Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

My Grandma died just before her 89th birthday in her home yesterday.

I am 44 years old and until yesterday, both my Grandma’s were still living, so I am one incredibly lucky Granddaughter.

I have two good Grandma’s.

In my experience most people get one good Grandma, that they like, and then a mean Grandma, that they like less.

Is this true?

I was gifted with two very different people for my Grandma’s and I love them both dearly.

Grandma Alvina was my Mom’s mom.

Alvina’s Mom was adopted and came from Poland.

When I had kids we started calling Grandma Alvina Babcia/Busha, which is Polish for Grandma.

I have so many of my Grandma’s qualities that my husband calls me Busha, too.

Especially when I’m in a mood, if you know what I mean.

I don’t mind at all.

I see her in me too.

It’s not always positive, but it is always strong.

My Grandma was the last of her siblings to die and the last of my Mom’s parents to go too.

I feel so sad for my Mom to lose her Mom.

I can’t imagine.

My Grandma was a strong woman and had more faith than anyone I have ever known.

When she met my husband for the first time she sat him down and gave him the business about her beliefs. Lucky for him, he was raised Catholic, so he passed her test.

She prayed and did the Rosary for hours every morning. She prayed for every single person in her family, every single day. I tease that she is now sitting at the right hand of The Father and probably in charge of cleaning up heaven and getting it order. For sure, she is telling God what to do, and how to be more useful. Perhaps criticizing him a bit too.

She was the mother of 7 kids and a fantastic homemaker. I personally don’t think homemaking gets enough credit. Then or now. I immensely valued the work that she did, and that I do too. Even though it goes unpaid, it is the most important work of her life and mine.

She cooked, cleaned, baked, organized, crafted, sewed, mothered and more. She kept the house running. When I was young, she scrubbed the floors on her hands and knees everyday, even when she had company.

My mom would clean our house before she would visit and then my Grandma would clean everything better when she got there.

She cleaned pieces of the stove I didn’t know needed cleaning. She got behind the refrigerator, under the couch, and every nook and cranny. She used to say “if your windows are clean, your whole house is clean!”

I really try to keep my windows clean, because I too, like a clean house.

She kept everything neat and tidy and I loved it. She kept a bit of soapy water in her sink all day so she could clean every dish and surface that needed it along the way.

I do that too, and think of her.

Grandma and I would have made great roommates.

She lived simply, before it was a saying to hang on your wall. She was organic.

She reduced, reused, and recycled before it was on trend. She had a little wooden rack to dry and reuse her plastic sandwich bags that she bought from a church craft fair. Nothing went to waste in her house. She reused greeting cards by cutting and pasting, and I am not talking about a computer function here. She actually cut and pasted cards to use them over again. Every scrap of fabric left over from something was turned into a quilt. If there wasn’t enough it was turned into a lap quilt, if there wasn’t enough, it was turned into a doll quilt, if there wasn’t enough it was turned into an oven mitt, if there wasn’t enough for that, it turned into a cup coaster for your coffee table.

I loved all her little homemade things around her house. She was incredibly talented with a sewing machine. She made me my dress for my Mom’s second wedding. She made me the most fantastic Minnie Mouse costume with a big furry Disney head. It was so awesome she had to make another for my little cousin too.

I loved going to her house. They owned a cheese factory across the driveway. They had a party basement, perfect for playing with my cousins.

My Grandma and Grandpa were square dancers so we had these amazing outfits to dress up in. Fluffy skirts that swung when we twirled, all in a cedar chest that smelled so good when we opened it. They had a piano, and an organ. I taught myself to play “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do, I’m half crazy all for the love of you, it won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage, but you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.” I just loved that song. I could sing it all day long.

They had a ping pong table and a pool table. I got good at ping pong and to this day it’s the only bar game I am willing to play. Speaking of bars, they had an actual bar. With a beer tap and fancy straws and stir sticks. Neon bar lights too. It was so much fun to play bartender. My mom got a surprise 16th birthday party in that basement. What a great memory!

They had a poker table. A real one, hexagon in shape with matching wooden and vinyl chairs. They mostly played Sheepshead.

