I lived with my grandmother, my mother's mother, from the
time I was three until we moved to the United States when I
was five. I'd see my parents and brother on occasion but it
was my grandmother I lived with. I'm not sure why this was;
whenever I asked my parents why I was rebuffed. Even as an
adult, I've asked my aunts but no one has ever given me any
answers. I have some guesses, but I don't know. I'm not
really complaining as I loved my grandmother very much and
feel very fortunate to have had the chance to know her.
Except for my elderly aunts, I think there are few alive who
remember her. But, oh, I do! I do!
She was a grandmother who would patiently answer all my
questions and sing me songs and tell me stories she made up.
She'd bake little pies, just for me. She loved flowers,
especially roses, and was a talented and dedicated gardener
known for her "French" (raised beds) garden. She always had
the first ripe tomatoes. She made the best lemonade. In
the summers, she'd let me stay up late to see shooting stars
and the Northern lights and make brown bread and butter
sandwiches for picnics at the lake. She'd wrap me up in so
many wool clothes and scarves when I'd go out to play in the
winter snow I could barely walk. She could enter my
child-like world without any effort. When her friends came
in the afternoons for tea, which weren't formal affairs at
all, I was always welcome and everyone would make a fuss
over me. She loved to play the piano and she sang all the
I remember the last time I saw her. It was on a dark, snowy
winter morning. We were on the train, my mother, my brothers
and me, getting ready to leave for the United States to join
my father who'd left before us to find a job and a place for
us to live. We were entering the country illegally
(something which was straightened out years later) so my
mother only told me we were going to visit him, not that we
we were going and never coming back; she was afraid I might
say something about going to live with my father at the
wrong moment (we were entering using visitor visas) and be
prevented from entering the country. I can still see my
grandmother standing outside the train window, crying but
still smiling, blowing us kisses as the train began leaving
the station. I couldn't understand all the tears then; I
believed we'd only be gone a few weeks. But she knew that
the truth was we were unlikely ever to see each other again.
She died in 1967.
I never really knew my father's mother very well. My father
didn't get along with his father, a very strict, stern and
authoritarian man beat his children when they were small
and wanted my father to beat us, which he refused to do, so
we seldom saw them. I don't really know much about her either.
The other important grandmother to me came into my life as
an adult. She was John's grandmother; his father's mother.
We shared something no one else did. Both of us were
widows. She and her second husband both knew I was a widow
although no one else in John's family did. Her first husband
had been wounded in World War I, left in the trenches for
three days where he was gassed and came out with shrapnel
near his heart and damaged lungs. He developed TB and
she met him in the sanitarium. They married and had one
child (John's father). Her husband died in 1925, I believe
from pneumonia. She understood my feelings about Steven.
We had a bond no one else shared and I shall always treasure
it. She died in 1987.