like most people I adored my grandparents. My grandmother was a nervous person but would always say little things that have stuck with me all my life. Like the one time when I lived in Pennsylvania and I took her to the hotel where I worked. It was a beautiful stone building built in 1901. As we were walking around the grounds and looking at the back of the building with the ivy climbing along one side of the building, I asked my grandmother if she thought it was pretty. “No Gina, all that ivy, no matter how pretty you think it is, that is how the rats climb into your room.” To this day I still love the sight of ivy growing on a stone building, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I looked extra close to see if I could spot those rats. Another one of her famous sayings was “Tables are for glasses, not asses” she would shout that at us when we would sit on her kitchen table. Or when I was going through my first divorce, and I was worried because I was certain at 29 with a three and four-year-old in tow I would never find another husband. She gave me a hug and said: “Don’t worry Gina, every pot has a lid, you just haven’t found yours yet, but it is out there.” She was right, and most of her sayings proved to be true, which is why I still look for those rats, I’m sure they are there climbing into open windows on a summers night.

My grandfather was the opposite from my grandmother, he wasn’t nervous at all and never seemed to have a worry in the world, which is saying a lot because he had a stroke when I was about two years old that left him paralyzed on his right side and also affected his speech. I can remember the first thing I would do when I walked into my grandparent’s house was to take a deep breath and smell the sauce and meatballs and then run and find my grandfather who was almost always sitting at the head of the dining room table in front of the china cabinet. The chair in front of the china cabinet was important because in the bottom of the china cabinet was where my grandfather kept his candy stash. My sisters and I would make a beeline to my grandfather, kiss him on the cheek and then he would look both ways to make sure my mother was nowhere in sight and quietly open the cabinet door.  We could grab as much candy as we could carry before my mother would round the corner. My grandfather would always yell at my mom when she told him no more candy and as an eight-year-old, that was almost sweeter than any candy.

My grandmother was the first person in my family to die, and it was a hard thing for me. I was lucky that she got to meet my son when he was born, but by the time my daughter came around, she was already gone. At my grandmother’s funeral, there is an image burned into my brain. Someone had wheeled my grandfather up to my grandma’s casket. He was determined to stand out of the wheelchair for what we all thought was to give my grandmother a final kiss. Instead, he tried to get into the casket with her. It was the most painful, yet overwhelming demonstration of love I had ever seen. From that moment that was the kind of love I have looked for, and I believe have found in my husband.

Sitting on the airport floor, I opened my eyes and realized I had tears streaming down my face; I missed my grandparents. I hate that my sister has cancer. And at that very moment, I hated the smell of pizza, which if you know me, you know that pizza is my most favorite food group. I’m scared for my sister, and I am forced to be brave. That’s what the big sister does, she’s brave for all her other siblings, but I am currently crying in an airport all over my laptop. I wish my grandmother were here with her little gems of wisdom, and I wish my grandfather were here with his big laugh and handful of candy. I wish cancer weren’t a thing, but it is, and I’m off to help my baby sister search out some answers, and we will be brave together.

Photo cred: Unknown, but that is Me and my grandmother in 1990 ish.

7 thoughts on “Brave Part One”

  • 1
    Bryce Warden on October 15, 2016 Reply

    Much love to you and your sister Gina. In my thoughts. XOXO, Bryce

  • 2
    Rachelle Dujon Ramsey on September 23, 2016 Reply

    Gina, I am so very sorry to hear about Amanda! Your beautiful heartfelt words brought me to tears and I will be praying for her and for all of you everyday. She was my best friend once upon a time and that will always make her special to me.

  • 3
    Nancy Lopez on September 23, 2016 Reply

    Oh Gina. You have a wonderful talent in your writing. You made me cry. Your memories of your grandparents brought back memories of my parents and aunt Beatrice. You made me cry. I hope you two find answers and healing. Praying for you all.

  • 4
    Gina Webb on September 23, 2016 Reply

    Thank you for sharing. It is very timely and touching. I wanted to share a little bit of what I know about cancer to encourage you in your time of need……
    Cancer requires courage. Courage is fear that has said it’s prayers. Often times in this journey it is easy to forget that fear is a normal emotion that cannot wipe away our faith. I pray you are all clinging to the promises that God has for Amanda, which is for her to prosper and continue to be the best mother, sister, wife, friend, daughter and aunt that she is. Please remember that there are many things cancer is and many things it does to change our lives. Cancer CAN NOT change the love you all share or the bravery it takes to figure all of this out. Amanda is lucky to have the support of her sisters and family.
    Please know we are praying for Amanda and everyone in your family. I am praying that God is very near to you all and showering you with faith, hope and love for the journey ahead.
    Please know you are not alone. May God be your refuge and strength and may He remind you that His strength is perfect when our strength is gone and He will carry you when you can’t carry on.

    God Bless and Heal You.
    Gina Webb

  • 5
    JILL on September 22, 2016 Reply

    My sister! Tears of

    joy and memories. Tears of fear and pain. Thank you for making us remember and feel Gina. Beautiful bitter sweet blog. Love you so much.

  • 6
    Kayce on September 22, 2016 Reply

    A beautiful memory, and thank you for sharing ? I can almost smell the sauce. We love you. Love love love and light.

  • 7
    Janet Lind on September 22, 2016 Reply

    This made me cry. I am so very sorry for Amanda. Please let her know that our thoughts and prayers are with her. Also with you Gina.

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