Farewell America Tour, Part 2

October 18, 2016

Swinging in the Soo and Trying Something New

Ah, the Island. What can I tell you about the Island? When I was a young girl I slept in the upstairs bedroom with its shed roof and fairytale layout. I remember how safe I felt there. I pretended to be a princess who could look out her window at the land and the water she ruled.

Today, that bedroom still has the bed I slept in but, now, there is a sleeping princess doll in it. Sandra’s granddaughter Kassie plays there. Sandra has two nipoti, grandchildren, and her second one, Christian, is just as adorable as Kassie. Her son Ronnie is so much like her husband who passed away. And Ronnie’s wife, Trisha, reminds me of Sandra herself.

We wouldn’t see them until the second night. On the first night it was all about Sandra and us, especially my dad.

We haven’t seen Sandra since my mother’s funeral 13 years ago. She has had several life challenges, including losing her husband, that all occurred in the last 10 years. It was just impossible to get together. When my sister and I saw Dad with Sandra we realized all the little issues we experienced with Papa being out of his normal pattern, well, all those things were worth every bit of stress.

The first few hours together we just caught up. Dad and Sandra told stories of the old days and of Auntie Sandy. We talked and giggled. We laughed so much that my face hurt.

But it was time to head to Sandro’s Italian Restaurant. According to Sandra, it is the best place for pasta in town. That is a great recommendation. In the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario) 20% of its populace is of Italian descent. There are so many restaurants to choose from when hunting for Italian food. Sandra knows good flavor when she tastes it.

Dad had his favorite, Lasagna with two meatballs (I know they don’t serve meatballs with pasta in Italy. This is Italo-Canadian food.),

Sandra had cheese ravioli, I had gnocchi and my sister ordered the Tour of Italy – Ravioli, Gnocchi and Fettucini.

The American way to eat pasta is to pile it all on the plate and eat until you cannot take another bite. It really all was so good but Patrice and I did not finish even half of it.

Still, Papa has to have pie every night. So, before returning to the Island, we stopped at Pino’s grocery store and bakery for homemade Apple pie and vanilla ice cream. We completed our dinner with dessert at home on the Island.

The next morning we were on our own.  Dad didn’t really understand why we could not go to see Sandra at 8 o’clock in the morning. He got a little cranky after breakfast but we went for a walk and visited the Bush Plane Museum. Another adventure for the three of us. Dad experienced his first 3D movie and found it a bit disconcerting. He kept trying to touch the water falling from the airplanes as they put out the forest fire.

We climbed in and out of airplanes, checked out antique cars and just enjoyed this new experience for all of us.

Dad really enjoyed himself. And so did we.

We still had more time to burn. We went for a ride and found the casino. Dad was in his element there. He goes once a month to gamble with his friends. Patrice and I do not gamble but were happy to spend time with him there.

That afternoon we finally had the opportunity to share the day with Ronnie, Trisha, Kassie and Christian.  Over the next two days we were entertained by the kids, and hugged their parents.

Christian played piano and Kassie danced for us. They played hockey outside and twister inside.

We ate pizza and Capaletti Soup for dinner.

And more pie and ice cream. More laughs and hugs.

After the sun went down so did our papa’s patience. I had seen this before but not to this extent. I have been told it is called “sundowning”. People with dementia experience anxiety as it gets darker.  Papa panicked. He didn’t think we could find our way back to the hotel.  Ronnie ran out to the car to pick up our tourist map, sat down with dad and drew the island on it. He marked our roads home and dad held onto the map for comfort.  We packed up quickly and headed back to the hotel.

That night was difficult. Papa was angry with his two daughters because we did not go to bed at 1030 when he did. He took his hearing aids out and his glasses off. We thought we could watch TV. NOPE. He got so angry, he threw his hearing aids and his glasses onto the chest of drawers. One hearing aid went behind it. I guess our punishment was moving the dresser to find his hearing aid and clean it off. We then turned off the TV.  As we lay in bed, we laughed softly. We wondered if he saw us as 13 years olds. You have to laugh at these situations or you go a bit mad. It isn’t his fault and it isn’t ours either. Ela vita. (It’s life.).

Sunday was our last day with our cousins. First Dad and I attended mass. He was dressed and ready to go by 9am and had a difficult time understanding why we were still half asleep. Mass wasn’t until 11am. Dad got restless and took off out the door before we could stop him. Patrice ran out there in her slippers and talked with him until he came back in. Heartbreaking but reality.

After mass we headed back to the island.

We had to introduce the kids to Papa every day. They were great about it and loved his attention. But when it came time to eat Lasagna, salad and plates of Italian meats and cheeses, talking stopped. It was time to mangia!.  Most of us had pie and ice cream for dessert. Patrice had an ice cream sundae.

The kids needed to leave for a bit. We went for a drive to see the places my father recalled from the past.  We completed our day by saying farewell to those who had gone on before us. Sandra took us to the cemetery where everyone rests.

Auntie Sandy, Uncle Vic, Cousin Louie, all here.

Ron Sr., so loved and so remembered. This is a thing Italians do. We visit the gravesites of our family members. We want them in a beautiful place. This was very important to Papa.

That night we said our farewells to all of our Palumbo and Sartor family members. Hugs and tears went all around. Dad is 92 and his memory is going. I am nearly 65 and moving to Italy. Cousin Sandra is 81. There are no promises. This could be farewell for all of us, especially for my father.  

We left for the long ride home early the next morning. Dad was anxious to get home. He kept the maps on his lap and insisted on directing us along the southern route home. By this time Patrice and I were giddy. We passed Lake Shawado which we called Lake Shwando and giggled while dad slept. Next we passed a sign for the Bamboo bar on Lake Shwando as dad was directing us repeatedly. Somehow we both just burst out in giggles and tears. Patrice’s eyes were so wet she could barely see. Giggles and Tears, that is what it was all about.

We left the Soo and the Island behind. Our family is in our hearts and memories. We are all so glad we shared this experience. Dad is settled at home and back in his routine. Patrice and I cherish the memories of our only trip with our father and just us. Even though it was difficult, we loved every moment.

Farewell from all of us, from the Soo and from the Island we all love.

Ciao for now!

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