This weekend marked the tenth anniversary of my grandmother’s death. I often forget the actual day but was reminded last week it was coming up. One of the things I did this summer was visit my grandparent’s grave because I had never been to the site before. As I looked at the grave, I thought about my grandmother with her thick Polish accent. The day I visited it was “ala humin” as my grandmother would say. Translation: Oh it’s humid! She was quite a spitfire, all 100 pounds of her. She lived to the ripe old age of 85 without too much trouble. She was relatively healthy except for her emphysema that came from many years of smoking and eventually took her earthly life. Had she never smoked, I’m certain she would have had her picture on a Smucker’s jar and been introduced by Willard Scott on the Today Show.
My grandmother was a big part of my life growing up. She lived in the town I grew up in. My sister and I went there almost daily after school. She always had a snack waiting along with something good cooking. I can’t say it always smelled good because she often cooked cabbage. She and my grandfather fought every day of their married life together. I imagine it was their “love language”. It worked for them, so who am I to say it was wrong.
I have fond memories of my grandparent’s impressive garden which we were not allowed to enter. They worked on it daily and we enjoyed the fresh veggies all summer long. One of my fondest memories is when my grandfather left his watch, sitting by the garden to get his daily lottery tickets. My grandmother would sneak in and pick some peas for us. They were always ripe around my birthday. We loved to eat those sweet nuggets raw, fresh from the garden. When my grandfather returned you can be sure a fight would break out in Polish because she entered and took some veggies. I guess it was worth it to her to see her grandkids eating the fruits of her labor. At least that’s what I like to think. Honestly, she probably did it just to make him mad.
One of the notable things I remember about my grandmother was that she was a loyal soul. She was incredibly devoted to her family and would give the shirt off her back if any of us needed it. One of her famous saying was, “Blood is blood”. That means, no matter what, your family comes first. That’s my interpretation anyways. We came together as a family on Sundays for breakfast after church and then again for dinner. Once the dinner dishes were cleared, we had an intense game of Poker where my grandfather tried to cheat us all out of our change using marked cards. We had fun, being together as a family each and every Sunday.
My grandparents never went on vacation. They were content to stay home piddling around the yard. They didn’t have a credit card or a checking account. My grandfather paid every single bill the day it arrived in the mail. He drove around town paying all of his bills with cash. They were happy with their home and their car and no debt. They lived a simple life with only one television and no dishwasher. By today’s standards, that all seems odd. My grandparents lived through WWII and left their country for the safety of the States. They didn’t speak the language or know a soul but they built a life for themselves here. Having a lot of stuff simply didn’t matter to them. They were thankful to have their lives and their family. That’s what mattered to them.
As I remember my grandmother, I wouldn’t say she was particularly religious. She only attended church on Christmas and Easter while my grandfather never missed a Sunday. I’m not sure why other than she was home making breakfast for all of us. She believed in God. She knew Jesus died for her sin. She understood the sacrifice He made but I guess she wasn’t evangelistic about it. Instead, she said her prayers every night kneeling by her bed. That is the picture I have in my head of her, kneeling in her blue nightgown. I have to admit, I don’t kneel much when I pray…only when I’m desperate. I believe she was saved because I asked her. And in my heart of hearts, I think she had a deep love for her Savior that she cherished.
My grandparents endured many hardships in their lives but they prospered. Maybe they didn’t have a lot of possessions, but they held tight to the things that mattered to them; their family. They did the best with what they had and seemed to be completely content. A far cry from the American Dream we live these days. When I think of my grandparents, I am proud. I am thankful. They taught me a lot about what truly matters in this life.
“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
(Psalm 23:6 NIV)