Four years ago today I lost my grandmother. She was just two months shy of her 95th birthday. I miss her so very much. I miss all four of my grandparents, but today is Olga’s day.
My grandmother was a tough lady. You don’t live to be almost 95 and not be tough. She was born in 1913, the second to last of 11 kids to two Slovak parents. She grew up in a steel town outside of Pittsburgh. She lived through the Great Depression, a time that would make our depressions today seem like we have little to complain about. She became a nurse and then married my grandfather in secret so she could continue working for awhile. Apparently you weren’t allowed to continue working as a nurse once married. She had three children, my uncle was born before WWII and they saw my grandfather go off to fight in the Pacific. Next came my aunt and then finally my mom. My grandfather built their house and later built a new one just down the road after my aunt and uncle had moved out. Both houses are still there and the second one holds so many memories for my family.
My grandma was crafty, resourceful and quite the baker. She also often made many of the same dishes she ate growing up for all of us. Can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed pigs in a blanket (with the blanket being cabbage leaves, not dough) or sauerkraut and keilbasa back then, but they’re actually quite good. Every day she fed the birds outside their house, cutting the bread into bite-sized pieces. The birds knew it was coming and waited without fail. She volunteered at her church across the street and regularly attended the Slovak service there. She saved just about everything. The two of them were quite the pair in their ability to use things for more than one purpose.
In their house they had his and her rocking chairs in the living room, and a glider on their porch. During summers, my cousins and I used to sleep out there at night or we’d all cram into the living room taking every available space on the floor and the couch. That seems like so long ago.
My grandma was a republican and my grandfather, well he was a democrat. They didn’t see eye-to-eye in that area, but just agreed to disagree and rarely spoke politics to one another. They were patriots though, through and through.
My grandmother was a pillar of strength and if I inherited anything from her, I hope it’s her strength. Despite being so strong, she was always tearing up over something. One memory I can see as clear as if it just happened yesterday was when I was probably in elementary or middle school. My mom and I had gone up to Pittsburgh to see them. We went to say goodbye and my mom and grandma would always cry without fail. I remember they started and I looked at my Pap and he just smiled and rolled his eyes. I never used to be much a cryer, but man that trait was definitely passed down, it just kicked in a bit late.
Before my senior year of high school, they moved out to Colorado to live with my aunt. That Christmas, they came to Maryland for Christmas and what was probably going to be a week long trip, ended up lasting almost two months. On Christmas Eve, my grandma’s hip broke causing her to fall. Yes, you read that right. Her hip broke first. She had osteoporosis. She had surgery the day after Christmas and headed to a nursing home for rehab. She almost passed away on us then, but she’s a fighter. They flew home in February of that year and promised to return for my high school graduation. My grandfather didn’t make it, dying of a stroke two months later.
I headed to Colorado three times over the coming years to see her and the rest of my family out there. The last time, the summer after my college graduation, it was my mom and I. One of the things we did was to take grandma to her favorite place, Garden of the Gods. We had a picnic and just enjoyed the special time together. When we headed to the airport at the end of our trip, I remember saying goodbye to her. She looked so incredibly happy. I didn’t know it was going to be the last time I saw her, but I think she did. I’m just really glad I got to see her. She looked so good, so strong and so happy.
Everyone always says that over time you start to lose your ability to recall faces or to hear their voices in your head. And sometimes, that’s true and it saddens me. But, as I sit here writing this and remembering all of those memories of her I can see her clear as day. I can hear her voice too. I hope I never lose that ability.
So Grandma, I hope you know you’re missed, you’re loved and that you’re thought of so very often. I hope I make you proud.
Sorry for the emotional post, but I just had the urge. It’s a bit jumbled, I apologize but thanks for reading.