Bittersweet Christmas 2013


Christmas 2013 ended up being a very rough one. Jon’s dad got sick on the 14th and couldn’t get out of bed. He had just traveled to a funeral on Friday in Canton and spoken with family members. But by the time we arrived on Sunday, he was still in bed and not saying much. I was able to sit with him and watch the football game. I didn’t say much out of deference to him – he always liked calm and quiet and I wanted to provide that to him in what we knew were his final days. Jon got to be near him and tell him he loved him on Sunday, also. What a blessing that was because he started to decline quickly on Monday. All of his children were able to get to the house before he passed on Friday. Patty was able to read him the Bible in the comforts of their home and comfort him with her smile. That is one memory I will never forget: watching her bend down to Joe and whisper “I love you” and seeing his mouth widen into a smile and say “I love you” in return. Fifty years together and committed more than ever.

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The next week was painful for all the family to experience, especially Patty and the five sons. Jon stayed in Marion most nights and the kids and I went up a couple of times to say goodbye. On Wednesday night, many of the grand kids were there – Dagmawit, Maria and Mario, Alana and Gio, Emmi and Eli (great grand kids). They played downstairs and we could hear their laughter from Joe’s room. Kevin and Chris and Jon and Patrick and Patty reminisced about times with Joe while we stood in his room. The next day, the hospice nurse told us we may want to keep it quiet for Joe. We agreed. But I do believe that Joe enjoyed hearing his grand kids downstairs one final time since he spent so much time with them over the last few years. For 90 years old, it was amazing how much he could tolerate. And how he always was ready for an embrace.

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He passed away with Patty, Jon and Chris by his side. We all went to the house that evening and celebrated him. We held his wake on Sunday and the mass on Monday. Then we came home to prepare for Christmas Eve. Needless to say, we were all spent, emotionally and physically.
We took Patty to Cincy with us on Christmas Eve. She fit right in with the rowdy Heiles (actually, after we left we realized that it’s really just me that creates the rowdiness anymore…and I do it well!). We went to Grandma Lolo’s first where Maria and Mario were quite pleased. Ri got a “real” baby doll with five sets of clothes and Mario got Skylander Swap. Of course, Mario said thanks but then immediately asked “where’s more presents?” Jon and I both had a talk with him about being grateful and it sunk in … until the next gift opening. Maria was the same way at age 5 and grew out of it; but Mario may be tougher. Needless to say, we will be practicing gratitude all year long in 2014. My mom loved getting Maria a baby doll. The two of us refuse to let her grow up and slurped up the fact that she still wanted a baby doll for Christmas.

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We ate some chocolate covered cherries (Mario was not a fan) and headed to Laura’s house (formerly Grandma Heile’s home). All my baby cousins are grown up – it is just not right. They all sit properly in their chairs and drink their wine and talk about their jobs! Maria and Mario sit all over them and rough house with the boys. They love it.

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We left Laura’s house and headed back north to wait for Santa to arrive. Ri fell quickly to sleep because “Santa would come more quickly.” Mario stayed wide awake watching Epic with Patty and then played Legos with her in the basement until 11 pm. She is a machine.
Christmas morning arrived and Ri was the first up. She laid patiently with Jon and me until Mario woke up and jumped on our bed screaming “let’s open presents!” And we were off to the races!

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I bought them a bunch of clothes and small gifts, which they opened with vigor. At the end, they both looked up and smiled but wondered if anything else was coming (Mario had begged for an iPad all season; Ri had wanted one too but was conflicted because she also wanted a sewing kit and American Girl doll clothes, and she didn’t want to be greedy). I left the room and returned with two packages and a note. Maria read the note from Santa.

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The note detailed all of the dos and don’ts of having an iPad mini. Mario could hardly hold still as Ri read. Santa told them that they have to play educational games and get off of it when their parents say so, and they have to continue to be good and giving to others. I think Ri processed it; Mario is gonna take some time!

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The next 24 hours was a whirl wind. Meg, my dad, Jack, Sarah and Jorge arrived around 10 am. We ate yummy casserole and biscuits and then took two hours to open presents. We are notorious for being slow present openers. We have to ohhhh and ahhhh. Ri and Mario found out about their Disney trip. Ri flipped out with excitement; Mario was in a state of awe. He was both excited and nervous about going without Jon or me. He still loves hanging with Jon and me, but we know he will have a blast.

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After we opened presents, my Menkedick crew took off and our Ionno crew came over. Patty and I broke out her whipped cream vodka ( yikes!) and the kids played together all day long without any fighting.

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The girls went to the park with me and Rocco and climbed all over downed trees. Times are a changing: Ri is turning into the outdoors girl while Mario is wanting to stay in all the time.

The next morning we drove to Marietta for Joe’s burial. The cemetery sat on a steep hill amidst a throng of trees that must look magnificent in Autumn. A group of Patty’s family members showed up to the cemetery and afterwards we went over to West Virginia for Italian food (now there is an oxymoron for ya). It was comforting to sit with Jon and his family and my parents during lunch.
I took in our conversation with vigor.

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