Keepsake helps grieving daughter cope with loss
By Shelley A. Sackett
Susan Mineo and her five siblings grew up on the predominantly Italian Pratt Street in Salem smelling her mother’s famous sauce and tasting her unrivaled cooking every evening. As kids, she remembers even their school lunches being the talk of the Bowditch School lunch room.
“We had brown-bagged meatball sandwiches and eggplant parmesan, beef cutlets, chicken cutlets, pork cutlets, etc.,” she said, admitting that on a few occasions, she traded her gourmet home cooking for the “more common” peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The eight Mineos. Back row: Frank, Mineo’s Mom (Gloria) and Dad (Santo). Front row: Diane, Julie, Susan, David (Diane’s twin), and Tony on Susan’s lap.
She also loved watching her friends’ faces when they were lucky enough to be guests at the Mineo dinner table. “While they were eating, their eyes would roll to the back of their head. So many would say, ‘I can’t believe you eat like this every night!’” she said with pride.
Her mother was equally caring and generous in feeding sick friends, or “just anybody who happened to walk in.” Her father’s back seat was like a Mineo Meals on Wheels, full of carefully labeled plates for him to deliver.
“My mother had a compassionate, nurturing self. What she was proud of was being a mother. That was the proudest role in her life,” Mineo said.
Mineo’s mother, Gloria, learned to cook from her mother, whose family was from Abruzzi, Italy, but took what she learned to a whole new level. “Most people either bake or cook. My mother did both extremely well,” she said.
Gloria, in turn, passed on her love and skill to her daughter (and her five siblings, including three brothers), and some of Mineo’s favorite childhood memories are when her mother taught her to cook. “I loved when she was teaching me to make Tiramisu. It is so complex and was so easy for her. She was so talented — she was a true artist,” she said.
Gloria also invented a few recipes, including Easter turtles with colored eggs, and on more than one occasion would cook more than one thing for dinner if Mineo or any of her siblings didn’t like what she had prepared. “We were spoiled rotten. We were lucky kids,” Mineo said with a chuckle.
Seven or eight years ago, she decided to start working on a cookbook of her mother’s recipes. Her mother kept her treasured recipes on handwritten index cards, and each time she visited her parents in Florida, Mineo took some home with her. She and her parents developed a system: she would format the recipes into her computer, send the hard copies to her mother for editing, and her father would mail them back. “We were a team, because my mother didn’t drive, so my father played a crucial role,” she said.
Gloria Mineo piping her tiramisu
The family continued this routine for three years. “My mom was my second set of eyes and there were lots of things in her head that were not on those index cards, so I needed her. We used tons of paper and ink and postage, but we accomplished what we set out to do,” she said.
All her siblings supported her project, adding excerpts and even having their own children write something about their grandmother’s legacy. Finally, she designed the book, took photographs, and had her son enhance the cover page. Sadly, her father died from cancer just four months prior the book’s completion.
On Mother’s Day 2011, she presented her mother with the finished product: “Gloria Mineo’s Family & Friends Cookbook with her own personal flair.” “I don’t think she ever expected it to be what it was. When I handed it to her, she was shocked and just cried. I knew then I did something important which touched her deeply,” Mineo said.
Unfortunately, Gloria passed away last October after a long illness, and this is Mineo’s first Mother’s Day without her. In their final days, both her parents were at Kaplan House/Care Dimensions. However, that care didn’t end with her mother’s passing. With the support from the Bertolon Center for Grief & Healing, Mineo has had ongoing help with her journey through her loss with an array of grieving groups and individual sessions.
Because Mineo was the primary care taker for both of her parents, their loss created a tremendous void. She lauds Care Dimensions’ for allowing her to mend at her own pace. “Their emphasis on no time limit has softened the edges of my loss. They acknowledge the individual as who they are,” she said, noting that other companies set arbitrary numbers of weeks or months, after which a person should be healed. “The staff is a gifted group of compassionate, patient, thoughtful and dedicated people,” she said.
