She was everything a grandmother should be. She took us by bus to all kinds of places, including the Detroit Zoo. Belle Isle was our favorite though. I loved those bus trips with her. It was always an adventure. I loved going downtown with her, looking up at the huge buildings, hearing the sounds of the traffic and the people passing by. We would walk from her house, south of McGraw..to Michigan Avenue to catch the bus. We passed all kinds of people along the way, and she always had a word for each person we passed, often in another language. Her neighborhood was multicultural...lots of immigrants...and they taught each other their languages and customs.
She kept Bazooka Bubble Gum in a candy dish and Town Club pop in her cellar in the basement. And we could have as much as we wanted when our parents weren't around. I can't tell you how many times we stuffed as many pieces of gum as we could chew, trying to blow the world's biggest bubble. Or how many times she had to cut it out of our eyebrows and hair! She kept packets of M&M's in her dresser. Every kid in the neighborhood would be at her door to get their weekly chocolate fix...plain for some, peanuts for others.
We loved to spend the night at her house. She had the coziest "feather tick" (comforter) on the spare bed. She used to let me explore her closets and dress up in her hats. She had a navy lace dress and lace shoes. She had a box with hankerchiefs edged in lace and lots of pairs of gloves. I think the only piece of jewelry she owned that wasn't costume jewelry was her wedding band, but I loved her jewelry and nothing was off-limits...I could play dress up with it all. When I was a teenager, I asked her for one of her old coats. It was black and came down to just above my ankles. She couldn't believe I wanted that old thing...but I loved wearing it. I am sure I thought I looked very cool.
She cooked alot of big meals for the holidays. Traditional Polish meals with homemade pierogi, ham, fresh and smoked kielbasa, rye and pumpernickel bread and real butter. My grandfather converted their wood burning stove to gas and my grandmother had one stove going in the basement as well as the other stove in her kitchen. Her dining room table was long and was always beautifully set with a linen table cloth. We only used that table for eating on the holidays. Otherwise, they were kitchen people. There was a swinging door between the dining room and kitchen, but it was usually propped open. The walls of the living room and dining room were filled with pictures of grandkids and art that my mother had done.
Everything about my grandmother was homey and welcoming. But she was also strong. It took alot of courage to make that voyage to America as a 16 year old. She continued to display that strength throughout her life. Once, after she was widowed, a guy broke into her basement. When she unlocked the door to go outside...he was there waiting for her. He held a knife to her throat and demanded money. She calmly asked him if he was hungry. She fixed him something to eat. When he was done, he tried to rape her. He tied her up and told her he was going to kill her after he found her money. While he was looking through another part of the house, she was able to untie her hands and run out the front door. She screamed for help and a neighbor grabbed his shotgun and came to her aid. I never heard her talk about being scared or wanting to leave her home. She just took life as it came. Once, an Arabic family moved into a house across the alley. Some of the neighbors weren't too happy and kept writing threatening messages on the garage. Until the day they set the garage on fire. Now, in her neighborhood, the homes were so close together that a fire at one house could threaten several houses. So at 6 in the morning, my grandmother stood and battled the fire with her garden hose after calling the fire department. This was her neighborhood and she would do what she could to protect it. I still have to laugh at the thought of that...she was always such a lady. But a tough one. I think all of her ten grandchildren considered her the rock of our family.
Most of all though, I loved the hours and hours that my grandmother and I spent just talking...just being together. We talked about everything under the sun. I could listen to her stories over and over. We shared our dreams, the ones she realized, and the ones she hoped for me. When I got married, I asked her to be matron of honor. After all, isn't that reserved for one's best friend? She was afraid she might get sick...she often got sick in crowds and wasn't sure if she would hold up throughout the ceremony. We both often talked about the day she would hold my baby...but that day never came. She died before I was ever to get pregnant. Other than that, the only regret I have with my grandmother was that I was not with her on the night she died. She was able to live in her own home until she collapsed one November. After 3 months in the hospital, she had to go to a nursing home. She was only there for a few weeks until her heart began to fail. They sent her out to the hospital and I got a late night call. My brother told me she was dying, but that I should stay home...she would probably not live long enough for any of us to get there. I had talked to my grandmother about Jesus many, many times in the past. And while I was sure she was in His hands, how I longed to be with her and just hold her hand and pray for her while she was leaving this life. Instead, I got down on my knees and just prayed that God would send an angel to be with her and help her.
I see alot of my grandmother in my daughter, my other best friend. My girl wants to travel the world. She is quiet and understated yet very strong. She is alot of fun and we spend hours and hours talking, just sharing our thoughts and dreams. I wish they could have known each other. I am fortunate to have had them both.
Thanks for sharing my grandmother with me!
Image taken from here.