ANCESTOR OF THE WEEK: ANGELS DO WALK THE EARTH
MY MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER: GIUSEPPA D'ANGELO
My grandmother Giuseppa, also known as "Josie", was born in Vizzini, Catania, Sicilia on 1 AUG 1913. She was the older of two daughters born to my great-grandparents. Sadly, her younger sister, Domenica passed away as a baby leaving Grandma the only child. She often recalled her short six years living in Vizzini and described the house and town in great detail. She was very proud of her Sicilian heritage.
In February 1920, Grandma and her parents arrived in Ellis Island and began new lives in Manhattan living in the heart of Little Italy. Although moving to a foreign land was difficult, they acclimated over time and made many friends and acquaintances.
Grandma learned the English-language while attending school, and after graduating from the eighth grade, she began working in the garment district. She received a medal while in school for her mastery in sewing and was very skilled in making clothing, blankets, scarves, and the like. She not only knew how to sew, but could knit and crochet. Her attention to detail was brilliant and some of her talents have passed down to her grandchildren. Grandma came from a long line of seamstresses and weavers.
When her parents purchased a summer bungalow in Staten Island, New York, Grandma met her future husband, Gennaro Ferrara. They married on 21 JUN 1936 at the Church of the Transfiguration and had three children. They spent several years in Manhattan before moving to Staten Island permanently in the 1950s.
Grandma was a very devout Roman Catholic and turned her home into a virtual shrine. Due to the fact that I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents, I was taught many prayers and learned about different saints. Some stories I found to be very disturbing, but Grandma tried to make them "child-friendly". The recitation of the Rosary was very important to Grandma and would always pray for world peace and the conversion of Russia. She taught me the Fatima prayers for the Rosary and loved the story of the three children's vision of the Blessed Mother in 1917.
A natural green thumb, her yard bloomed and blossomed with the miracles of nature. While tending to her garden, she would snip off a green bean or a cucumber and present it to me with such pride. I have never tasted anything more delicious.
Grandma was famous for having several items always at the ready in her home: Jell-O, fresh-made popcorn, and Icebox Cake. She wanted her four grandchildren to feel at home and always wanted to see us happy. She was such a kind-hearted soul.
When Grandma was about thirteen or fourteen-years-old, she began showing signs of what we now call, Tourette syndrome. Certainly, at the time, doctors really didn't understand this condition, so Grandma spent the rest of her life with a tremor in her head and neck. She would wear a collar around her neck to help her relax when the tremors were too much for her to bear. Tourette syndrome is hereditary, and it is one thing that I inherited from Grandma. We both experienced motor tics. Sometimes, I experience vocal tics as well.
Grandma loved being with family and looked forward to Sunday dinner. During the week, her and Grandpa would come over just to see us. Her favorite singer was Luciano Pavarotti and she often asked to hear his music while we sat in the backyard during the summer months. She loved listening to opera too.
Grandma was widowed in 1998 and, naturally, she slipped into sadness for a few months afterwards. After all, Grandma and Grandpa were married for sixty-two years and have experienced both triumphs and tragedies together.
In July 2001, Grandma had a bad stroke which left her speech-impaired and motor-impaired. That month I was proposed to and I couldn't wait to show my grandmother my engagement ring. I'll never forget rushing into her hospital room and standing next to her hospital bed. She was only able to half-smile at me and utter the word, "happy". Grandma was very fond of my husband because he would show her tremendous respect and always greeted her first before anyone else in the room. Grandma passed away the week after I was engaged. It was a tremendous loss for our family, because she was the rock. She was the voice of reason and a pillar of strength.
Two years later, on the night before my wedding day, I had a dream that my grandmother was calling out to me. In the dream, Grandma was sitting on the living room couch smiling at me. I remember sitting next to her on the couch and saying, "Grandma! What are you doing here?" In the dream, I knew that Grandma was deceased and was surprised to see her there. She took my hands in hers (which were very warm and soft), and said, "I'm sorry I cannot be there with you tomorrow, but I'll be there in spirit." I woke up with joyful tears because my husband and I were just saying not several days before how none of our grandparents were alive to celebrate our marriage with us. This was a visit, not a dream. Grandma was right in front of me. I was able to smell her perfume and feel her hug me. It was an experience I'll never forget. She was one of the best people in my life and I know that she is offering her guiding hand from beyond to all of us who are still here.