Today I just happened to hear on the radio that it was Grandparent's Day. Who knew? But it did get me started thinking about my Nonna, my Italian grandmother. The memories I have of her fill my heart, but one in particular stands out with me this day.
The first time I went to Rome it was with my Mom, my sister, and my Nonna. I was twelve, on the brink of puberty, and I was grumpy . . . a lot. In the Sistine Chapel I remember sitting next to my Nonna who had tears in her eyes as she tried to explain Michelangelo's majestic ceiling to me, but all I could think about was that it was too crowded, too hot, and too boring. Really, I just didn't get it.
Twenty-eight years later my husband, for my 40th birthday, sent me to Rome with my best friend for four nights and five days. While I had been back to Italy many, many times, this was the first time I would be returning to Rome since that first trip. And since my Nonna had passed away two years earlier, this time, in her honor, I was going to do it right.
I prepared a lot. I read history books, studied tour books, taped shows featuring Rome, and surfed the internet for tips. As I read Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King, I felt something in me stirring, some understanding that was hovering just beyond my reach.
When we entered the Vatican Museums my best friend and I bypassed room after room as we followed signs to The Sistine Chapel, and so we were one of the first to enter. It was incredibly quiet. I found a seat on the bench running alongside one wall and finally looked up. It was too much. The notes and binoculars lay forgotten in my lap as I let the colors, the power, and the immense beauty wash over me. I didn't think, I just felt.
And I felt tears in my eyes. And I knew that in heaven my Nonna was nodding and smiling . . . because I finally got it.