Tuesday, October 16, 2007

47 years

this morning, long before the sun poked its lazy way through the thickening canopy of clouds, i lit a very special candle, in memory of my great-grandmother. forty-seven years ago today, she opened her eyes to her last day of mortal life, and drew her last breath. she was only in her 70's but her health had not been good for years. her name was benedette, but everyone called her anna. i was named for her, and in the family, she was Big Nanny - i was little nanny.

i wonder, sometimes, how much of her there is in me.

just yesterday, i read how european scientists have identified the seven strands of mitochondrial DNA that link all of us with european ancestry back to seven women. mitochondrial dna is passed from mother to daughter in a virtually unbroken chain. thus, it is through my Big Nanny that i am rooted to this human race. her mother's name was angelina, and she was born in the same small town in italy nanny was, exactly a 100 years before i was. she died in 1932, when my grandmother was in her early 20's. she's buried in a narrow little grave in the "old section" of the same cemetery where nanny and poppy are, and where my grandmother will (i live in constant hope) some day be laid to rest.

this place i find myself is a curious place to be. i feel as if i stand with my feet on either side of a deep chasm. the view is astounding but i'm not even sure i know what i'm looking at.

it can't last. this strange configuration - mother, daughter, grandmother, granddaughter - it's days are finite, numbered. it is an undiscovered land of terminal duration. and i have no idea how long i get to be here.

but it seems fitting to me that i begin this journey first with thanks, and then with a long glance back, into the misty reaches of time, to the woman whose memory i carry in every cell of myself.

1 comment:

~~ Cynthia ~~ said...

I just had a whirlwind 15-hour visit with my (much older) sister, who lives 10 hours away. As we age it's amazing how alike we look, even though it was NEVER apparent as we were younger. For years we traded a mean birthday card back and forth... "One year older, one year closer to looking like Mom" and now it's coming true... I see "mom" in the mirror every damn morning. Strolling down memory lane we identified only 4 girls of the 45 descendents we have who carry those obvious features... I loved your post today. Wait... I love all of your posts!