I'll Definitely Teach You

Bright, natural light streamed through the window into Bari Ann's Newton, Massachusetts, living room on a March afternoon in 2001. I loved her warm, cozy, open home. She had beautiful plants in the living room and a white tabby cat roaming the halls. I felt very comfortable there. Bari Ann took a liking to Japanese decor when she visited her son in Japan a few times. She decorated her home with Asian inspired cross-stitch projects, and I admired them each time I visited. I liked to work with my hands, so one day I said to her, "I would love to learn how to do that!"

She said, "Well, I'll definitely teach you."

I was not surprised when she bought a small, cross-stitch project for me that also had an Asian flair. A few days later, we went to the craft store, and we bought the threads together. The pattern had all the different colors printed on the fabric. We went back to her house, and she started to teach me to cross-stitch.

We became fast friends during our alternative cancer treatments in the fall of 2000. Ever since then, I felt very safe and welcome with Bari Ann, almost as if she was my relative, my sister. I felt she was there for me, and I was here for her no matter what. We went through such an important time in our lives together.

I admired Bari Ann. She was very patient and smart. She really wanted to teach me, and she was a good teacher. But, as it turned out, I can remember working on the cross-stitch together only a couple of times. I stitched a small corner of the end.

In 2001, she was diagnosed again with brain cancer, and that was the end of the project. Then I did not touch it for a long time because I really did not know what to do with it. Fortunately, God sent me a friend who did know how to finish it, but it would be thirteen years before we would hang the framed piece in my living room.

Bari Ann taught me how to cross-stitch, but more importantly, she taught me about friendship and how to live life to the fullest.

I Was Pretty Busy

I met Joe in 1978 when we both lived on Prescott Avenue in Chelsea, Massachusetts. I lived in the first house on the hill, and he lived a few houses down. I was walking Derek, my youngest, in the baby carriage on a beautiful Sunday in October. David was riding his bike following us. Joe was outside cleaning his van, and we started talking.

We had a lot in common. I had been married before; he had been married before. We were both Italian, and we grew up in Chelsea. He also had two kids who lived out of state.

On that afternoon, he was telling me about his life, and I was telling him about mine. I knew some of his family; he knew some of my family. He also had a garden. I loved the fact that he grew tomatoes. He sent us home with pickled green tomatoes, and I was so impressed. He asked me if he could take us for ice cream soon, and I accepted.

Our courtship was long, but Joe and I filled it with fun surprises and interesting things to do. As we got to know each other, his family values became more and more attractive to me. Because we were very different, we lived together for a while to see how things would go. We both wanted our marriage to work.

When we met, I was definitely looking for someone who could help me raise my children. David was about eight and Derek was only about a year old. Joe missed his kids and wanted to help me raise my boys. He was a good man, and I felt safe with him. We trusted each other. I felt that this was really a good thing for all of us.

David was old enough to remember his biological father, but Joe was more or less like Derek's dad from the start. Joe was a good role model, and I enjoyed watching him father the kids. In July of 1984, Joe and I were married. We raised the kids together, and it was not easy, but it was good. It was a good decision.

In 1998, David and Alice were planning their wedding. The wedding plans took quite a bit of my time. Alice's mother was older and lived out of state—she was from Puerto Rico—so I helped Alice with all of the things that the mother of the bride normally would, like choosing her wedding gown. It was such a busy time in my life, but the wedding was beautiful; it really was. As an added benefit, when David and Alice married, I became an instant grandmother. I fell in love with Alice's daughter, Ivana; we called her Evie for short. Evie was about five or six.

At that time, I was working for a visiting nurse agency, doing home care. I also was a private nurse, and I was a massage therapist at home. Although I worked and took care of my husband and kids, I tried to carve out time for my own hobbies and interests. I played Scrabble once a week with a friend. I liked to walk. I attended yoga classes. I always loved animals, especially dogs, and I took care of our cats, Mario and Angel—a Siamese cat and a white tabby cat. I believed in God, but I was not attending a church; I didn't know where to go and didn't have the time.

That was a time when our family was really happy together, and I wanted to enjoy the moment. When I think back, I should have made my health a priority, but I didn't; my family was my first priority.

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