“I do my little part, and God did the rest.”

For those who have been wondering why Rocco Palmo’s Whispers in the Loggia has been so quiet, recently — and I know you have been wondering, because some of you have been emailing me asking if I “know” anything — the answer is finally revealed and it is at once a “triumph” and a heartbreaker. Rocco’s beloved grandmother, whom he called “The Boss” has passed, and his grief is a terrible beauty:

By seniority – an important thing in a group this size – this scribe formally ranks as Boss’ 21st grandchild. In reality, though, I was more like her eighth child. Part of that was by circumstance – as my parents lived with her for the first three years of their marriage, her house was my first home, and even after they moved out, she was with me every day, always maintaining (to my mother’s fury), “I raise him, you know.”

Apart from college (albeit just across town), I’ve never been more than a three-minute walk from her door. Yet even being a couple blocks away could only go so far; in personality and spirit, we were a perfect, truly providential fit with each other from the start. That bond only became stronger and deeper with the years, and both from her and others, I had little choice over time but to realize that she saw in me the “baby” who would bring her greatest dreams to their fulfillment.

No pressure, of course.

As a kid, my grandmother showed me the gift of love. Yet over these last years, she’s taught me the responsibility that comes with it. Accordingly, now it can be told that, aside from this work, I’ve spent the last three years as a supporting player to my Mom and five aunts as they formed an uncertified, but beyond-devoted family care team who would each spend part of every day taking turns with Gram in her nursing home, to help with her meals, fetch the phone, her beloved lollipops and whatever else she needed…

There is a wonderful picture in his post, of The Boss wearing a PhD’s cap, one Rocco clearly felt she had earned:

Brutal as all this is, it was eerily fitting that only after setting the funeral dates was I reminded of how the next morning’s burial would take place on the feast of the Queenship of Mary. And at a moment like this, those kind of “coincidences”-that-aren’t are worth their weight in gold.

To say that Boss was devoted to Our Lady would be the height of understatement; her house had enough images and statues to fill a decent Marian shrine (or appear as if she had robbed its gift-shop). The key, however, is the story behind it; having lost her mother when she was two, through practically her whole life Gram saw the Madonna as the Mom who would never leave her. Yet never more was this the case than after my grandfather died.

Only over recent weeks did two of my aunts tell me the story of how, on returning home from her husband’s funeral (to which, due to their poverty, the family traveled by subway), my grandmother sat in a chair by her window and prayed aloud.

The younger kids were playing, but the older girls could hear her say, “Dear Blessed Mother, give me the courage to raise this family alone.”

“Give me the courage…” Yeah, that’s why she deserves the PhD; she had the wisdom to know just exactly the right thing to ask for, the best and humblest way to pray. “Just give me the courage…you know I’m good for the rest of it; I’ll be faithful to it.”

She sounds grand and wonderful; no wonder Rocco loved her. Please pray for him and his family, as they begin to live through this loss.

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About Elizabeth Scalia