To The Woman Who Teaches Me How to Pray, Two Baby Boomers Who Deserve a Nod Part 2

To The Woman Who Teaches Me How to Pray, Two Baby Boomers Who Deserve a Nod Part 2
zia pena and me

Me and Zia Peni at New Years ’13

The morning after I found out about the news of Grandma Shirley I decided that I would catch up on all of my work when everyone was at school instead of going out filming. When I woke up the power to the whole house was out. I thought, huh, that’s funny God, what do you want me to do? Why did this have to happen the day I decided to stay home? As I came into the house I heard,

“Ashley!! Ashley!! Venez qui venez qui!!

Zia Pena, the 92 year-old aunt had fallen from her bed and hit her head and no one was home to help her.

This has never happened before.

I received a call the night before that my grandmother had passed away and I was in complete tears, and now I wake up to the frail auntie on the floor hurt. I was a nervous wreck. I thought, no I can’t take another tragedy.

Luckily after about 30 minutes I got Zia Pena back in bed with a cold compress. I sat there frozen, as if it was so obvious why I was home that day, of all days. I felt like God was trying to tell me something, like I had a second chance to learn from a grandma-like figure. I sat there and read “Blue Like Jazz” to her, an intriguing book on Christianity and spirituality.

I hear you God. Thanks for the second chance.

From day one I have taken to Zia Pena. She intrigues me so much with her sassy attitude that comprises all of her little 92 year-old body. For my first four days every time I tried to talk to her she would say, “No capito,” and brush me off. Stefania speaks English very well and understands me most of the time, the children somewhat understand me and the father speaks French, which is helpful. So while I’m speaking French to the father he tells me that Zia Pena speaks French.

This whole time she was watching me speak French, choosing not to speak French and just saying “no capito” to everything I said! HAHA! I started cracking up. She was a riot.

I shouted, “Zia Pena!! Parlate Franchese?!” She quietly replied… “si…” And from that day on she’s been my little bambino.

If you want to learn how to live a long life, just take after Zia Pena. But not just a long life, a full life. Every day she wakes up praying to Jesus with her Italian prayer programs and her saint cards, she does the laundry, makes coffee, stays up late and helps the kids with their home and drinks red wine at EVERY meal. It’s been an ongoing joke that me and Zia Pena are the only ones getting drunk at the dinner table.

Zia & Vino

Zia Pena and her vino! Glass or plastic, she’s gotta have her vino!


And she’s fierce in the kitchen. You don’t want to mess with her when she’s got a pair of scissors and fish in her hands!

Don't mess with Zia Pena!

Don’t mess with Zia Pena!

fish heads

Just the fish who had to meet Zia Peni

The day I found out she could speak French all barriers were broken. I love how she goes from crying over Mateo’s broken nose and praying to the saints to getting mad easily with her little spunky Italian lady attitude- showing us who’s boss.

I think she’s lived so long because she was a constant learner of life and an investor into the lives of others. She taught young children for decades and poured everything else into her family. She is constantly moving, onto her next project, and constantly praying. It’s a true gem to observe.

Zia Peni casually preparing  stuffed artichokes

Zia Peni casually preparing stuffed artichokes

I told her that I am going to write her a love letter, entitled, “Mia Adorata” in Italian if she writes me one in French/English. She said she would, and I’m counting on it. She was sick last week, but this week, I’ll let you know if I get that letter.

Gratzi Zia Pena, mia adorata.

Grandma Shirley taught me that it doesn’t matter what is going on in your life, if you are a writer, then write. And Zia Pena teaches me that it doesn’t matter how old you are to do something and to start something. Goes to show you that respect is definitely deserved among the baby boomer generation, who didn’t have computers or iphones and still ruled the world.

Give it a second thought before you judge your grandparents, you might learn a lesson or two that you didn’t expect.

1- zia pena & me

Me and Zia Peni at Christmas ’13



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