Early this past Sunday morning I received a call from my dad that my Grandma Mary had passed away. Sad as it was to hear this news, in many ways her death can be seen as a blessing. For the last number of years, Grandma had a long, hard battle with Alzheimer’s, which crippled her ability to remember anyone or anything. In spite of her illness, I enjoyed visiting with her in her nursing home and looked forward to giving her a hug, getting to hear her laugh and (if I was lucky) getting to hear her sing some random Polish song.
Grandma Mary was a farm girl at heart and could always be found in the garden picking peas or tending to the flowers around her house. She was also one heck of a cribbage player (she even got a ‘29’ once), and made the world’s best paska, perogies, and cinnamon buns. My earliest memories of Grandma were getting up early to watch the Queen get up and playing a game of cribbage before getting ready for school. She always cleaned up house and defiantly didn’t take it easy on me and my brothers because we were kids.
Dad and I used to take Grandma to A&W for burgers and onion rings on a fairly regular basis. I remember one time in particular. While we were eating, a young man walked in with big muscles covered in tattoo’s. He was wearing a muscle shirt, combat boots and had a rather large crucifix hanging from his neck (aka ‘bling‘). Grandma (who also happened to be a very devout Catholic) saw the young man and a huge smile grew on her face. She yelled out (as I attempted to divert my eyes from this intimidating individual) “What a nice young Christian man!” She then made an effort to introduce herself to this man, but was held back by dad. (As I reflect on this, I notice that I judge this man without even knowing who he was. Who knows, he could have been a priest-in-training or something like that. Note to self: don’t judge.)
Even though Alzheimer’s had damaged Grandma’s ability to process and remember, she sometimes had moments of perfect clarity. One such time happened once while visiting grandma in her nursing home. The times we spent visiting usually had a similar pattern. We would go to her room, get Grandma, and wheel her down to one of the homes common areas. We would then bring out some of the snacks (usually cookies or chocolate to satisfy grandmas sweet tooth) we had brought and have coffee with her. One time Grandma, who had been singing to herself in Polish, noticed my wedding ring and with perfect conviction and clarity stopped singing, looked me right in the eyes, and said “Now that you’re married, you better keep your eyes off those other women!” Good advice. Then she went back to singing.
Grandma Mary has taught me a lot of different lessons. She taught me that life isn’t always going to be easy but that if you work hard, live a life of love, and keep your faith, you will be blessed. She was a wonderful woman and though I will miss her for the time being, I am happy that she is now in a place where she has her mind back and she can be with her husband and those who have gone before her. She is probably kicking butt at cribbage, working on her garden, and laughing. I love you Grandma.
If you would like to see Grandma’s obituary, it can be found here.