Their house was the best at Christmas time with all of us huddled in this amazing 70’s basement. They had the orange malm fireplace. My aunt played the guitar and we all sang carols until Santa came. We would hear jingle bells on the roof. I always wondered how they did that, and now I realize the roof was just someone tapping on the first floor.

Big Santa would come down with a “ho, ho, ho” and all of us kids would basically run away and scream. Santa was a family friend named Willy and none of us liked him, I am sorry to say. He tried to date our Mom’s back in the day. We never wanted to sit on his lap. Poor Santa. We felt bad even then, so we would sit for a second and then run away so he could leave.

Then it was time for gifts. Grandma wrapped all her gifts in black and white newspaper. If it was your lucky year you got the color comics.

One year was my lucky year and I got a doll house that was so big it had to be brought out after all the other gifts and it wasn’t even wrapped. Grandpa made the house and Grandma wallpapered all the walls, knit rugs and created all the furniture, and the family that lived there. There were real shingles on the roof. I felt like the luckiest girl around. And I was.

Because my parents were divorced, I split my time between the two families for Christmas.

Divorce was not something my Grandma approved of. She was very Catholic and the only goal for a woman in her day was to find someone who wanted to marry you. Marry rich, if possible.

My mom really didn’t have a lot of support in separating from my Dad at the time. My Dad was much stronger in personality and my Mom is pretty soft spoken.

Still, she had to kick him out of the house and she was afraid of how he might react. My Grandma came down and they packed up his things and put them in his car while he was at work. When my Dad came home and saw my Grandma was there, he didn’t put up a fight.

He was afraid of her! How’s that for Girl Power?

Grandma always had Tang for breakfast at her house. I loved that. She made the best peanut butter scotchie bars. I have the recipe but somehow hers taste better than mine. She made the best beer battered cheese curds in the world. I have that recipe too. She put french onion mix in her burgers. Yum. She had a garden and all her fresh veggie’s would go into what I called “Grandma’s Summertime Soup”. You wouldn’t think soup in the summer would be so good, but with all those fresh vegetables straight from the garden it was incredible!

She moved houses just a couple times in her life. She spent her whole life in the same small town. She liked to travel though. I recently found a letter that she wrote me when I was in college. We were talking about me joining her on a trip to Guatemala to visit her sponsor child.

I felt sad that life happened and we never ended up taking this trip, and I told her so.

We did fly to Colorado to visit my mom. One time, we were upgraded to first class and Grandma said it was because she was wearing a red coat and to always wear a red coat. You better believe I’ve had a red coat ever since! That is real solid advice for anyone who needs it.

The Granddaughter’s tease her about who her favorite is. We all think it’s us. I think it must be me because she gave me her wedding dress. The truth is, I was probably the only one to show interest in it. I like to use this as a bragging point with my cousin’s though. Grandma teases us back and would write on our birthday cards ‘Happy Birthday to One of My Favorite Granddaughters.” She had a great sense of humor. She made me laugh so hard.

I always felt like we were friends. She never seemed like a little old granny to me, even when she was. She was fiercely independent. I didn’t have to dote on her because she had no problem telling people what to do. So even if she was struggling with something I would just sit and wait instead of jumping to help. She would say “Heather, go get my socks and shoes and bring them to me right now.” Then I would jump.

She was a boss.

She was a cheerleader and Prom queen. My Grandpa was a football player and Prom King. That makes for an adorable love story. We still do her high school cheers with her. “Rub a dub, dub, rub a dub, dub, we’ve got Edgar in our tub.”

One time a few years ago, she was calling an ambulance for herself and going to the hospital because she was having a stroke.

Before she called an ambulance however, she called a substitute player for her card club that night!

Her friends always played cards at her house. The card club arrived at the same time as the ambulance. Her friends stayed and played cards while they took my Grandma to the hospital.

I think that is absolutely hilarious. The card game must go on.

She was pretty no nonsense about some of that stuff. She even thought dying during a pandemic might be the right time so no one has to fuss about a funeral. Her funeral has been planned for years. She wrote her own obituary. She was a woman who could take charge, that’s for sure.

