She called her mother, Marlén Pernetti. It wasn’t an easy call.
The Pernettis divorced in 2008, after more than 10 years of marriage — and not amicably, Marlén admitted. Court battles endured even until February 2020, when Nino Pernetti’s attorneys accused Marlén of disparaging him in front of their daughters. Now, her daughter was asking for her to help take care of her father.
Marlén had lost her own father in her 20s. She has spent most of her life as the medical proxy and caregiver for a younger brother with chronic kidney failure. She knew what to do. She ran to the hospital with Tatiana, where doctors intubated him and eventually performed a tracheotomy.
“He had no one else, and he’s the father of my daughters,” Marlén said. “I never wanted my daughters to live with that void.”
Marlén became Nino’s caregiver while Tatiana went back to Notre Dame to finish her last semester of college. She massaged his legs and arms. She spoke to doctors and nurses on his behalf. She brought carrot soup and pasta fagioli from Caffe Abbracci. When he asked for pasta Bolognese, she brought some from the restaurant and put it in the blender so he could drink it delicately with a spoon.
She helped the nurses change his gown. Ten years of acrimony slipped into the background.
“If you would have told me I would have been by this man’s bedside after all this…” she said. “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”
Nino got stronger. He went from 114 pounds back to 140. He worked with the speech therapist to regain his ability to speak. He was determined to stand. Marlén was reminded of the fact his mother died of typhus when he was three and doctors in Italy were so amazed he fought the disease they named him, “cabrito,” little goat.
When Jackson released him to a rehab facility this summer, the nurses clapped along the hallway all the way to the ambulance.
“He was taught the will to live from early on,” Marlén said.