When you have time

adriana suriano
3 min readOct 4, 2022

Five or six mornings per week, I call my father. Before my day starts around 7 am I dial his flip phone.

Before i can even say hello my father blurts out, “I had to go outside and clean. That god damn scoattolo was near my persimmon tree again.”

My father lives in a really nice suburban home in south jersey. when my nonna died, my mother inherited about $40K. I always wondered how my nonna, who was a widow her last 30 years of life, had saved anything. she worked her entire life taking care of 5 children and never getting a paycheck for it. She never spoke a word of English from her day of birth until the horrible day she died. My nonna made every meal from her beautifully wrinkled and freckled hands. She washed all of her clothes with a washboard in a metal tub. She dried her stunning gray, blonde hair with the stove door open when the weather was damp. I loved watching my nonna brush her hair down to her ankles. i was told after she died, nonna never had a haircut in her life.

My mother insisted that the $40K be used to build a brand-new home in the next town because she always wanted a new home. My father said no. My mother told him she had already put the $40k down for the foundation to be laid on her new home. They lived in the home for 20 years together before my mother passed away. My father still lives there. Now, he could never imagine leaving.

“I put the wire retina around the trunk of the persimmon tree so if that god damn scoattolo gets his claws stuck he will learn not to do that again.”

I think what my father means to say is that the squirrel has probably seen its last persimmon tree and last day on earth.

“Dad what else is going on?”

“Well, i gotta go to the gym, you know that’s what I always do in the morning. Then i gotta go to Wegman’s for the organic eggs. They are USDA certified and 10 cents cheaper than at Shop Rite. Remember what I told you? When you are looking at the egg carton look for the green circle with USDA certified. Without the green circle, the eggs are junk.”

I don’t have the balls to tell my father I have only cooked a handful of meals in the last 3 or 4 months.

“Dad, what else is happening for today?”

“Okay. I need you to do something for me. When you have time.”

My father always needed me to do something. I also did not have the balls to tell him no.

“I need you to write back to Johns Hopkins and tell them we never heard from them and want to schedule an appointment.”

My father is on the parkinsonian spectrum with essential tremors. My father’s neurologist is a saint. He listens to my father interrupt him with nonsense every 6 months. My father’s physician is a professor at one of the best universities in the world. My father has basically stopped the progress of his Parkinson’s disease due to his weightlifting and walking along with cooking every meal using only fish, chicken, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. No added sugar. No salt. Just a bit of Italian extra virgin olive oil and a glass of red wine. My father’s saintly neurologist calls my father the GOAT-P. The greatest of all time patients.

“Dad, Johns Hopkins has to be willing to take you on as a patient. You cannot just make an appointment remember?”

“What kind of bullshit is that? Well, when you have time, call them.”

My father has spoken. When I have time, I will call.

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adriana suriano

i am a first generation italian-american who grew up in southern new jersey. Life is amazingly beautiful and devastating. Sometimes in the same day.