Just in case I've not yet learned what loss feels like, and how much it aches: Nonnie has died.

Here are the grasping reassurances Mom and I try out on each other on the phone tonight: she was 96, and lived a life beyond her own or anyone else's imaginings. She watched too many of her children die before her--Aunt Jo was the last straw--to want to stay around any longer. In the hospital today, she had a chance to make preparations for what she saw as the trip before her, and took communion, and was served last rites. We can't by any stretch call her death early or unjust.

But still, she's gone. The woman who was my mother's inspiration, and so much my own, is gone. My tough as nails Italian grandmother, who survived far more than I ever could (I mean, fuck, look at me now), my Nonnalina, is gone.

For her sake, I am grateful, as I was for Poppa's sake when he let go: finally, rest, and nothing more to fight. The sadness, I guess, is for those she left, Mom especially: a levelheaded view of this won't do much to dull her pain.

It seems we're all being forced to learn on our feet now: hold hard, let go, go on.

Arrivederci, Nonnie. Your Emmalina misses you already.