A Mother Daughter Trait

by Paige Capro on April 8th, 2013

      I come from a long line of loud, bossy, Italian American women.  My great-grandmother, Concheta Tabino, came to the United States in 1918, when she was nine months pregnant with my grandmother, Jenny.  My grandmother spent her adolescence in the family kitchen, on Concheta’s heels.  Together they worked at the fine art of being a homemaker in the bustling city of New York. 
         By 1963, Jenny was running her own home and raising her family in the suburbs of New Jersey.  My mother, Phylis (yes, with one l) was seven years old at the time.  She later told me, that she remembered being scared to go to sleep at night because she had to share a bedroom with her crazy grandmother, Concheta.  In reality, Concheta wasn’t crazy; she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 66.
           In 1963, nursing homes were already taboo.  My grandmother, Jenny, would sooner die than let her mother wither away in one.  So, she did what most loud, bossy, Italian American women would do.  She convinced my grandfather, John, that Concheta should live with them.  So, that summer, she moved in and quickly digressed. 
       By the time my mother, Phylis, was in high school, the entire family had learned the ins and outs of caring for a complete invalid.  My mother still shared a room with Concheta and was well trained in the daily nursing tasks that she was expected to help Jenny complete.  She changed diapers, ran feedings, and helped with showering and maneuvering. 
      Given her upbringing, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when Jenny, in turn, fell victim to Alzheimer’s disease, my mother did not blink an eye.  She immediately moved her parents, my grandparents, into our home in Virginia.  I, like the generations of women before me, quickly became indoctrinated into the realm of care giving.  Throughout my childhood and adolescence I, too, learned how to change diapers, as well as feed and bath Jenny. 
       In fact, my earliest memories of my grandmother occurred after she was already sick.  I never knew her as well person, but not knowing the difference; she was my grandmother all the same.  Jenny died in 2002, when I was a senior in high school.  And now it seems like my mother has been given a small reprieve from her duties. 
       But Alzheimer’s is always on the horizon.  Concheta was one of three sisters who all suffered from the disease.  Jenny was one of five.  All of her sisters eventually succumbed to Alzheimer’s as well.  My mother has one sister, Janet.  And then, there’s me. 
       As of now, there is no cure for the hereditary disease, and as the years go by, my mother and aunt inch closer and closer to formal diagnosis.  But if there is one thing this disease has taught all of us, it’s that every, single, solitary moment is important and valuable.  I’ve also learned about the importance of patience, compassion, and family.  Perhaps the best way we can honor the loud, bossy, beautiful, strong women that have gone before us is to celebrate our own unique mother daughter relationship with every chance we get.  We are certainly trying.
Paige Capro

Paige is a teacher with Prince William County Schools
in Northern VA.

Posted in Stories    Tagged with Alzheimer's, Family, Heredity, strong women, mothers, Italian-American


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