My grandfather has been dead for a long time, and since his death my Nonna has never even considered another man…she has never gone on a date, never given out her phone number, and in fact has met all significant others who have entered her children’s and grandchildren’s lives with much adversity. With one exception: Phil.
Phil was my sister Brittany’s “high school sweetheart” – I use quotations because using the word sweetheart and Brittany in the same sentence is ironic. Nevertheless, when Brittany brought Phil home, Nonna was starstruck. Maybe because she thought Brittany was asexual, maybe because she was amazed that my sister met someone who could keep up with her…or maybe, just maybe, he is the only person she has ever met who had never tasted chicken parmigiana in any form.
This is not a joke.
One of the first times Brittany brought Phil to Nonna’s, she naturally sat him down, brought out the fine china and cooked a meal fit for kings. Phil, like a good sport, sat down to consume the copious amounts of food like a champ. But when he sat down, he was puzzled…what is chicken parm? what is stromboli? and if my memory serves me correctly – i think red marinara sauce was a first for him as well. Like an able teacher, Nonna instructed his tastebuds on the wonderful constructs of Italian food. Phil was transformed, and Nonna was delighted. It was almost as if she robbed him of his food virginity…
But this was just the beginning of her burning love for Phil.
I have to say, Phil was a really nice kid. One of those kids who, at the age of 17, really knew how to make a girl’s heart swoon…Even though he and Britt were dating, he set up a scavenger hunt throughout our whole house to ask Britt to prom. Complete with love notes, roses etc… Even my sister’s icy cold heart melted (just kidding…sorta). This only intensified Nonna’s love for Phil. “He such a nice person…you sister is a lucky girl.”
Then Phil won Prom King…by this point, Nonna was planning their wedding, planning the names of future great-grandbabies, anxiously anticipating the wonderful romantic tokens of affection Brittany would receive.
Then…Brittany and Phil broke up. Like many high school sweethearts, college got in the way. But, to this day, Nonna still can’t let go of the pain this breakup has caused her. Just the other day, while preparing to watch my youngest sister serve as an escort in our high school’s male beauty pageant (in which Phil once competed…), Nonna sat back and reflected upon her lingering feelings for Phil.
Nonna: I remember when we go for this shitty thing for Brittany. But I no go for Brittany. I go for Phil. Remember Phil? He was a nice boy. He don know how to eat anything but the stupid cheese and pasta (macaroni and cheese), but he was so nice. When you sister was with him, she was a calm person (she still is…she just went to college). Don you know when they broke up I cry for three day. I say, why they break up? What you think he doing now? He graduating college this year? I so proud on him. He was a good person. And he thinking your sister funny. He laugh at everything. Everyone lovin him. I miss him. I gonna ask your sister about him. Oh he was so beautiful.”
Me: Nonna, they broke up like 4 years ago…
Nonna: I know, but he was a beautiful person. He is always welcome on my house.
Me: That would be hilarious…I will invite him over.
Nonna: Why hilarious? Maybe he datin lauren instead? I would like him to be my grandson.
Me: Nonna..give it up.
Nonna: Ok…but I hopin you sister find someone. She need to calm down. She never gonna find no one like Phil.
Me: I’m sure she will.
Nonna: Maybe…maybe not. I hope he still eat chicken parmigiana….but he no gonna find none as good as mine.
Maybe the pain Nonna still feels over this breakup has effected the way she looks at all our significant others…who have faced increasing animosity in the post-phil years. I hope Brittany’s future husband can successfully persuade Nonna that he is better than Phil…otherwise, our family dinners will be pretty awkward…
Phil, just know there will always be a plate of food waiting for you at our house….