Last week, I spoke with my dad’s sister.

Aunt Margie, like her older brother, is a spunky, little Italian with a lot to say. And the way she says it is in a strong Yankee Italian accent … that’s how my mom referred to it anyway.

My Uncle Gene was just released from the hospital that day, so she was filling me in on his condition. Gene is 82 and in what appears to be the last stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Caring for someone in any kind of terminal condition can be exhausting, but Aunt Margie is a champ. She does it with ease and never complains. I felt the need to encourage her, but really, I just wanted to hear her “tawk.”

“Margie, I can’t imagine how hard this is on you ... you are really ama…,” I said.

She interjected, “Whatcha say, hon? Ah geez, hold on.”

Make no mistake, her Yankee Italian accent isn’t the “Sopranos” or “Real Housewives of Jersey” that you’re thinking of. It’s a mix of South Philly and South Jersey, with a fair amount of Baltimore thrown in for good measure. The type where mad and sad don’t rhyme, and “redd” means tidy, as in, “Redd your room up before you leave.”

Like dad, Margie thinks by shifting the receiver from her mouth a centimeter or two that I won’t think she’s talking to me.

“Hun, do you want another cookie,” Margie asked.

I replied, “Sorry? Aunt Margie, are you…”

She responded, “Be quiet dear. I’m talking to Gene. I said, ‘Do you want another cookie … a cookie … a cookie … a cookie.’ I guess he doesn’t. Go head, Becky.”

I restarted, “You sound busy. Should I call back?”

She answered, “No, no, no … this is my life. ‘What? I’m talking to Ralph’s daughter … Ralph ... Ralph ... Ralph. Did you hear me, Gene? … Ralph.’ What are you waiting for Becky?”

I began, “I just wanted you to know … How you are doing all of this? The appointments, the medicine, managing every detail of his care … it’s really amazing, Margie.”

She said, “What can I say ... I’m just being a strong, Italian woman.”

I added, “Dad says that about me and my sisters too.”

She retorted, “Oh no, hun, you’uns aren’t that strong.”

Then, she laughed in a way that says, “silly girl, you can’t begin to imagine what it takes to be a strong, Italian woman. You don’t even know how to cook that well.”

She managed to compose herself long enough to continue our conversation.

“So how’s Ralphie … That’s what our mom called him,” she asked.

We talked a bit about my dad’s health and in the middle of me saying, “He’s walking a lot now. He wanted an adult, three-wheeled bicycle to ride into town but we said no.”

She shouted to my Uncle Gene, “Hun. It sounds like Ralph has the same thing as you … the same thing as you … the same thing as you. Ah geez, he’s not listening. Go ahead, dear. Speak up. I can’t hear anything you say.”

We ended the call shortly after. I promised to call her again every week with an update on dad, but what I’m really calling for is figure out what it takes to be a strong, Italian woman and to get a laugh or two … even if it’s at my expense.

Email with comments.

Telling Tales is written by Wilson County’s Becky Andrews and Angel Kane.

Email with comments.

Telling Tales is written by Wilson County's Becky Andrews and Angel Kane.

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