And So It Is…

26 Dec

There has been great sadness in my heart and it currently is playing with my mind.  October in one of my favorite months of the year because fall is in full effect, curling season is gearing up, the leaves are in full color, pumpkins, and yes, Halloween.  I had planned to write, as I do plan to write more, but the day came.  The day that I have been dreading for the last 10 years.  The day that my mom’s parents die.

Yes, I get death and I embrace death.  At time in my life I have been obsessed with death.  Although my dad’s parents have been passed for some time, I knew that with babcia and dziadzia it would feel different.  It did and it has been different.

Babcia’s birthday is in late September I called to wish her a happy birthday on the 22nd and that would be the last time I would talk to her.  It was not like when I spoke with Pranas and I heard death in his voice.  I did expect to see her in November instead she said I would be home in two weeks.  Her plan worked.  She suffered a horrible stroke a week after her birthday.  Then that was the beginning of the end.

It all began at dinner in the city with my mom.  We were finishing up our entrees when the phone call came in.  Complete silence from my mom and I heard that Babcia was in the hospital.  She has been there a lot but this was the first time stroke came in.  I kinda knew there that this was gong to be bad.  This was not like the other times when she fell or broke her arm or hip.  This was it.  My mom could not eat her dessert.  I squared up the bill and drove my mom back to her hotel. We both knew that babcia was going to die, it was just a matter of time. Mom had to get back home to see what was occurring, the hospital told her that they were keeping her alive until my mom got there. The hospital was keeping her alive and that she was on life-support.  I was numb and reflective.  So sad. So very sad. At least I was somewhat ready to deal with this. I have spent so much time with my grandparents. In many ways they helped shaped who I am. My sister and I spent a lot of time with them because they watched us when my parents worked. We were always with them.

The car ride home alone was flooded with tears and with memories, both good and bad. I was going to return to Detroit to see my babcia shortly. All I could think about was wooden spoons, baking cookies, rolling pierogi, whole wheat bread, secret smoking, Elvis, Fonzie, gardening, and painting the walls and floors. There was singing, chasing, mild violence at times, and always cooking. Things were either clean or dirty. Good or bad. A true world of dichotomy.

They both survived world war II and that influenced me. I grew up Polish and Catholic. I completely understand the role of a traditional polish catholic, especially pre war. It is tough. Theirs lives were so stressful and they needed to survive and they did.

I arrived back home in Detroit. I drove home, that was the fastest way for me. I went to the hospital to see her. My mom and sister were already there. Now my babcia was a tiny tiny lady with arthritic hands and super strong. She layer there in the bed unresponsive, unaware, but her body was alive. She was gone. In the two days before I got there we took her off life support and the vent. We thought she would crash and leave us. We thought she may wake up. If she did it would have been a miracle. She was a surviver of the holocaust, we don’t know if she was a Jew or a gypsy. She has no family and no one knows her secrets. The one thing I knew was that she was a fighter.

She survived for a week with no food or water. I think she trained herself to do this. It’s odd to say this, but people do strange things. I watched her breathe. I sat on her hospital bed. She was dying, she was already gone, but her body needed to leave. I spent so much time with this woman and now she was passing. All my Easters, Christmases, birthdays, and feast days were with her and now they are all done and all gone. Simply memories exist.

My family was ready for her to pass. I saw my dziadzia touch her hand, which I has never seen before. They never touched, never showed any affection. They hated each other and tolerated each other. Now their time was coming to an end. I guess this is is tough for a 98 man to get this, who wishes everyday that he was dead. He is the oldest and has been the whole time, now he has outlived all of his war friends and his family.

When babcia died, my mom was there. I was at home. I was ok with this. There was no talking she was unresponsive. We knew that her funeral would be at the same place that my dads parents were laid out at. We also knew where she would be buried.  When she was in her coffin I was fine, macabre has been a part of my life for a long time.  But, when it was time for me to leave.  I felt awful.  I knew I would never see her again.  I would never hear her voice or feel her punching my arm or telling me to go with god.  It was all gone now.  All I have left are my memories of her, cooking items, and her recipes.  Items that will last forever with me and will be passed on to others.

My babcia was a worker, a caregiver, a cook, a domestic tzar.  She constantly worked around the house.  Everything had to be clean.  Her hands were working women’s hands.  I know mine will look the same as hers.  She was the busiest women alive.  She hated onions and garlic.  Disliked soups, even if she did eat a bowl and hated wine even though we called it grape juice and she drank it.  Babcia liked Fonzie, the Sound of Music, Julie Andrews, and adored Pope John Paul II.  She was a survivor of the holocaust and as I said we have no idea if she was a true Pole or if she was a Jew or a Gypsy.  Now this allows me to makeup grand stories of her.  I have selected being a gypsy.  We have no idea who she is related to or other family members.  It was just us.  She went to the grave with the biggest secret which was her idenity.  She was who she was.  We loved her through all the good, the bad, and the crazy.

This is our first wigilia without her.  I am now responsible for the food.  I need to compile the recipes I know to retain our heritage and our babcia.  Now we visit her grave and celebrate her life.  We saw her on wigilia.  Plus, it saddened me that dziadzia was in the hospital (he is better now).  I can’t lose both, I can deal with one now. Let me have one more year with dziadiza.   I feel a bit off without her here, but she is happier now.  She will always be in our hearts and in our thoughts.

“Have no fear of moving into the unknown.
Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well.
Do this in complete faith and confidence. ”
Pope John Paul II

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One Response to “And So It Is…”

  1. Ewa January 8, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    Thanks for making her come to life for a few minutes!

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