Toni is the second, pivotal, Fairy Godmother that I met as a result of my relationship with Alice. She also attended the same church regularly, and we also began to chat afterwards. Toni frequently attended with an elderly man who I later learned was her father. I was struck, at first, by Toni’s beauty. She is Italian and had a curvy, exotic, Sophia Loren, look about her. I soon learned that her beauty extended from within. She welcomed me into her family as easily as Ken and Alice did, but with Toni I had the added bonus of connecting with two of her off spring that were around my age.
Rich was her youngest son and Judy her middle daughter. They died much too soon and they could make me laugh like no other. I wrote about them in “Legacy of Laughter” and they both, truly live on in Rich’s three sons. At the time I met Toni they were full of life and mischief. These three, enfolded me in a journey with their large Italian family, that has lasted decades. Toni became the mom I never had. Always there with love, encouragement, and consistency. Judy and Rich, a cherished sister, and brother.
Toni was a single mom before it was fashionable. She divorced young, after the loss of her first born daughter Karen, who was killed by a car. She was four years old,when someone learning to drive lost control of their car. Divorce was not a popular choice in her family, but she raised her children on her own under challenging circumstances only to lose these two tragically early as well. Those remain two of the saddest trips I ever made home.
How does a mom recover from losing all three of her children before their time? Her family, her life… forever changed. For a long time after, when I would visit, Toni had a frozen look. Like someone just existing and I frankly thought she would never come back to us emotionally, but she did. It’s taken years of dedication to prayer, volunteering, therapy and her faith but today she is living a life that all three of her children would be proud of. I am BEYOND proud of her and have been a lucky recipient of the love she has shared so generously She has always taken me in.
In her eighties now, she looks decades younger than she is. She told me it was her good-old-peasant-stock. She still remembers my favorite foods and worries about my life. Her yard is crammed with rose bushes and angels. Her home has been an oasis for me- where happy memories and pictures of her kids, abound. My family of angels.