Guest post by Aidan Zordich.

Christmas. It brings us home. It defines us through culture and tradition. My family is Italian and like all Italian families - we have a matriarch. Ours is Gramma Bucci. Carmella Donofrio Bucci. This year marked her 95th Christmas. Because she lives at the Inn at Christine Valley, it is always a big production to bring her in and out for the holidays. 

A driver picks her up, lifts her into the van and like a queen, she is brought home, to us. She gives directions along the way. “Wrong street, left here” – She is completely aware. 

Last year, when we were having trouble getting Gramma’s wheelchair into the house, my oldest cousin, Nicholas, found an old door in his garage. Since, it has proven to be a great stow-away ramp. As Gram comes through the door, now with ease, it takes a while to see her through the bent bodies of kisses and hugs. 

When the last has gone through the line, she will call to my cousin Nicholette for instruction. "Take my scarf, fix my leg, bring me over there..." My cousin is just eighteen, but Gramma trusts her most. Sometimes, the uncles and grown cousins try to throw their weight around and take over, but we all just laugh and shake our heads. We know they will take longer because Nicholette and Gram have their routine down pat. We let them go though, because we understand that there is a feeling of wanting to help, of wanting to give the everyday caregivers, like Nicholette, a rest on the holidays.  

Some may say, "Why go through all that trouble? Why not just visit her at the Inn?" This year, the answer was simple and it came in the word "flour". As per usual, Gram was in her spot at the corner of the kitchen where she can see everything and everyone. And, as per usual, her eyes stayed on the hands that made her Christmas Eve dishes. The wedding soup, the seven fishes: baccalà, calamari, smelts, salmon, shrimp, cod, tuna. 

My brother, Alex, was making homemade fettuccine for the calamari. As he rolled and kneaded the dough, she watched. When it was time to run it through the machine, Gramma put up her hand. Alex hesitated and waited. It took a while for the word to come out - Gramma's voice can't keep up with her mind these days. Finally, "flour" was all she said. Flour. A simple word that added so much - not to the dough, but to everything we were there for. A light dusting that filled all of our hearts. She was there and her presence had its impact for sure. She was there.

Though the holidays have come and gone, and everyone in the family has jumped back into their work routine- upward and outward across the country- Gramma Bucci continues to be the bind that holds us all together. She's just a short, sweet phone call away, but it gives us peace of mind to know that with the help of her children, Nicholette, and her caregivers at The Inn at Christine Valley, she will be comfortable until we can come home again.