Happy International Women’s Day

I saw today in various forms of social media a number of friends posting photos of the multitude of strong women in their family. Which made me wonder how unique this is. I mean, I had never known anything but. Though to be fair, my strongest connections are with the Italian side of my family.


Strong, independent… maybe a little insane.

Specifically, I felt it was prudent to share several short tales from the family lore. In my case, ones that have popped up organically in conversations over the years. I do offer the caveat that I am in possession of a rather dark sense of humor. There are things I find funny that most people are disturbed by. Just ask my wife. After pretty much any rated R movie we ever go see.

Several years back, one of the students in my department took to calling me a “poor man’s Wolverine.” Mostly due to the amount of damage and abuse my body had taken without stopping. I believe his tirade was prefaced with, “Dude, why don’t you just lie down?” So I shared with him the following tale from my family.

Back when my Nona and Auntie Anna were still alive, my parents had traveled to Boston to go visit them. The two of them lived with my Auntie Judy (my father’s sister). One afternoon, while napping in front of the television, they noticed something wrong with Anna.

My father went to work tending to her, while someone else went for help. Notibly the nurse and cop that lived across the street. Between the three of them, they got her heart started again, but she kept slipping away. And then the ambulance pulled up.

The EMTs went to work as well, getting similar results. By that point they were pretty sure that was it, so they needed to get to the hospital for the doctor make the call. She was on the stretcher, in the back of the ambulance, with the EMTs packing in their gear so they could head out.

Anna came to (I remember hearing “sat straight up”, but I’ve done the stretcher ride before… there ain’t not “straight up” in those things), and proceeded to bitch out the EMT for tearing her house dress. You guessed it, she was fine. The EMT was probably fine too… after some therapy.

My student laughed like it was a good story. Before I told him, you think the mafia are the Italians you need to be worried about? There ain’t no boss in the world that’s gonna “talk smart” to his Nona. She’ll whoop his ass without having to lift a finger.

You want to know why I don’t just lay down? When you have a great aunt in her 80’s flatline five times and still get up to bitch at the person trying to save her for ripping her house dress? That set a standard to be met. A little TBI is nothing compared to that, yeah?

Keep in mind that the woman that raised Anna (and my Nona) was as tough as they come. She held the family together and provided for them. I hear stories about the farm she ran (which apparent is now where the Braintree Mall is). And more so, the description of her wake at the house. The same house I had been visiting at since I was a baby. Senators, Mayors, police chiefs and more came to pay their respects. I never knew her, as she passed before I was born, but I damn sure knew the legacy she left behind. It was now our legacy.

And it doesn’t stop there.

About a year after my spinal surgery. I was walking with a cane still as it didn’t 100% reverse the damage, but it definitely kept me walking. We were back out in Boston to do some genealogy searches (of which a gamer’s brain is well built for apparently), and visit family. Another aunt had just turned 90 that year, so we stopped by to visit. She was living with one of her daughters, but we were visiting during the day, so it was just us there with her.

My father opens with, “So, how are you doing, Madeline?” To which she answers, “Well, you know… if you stop moving, you die.” And here I was in my late 30’s with a cane. One I could honestly walk without, but not without discomfort. Again, there was a standard set.

I remember leaving to head back to the house and telling my mother, “Well, now I have to ween myself off this damned cane too.” They assured me that wasn’t the case, but the reality is that 95% of the time I don’t really need it. But it does usually stay in the back of my truck in case I do have need of it.

I really feel that these (and other) women that I grew up with are what helped shaped me into the man that fell in love with my wife and married her. She has faced quite a bit of adversity, but has come out the better for it. Not only is she the main source of income for our family (as I am a state employee and therefore not paid a fraction of what corporate America makes), but she also does most of the tool-related things around Casa de Zombie, while I do most of the cooking and baking.


Not as independent, but she’s definitely one of the ladies in my life.

Yes, for those of you in Adventurers League who just experienced the Iron Druid Cupcakes last month… that actually was my work. Decorating the cupcakes… now that is her gig. I just make the frosting and the cakes. Piping and decorating is not really my thing.

My only hope is that our grandchildren learn from her example as I did from my Nona before me. They learn and grow up to become strong and independent like her. Or find women to have in their lives who are.


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