Grandma could fix most things, but not everything. Cold water gets a lot of stains out. Bleach works for a few problems. But one time I spilled bleach on my friends’ pants and called her in a panic. “Buy your friend new pants.” was the solution. My iron fell and made an iron mark in the carpet of my apartment, and I called wondering how to get it out.” Put a plant on top of it. If nothing worked, you could always turn to prayer.

She helped me out. She found furniture at rummage sales and cleaned and painted it up for me to use in my first apartments.

When I was pregnant with my first daughter I wanted an expensive dollhouse shaped bookshelf from Pottery Barn. Her and Grandpa were able to make it for me.

She salvaged these gorgeous window frames from a retreat center, and gifted many of us with them. Mine sits proudly on my fireplace mantel, as one of my most prized possessions.

She used plain Dove bar soap and I always loved that clean smell in her bathroom, so I use it too and think of her everyday. She liked the baking soda toothpaste and me too. Covergirl makeup. Same.

I put my night guard in the same little dish with cleaner like her dentures were always in, next to my bathroom sink, just like her.

I have these little pieces of her that also live inside me. I carry her with me and always have.

She was early to bed, early to rise and thought everyone should be the same.

She would sing “Get up, get up, get up you lazy sinnnnnnners, we need the sheets for a tablecloth it’s almost time for dinnnnnner!”

She had one of the first talking cars. It wasn’t quite Kit from Night Rider, but I thought it was so cool, especially for a Grandma.

Friday nights are for fish frys. She liked John Wayne, Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune and Judge Judy. I think Lawrence Welk too, but how boring is that?! I hate to even mention it. Her hair went from jet black to the most beautiful white as she got older.

Most recently she lived in a small apartment. When I would visit, I would sleep on the couch and the cuckoo clock would keep me up all night. I didn’t care. Even then, I knew our sleep overs were limited and I always wanted to remember what it was like to sleep at Grandma’s house.

Plus, I didn’t want to sleep for fear I’d sleep in too long for her preference in the morning!

I didn’t want to start the day with her mad at me already. Haha!

I have that same Big Busha Energy when my family sleeps in and I’ve been up for hours.

She had anger in her life. Me too. So relatable. Being a Mom and cleaning up after everyone. Feeling like you have to control everything. Being hypercritical.

My Grandma was these things too and so am I.

It settled as she aged, but she would still huff and puff. Literally, huff and puff at the end because it was hard for her to breathe. I get that. I stomp around too sometimes. She said it was good to suffer. God Bless her.

She knew the power of forgiveness and apology and she used it. She was reflective and able to flex some of her ideas too.

She opened up to new ways of thinking too, when old ways of thinking had gotten her so far. I think that is really admirable.

I am not Catholic, but she is. I respect and admire her faith. I slip into Catholic cathedrals all over the world and always say a prayer for me and her. I will continue to do that. Now I will also light a candle.

A few nights before she died I couldn’t sleep because I started thinking about her wedding dress and how I wanted to share it with everyone (even though I am obviously the favorite). I had some ideas I was going to run by her. I was visiting my mom in Colorado and I kept having dreams that she died. She wasn’t sick and we had just talked to her on the phone.

Everything was fine.

The day she died, I was sick all day and night, without knowing I was going to wake up and get The Call.

At the time, I didn’t know she was dying and I didn’t know why I was sick.

Now it all makes sense to me.

My body knew. My unconscious knew. My spirit knew.

I know we are connected in spirit, even if I don’t say the same Catholic prayers. I know my Grandma and I will always be connected in this way. I know she is at peace and that brings me peace. I know I was lucky to have her for 44 years, but somehow that doesn’t make her loss less sad for me.

I loved her so much. We thought she was dying on my 40th birthday so we talked on the phone and I said goodbye. Then I got 4 more years. You are never prepared even when you are prepared. It is a shock even if it is not shocking.

She will be remembered. I will tell her stories to my children. And they will someday tell their children.

I will clean my windows. I will wear my red coat. I will say my prayers.

I actually think Grandma is in charge of God now, so I trust that everything is going to be ok. Heaven’s getting a big deep clean, renewed faith, and a sense of humor too.

Rest in Peace Grandma Alvina. You are loved.

Wellness Coach, Speaker and Digital Class Creator. Let’s connect, ask me anything!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store