The Women I Am Born of


I think of you when I smell black coffee.

I still have a voicemail of you singing me happy birthday that I’ll save forever but can’t listen to because it sucks the air from my lungs.

When you passed, I asked for a moment alone with you in your room to properly say goodbye. I didn’t do that with Grandpa Santino when I had the chance and I always regretted it. I hope you heard me.

You once told me that you never remarried because my grandad was the love of your life, and that was it for you. I miss you so much but I’m also relieved that you can finally be with him again. I hope you held him tight and danced and made up for all that lost time. I hope you still are.

I miss the comfort of your house. I miss the soft pink chair and Christmas Eve celebrations and your blue mugs full of steaming hot cocoa.

I miss your phone calls and tight squeezes.

I’m writing this on your birthday, a day that makes my heart ache not only because I miss you, but because it reminds of the women I am born of.

It’s a day that tugs on our family string, reminding us of the connections that on any other day we can go about ignoring.

One time when I was a child, I overheard a phone conversation between you and Mom. There was yelling; the kind that reaches your bones. I still don’t know what it was about.

I had similar fights with Mom growing up. We clashed more times than I’d like to admit. I often wondered how I could love a person so much, be housed in their body and born of their flesh, and still feel so misunderstood by them.

It wasn’t until you passed that I realized history was repeating itself. I had watched you and mom ricochet between love and resentment for years, and the ending of your life forced you both to face things you hadn’t ever fully dealt with.

I suddenly had a glimpse into the future and saw me and Mom in the same position years later, battling with the things we thought we could bury. I don’t want that.

But I was comforted when I saw that ultimately, in those moments, resentment falls away and love expands.

Years ago when Aunt Nancy was recovering from a surgery, she told Mom about how you lugged bags of groceries into her house and cooked her meals. “She’s good when you need her,” she said.

Even then I understood that these words had weight. Despite all the times you and your daughters clashed, you were always driven by a sense of responsibility and care for them, even into old age.

Mothering never stops.

In the nursing home just days before your last, I watched Mom carefully tuck in the blanket around you. I watched her smooth your hair and swab your mouth. She worked so delicately and lovingly that it shattered my heart into a million pieces.

I realized that I connected to a long chain of nurturing women.

Complicated, imperfect.

We are good when we need each other.

I hope that I do you all proud.



3 thoughts on “The Women I Am Born of

  1. um, hi! 😉

    im not really sure what the precedent on replying to blog-posts is, but whatever, here it goes: i emailed this to my mother. we dont email. we barely text. (thats not necessarily bad, its just not what our relationship is) but anyway, i did bc my mom and my grandma are going through a rough spot right now, and your post struck me like lightning – like you were talking right to me. sometimes, when close family members are in a not-so-good place, it feels like the space between “disagreement” and ” solution” goes on forever, and nothing will ever be the same again. thank you for putting words to that feeling, and for reminding me that it is transient, and it gets better.

    anyway, that’s all – i hope you are doing well. we should hang out! (i know we’ve said it before, but i mean it!) i’d love to come see your show, also!

    thanks. talk soon.


    On Thu, Mar 8, 2018 at 10:20 AM, Full Mental Nudity wrote:

    > Catherine Santino posted: “Gram, I think of you when I smell black coffee. > I still have a voicemail of you singing me happy birthday that I’ll save > forever but can’t listen to because it sucks the air from my lungs. When > you passed, I asked for a moment alone with you in your ro” >

    1. KELSEY this made my day and nearly brought me to tears. I’m so so happy I could make you feel even a little bit more hopeful. I definitely know what you’re feeling and how hard it can be and I hope it gets better soon. Thank you for being so sweet and saying such nice things. Yes let’s please get together soon, for real! I have some shows coming up later in the month. I’ll touch base w you soon!

      Thanks again friend. ❤️

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