Gloria and Santo or Mom and Dad on their honeymoon in 1951.
Although this Mother’s Day will be an especially hard one for Mineo, she takes solace in having completed and shared the cookbook with her before she passed. “It gives me solace, looking at it, touching it and, of course, using it. My Mom is not in my past, as she is in my daily world as much as ever,” she said.
1 box custard pudding, cooked
½ pt. whipped heavy whipping cream
1 egg yolk
½ cup sugar – plus ¼ cup
1/3 cup sherry liqueur
1/3 cup Kahlua
1 large package Italian hard Ladyfinger cookies
2 boxes Ladyfingers, the hard cookies
2 cups espresso coffee, room temperature
2 lb. Mascarpone cheese, Italian cream cheese
1/3 cups of sugar
1 lb. Philadelphia cream cheese room temperature
1 box custard pudding (cooked not instant) or 1 box instant vanilla pudding
1/3 cup sherry wine, a good one
1/3 cup Kahlua
½ cup sugar – 1/3 cup sugar
1 pint heavy cream
2 tbs. cocoa
1 dark chocolate candy bar, use a good chocolate
Mix coffee and Kahlua.
Beat mascarpone, cream cheese, and sugar. Whip until creamy soft – add custard or pudding and whip until soft and airy. Fold in 1 cup of whipped heavy cream.
In a 9”x12” oblong pan place a thin layer of cream cheese mixture in the bottom of the pan.
Mix Kahlua into espresso coffee and add 1/3 cup of sugar. Dip the Ladyfingers quickly into espresso and layer them in the pan on top of the thin layer of cream cheese mixture. Add ½ half of cheese mixture on top of the cookies. Dip second layer of cookies into Kahlua quickly and cover the cream cheese and then add the rest of the cream cheese on top. Sprinkle with sifted cocoa and shaved chocolate bar.
With left over whipped cream using a pastry bag with a star tip, you can design (piping), the edges of the pan.
© Gloria M. Mineo
Susan Mineo’s graduation in 2005 from Salem State College/ University
TIPS FROM CARE DIMENSIONS FOR COPING with LOSS OF A MOTHER
Helpful Tips for those Coping with the Loss of a Mother
By Patrice DePasquale, LICSW and Bereavement Counselor for Care Dimensions
As Mother’s Day approaches this may be a challenging time of year for people who have had their Mothers pass away, either recently or years ago. As adults, our relationships with our parents often change and mature over time and we may find that we value the relationships more and become friends with our parents. We turn to our Moms for comfort, decision-making and reassurance. When a Mother dies, people often feel like they have lost their closest ally in life.
If you are coping with the loss of a mother, here are some suggestions as Mother’s Day approaches:
-Realize that your grief has no time table and that walking past the large and cheerful display of Mother’s Day cards at the grocery store may trigger a painful grief reaction for people who long to spend the day celebrating with their Mom.
-Seek support from others, whether by joining a grief support group or talking with close family and friends about your emotions. This support can validate your feelings and help you process them.
-Focus on taking care of yourself with the basics, such as eating and sleeping well, exercising and taking time for activities you enjoy. Being kind and patient with yourself can help you to better cope with your feelings of grief.
-Find ways to honor and commemorate your Mother either privately, as a family or in your community. Plant flowers that your mother loved and make a memory garden. Cook one of her recipes to share with friends or visit her favorite restaurant or outdoor venue. Reminisce at family events about happy times from your childhood. These types of activities can help you feel more connected to your Mother and allow you to feel that you are continuing a relationship with her.
-Remember that the gifts our Mothers have given us over the years, such as unconditional love, comfort, and support always remain with us in all we do.
Care Dimensions offers a variety of support groups, including Loss of a Mother and Loss of a Parent, several times a year. For more information, please visit, http://www.CareDimensions.org or call 855-774-5100.