No Nana, I don't want another sandwich.

There aren’t easy ways to dive into bad news or any good conversation starters for depressing topics.

“Hey, how about this crazy weather? My grandma died.”

My grandma died.

But I never called her Grandma. She was my Nana (not my Nanna … but my Nah-Nah.). She was my boisterous, will-never-ever-let-you-stop-eating-no-matter-how-close-you-are-to-vomiting fireball of an Italian woman. She told you the same stories on repeat, but you were too busy shoveling homemade spaghetti into your face to really notice, or care. Her cookies were never in short supply and the conversation was never missing her obligatory “Mamma Mia!”

She was the salt to my Grandpa’s pepper. The spaghetti to his meatball. Her life was my Grandpa and when he passed away in August 2007, Nana didn’t really know what to do with herself.

But her kitchen never closed down. In fact, I think cooking for friends and family was the only thing that kept her going. But it was painfully obvious to everyone that Nana had lost a part of herself and she wasn’t willing to live that long without my Grandpa.

Nana had been battling cancer for almost as long as I can remember. I think it was once breast cancer, bladder cancer, and then everywhere cancer. She continued non-stop treatments for it up until about six months ago when doctors told her there was nothing else they could do for her.

The last time I spoke with her on the phone and she told me she stopped her treatments, and she actually sounded better than she had in a long, long time. She said she felt better too. She just sounded like Nana … the same old Nana who could never remember if she was talking to me or my sister.

Nana passed away peacefully in her sleep on February 19th, 2010 … on my Grandpa’s birthday. And I find that to be one of the most romantic endings to a story that I’ve ever heard. What a blessing that a woman ridden with cancerous tumors slipped away gently in her sleep, and not in agony or despair.

She was ready to go. Selfishly, I’m not so ready.

Grandpa and Nana rounded out a very short list of family in my life. Yes, I have numerous blood relatives running around this country, but very few of them are actively or emotionally involved in my life.

But I guess none of that is good enough because at her funeral on Wednesday my mom, sister, and I were treated like we never existed. It’s the same depressing scenario that played out at my Grandpa’s funeral in the same church two years prior. Nana is not my blood relative. She is my mother’s step-mom. Nana has one biological son, and that son has two daughters … the golden grandchildren.

Those girls were the ones everyone recognized as Grandpa and Nana’s grandchildren. Those girls were the ones who delivered the eulogies and relayed fond memories like they were the only two grandchildren that were loved. Those girls were the ones who dropped little trinkets into their caskets and lined the wakes with poster boards of pictures of themselves, like they were the only grandchildren who mattered.

Grandpa’s not even their blood grandfather. He’s mine. And I wasn’t allowed to participate. We weren’t included in any of the funeral arrangements. We were called days after both of their passing and told, “You don’t have to worry about coming up for the funeral”.

My sister and I sat through Nana’s funeral mass in tears. Tears because we were sad Nana was gone, but a lot of tears because were on the outside again. We’ve become very accustomed with living on the outside of our family’s love. And I think that’s the greatest loss of all.

I know Grandpa and Nana loved us and they know we loved them. We don’t have to prove it to anyone. The proof is in the memories. They were at the hospital the day I was born, they were at our Grandparents Day celebrations at school, we were on their Christmas and birthday lists and, most importantly …

… we were in Nana’s kitchen.