perogies, bingo & lavendar

she was born into a family of boys. she was the youngest. her parents were hard ukrainians from eastern europe. vegreville is where she called home, on a farm. she made a doll; her mother thought it was a waste of time for her to play. so when the doll was found, at the tender age of 5 or 6, her mother destroyed it.

she led a hard life, at such a young age...having to milk cows, clean the house, make meals. seems so wrong. but how did she know otherwise?

when the opportunity came to marry, at the age of 13 to a man 6 years older from romania, she fled her life with her family..perhaps in hopes of something more.

they married and 2 years later, when she was almost 16, they had their first child, a daughter..from there, they had 4 more children, 3 boys and lastly, another girl.

they lived on the "flats" in south burnaby, along the fraser river....william, her husband, built their house..they had land, something each were used to working on as youngsters. he worked on the tugs, she raised babies and cleaned.

this was their life..a good life..a hardworking life..a life filled with love for each other and their family.

years past and their children, one by one left home and then married and had their own children.

their first-born, anne was a nurse, and finally settled down with maurice. anne had two lovely daughters.

their next child and first son, steve was married to a fine lady annie..they had two children and lived in vernon for many years. [in fact, when i was young my brother and i would go there in the summer to visit and stay for a few weeks. i can honestly not remember if it were just one summer or seemed like every was wonderful..those were great memories for me.]

then there was eddie...eddie, had two sons and married lovely joanie. he was a captain of a ship..fitting that he watched his father go to see every day on the tugs. he and his joan found home in nanaimo, on vancouver island.

the last boy, walter, married a stunning woman named sandra. walter worked on the tugs..just like his papa. they had 3 boys..and then adopted a princess and lived in gibson's, on the sunshine coast.

finally there was the baby of the family, victoria, born, well, on victoria day. she married and had a son. years later her and her husband parted ways. i still remember their house on chesnut in new west..that 70s wallpaper..oh ya.

their stories far and wide..their stories full of joy, and full of pain..full of life and full of sorrow..

william's wife would single-handedly make ukrainian christmas dinners every year. and everyone would all file into their little home, on devoy street in new west. they moved their from the flats. she would make the perogies, the cabbage rolls, the nutchingka (a dish made with cornmeal and cinnamon), jellied meat, turkey, and the works. that tiny house would be filled with laughter, stories, and so much family. that was what every christmas looked like.

then in 1987 william, after leading an amazing and hardworking life, died suddenly one morning while playing solitaire with cards. he loved solitaire. every morning he would wake up, get his coffee and cigarette and play solitaire. it is just what he did. and his wife would wake up a bit later and join him with her coffee and they would sit and watch the news bring in the morning.

however this morning was a different morning. she found him leaned back on the couch with his cards in his hand. william had died of a heart attack at the age of 76. in 76 years he had with his family, fled romania to vegreville, met his wife, had 5 children, worked decades on the tugs, built their first home on the flats, travelled to reno with his wife and friends yearly to gamble, stripped wire in his garage to get the copper and take it in to sell, had a garden that yielded the most amazing fruits and vegetables around.. yes, william led a great life.

and now his wife, dear sweet emily, continued hers alone. her poor broken heart. they celebrated many decades together. great grandmother.
i was her first great grand child.
there's something special in that you know? at least i figured there was. she loved me more than i could imagine.

i would visit her often; we would go play bingo. i had my own bingo stampers. i always seemed to miss numbers..but i never lost out; grama emily would be looking over my shoulder and when i did miss one, she smack her stamper on my paper and say, "you missed one" in her cute little ukrainian accent.

she sold the house on devoy; there now lives a couple of huge condos. i pass that lot and remember all the memories. oh how i wish that house was still there. i'd buy it.

gramma moved from the house on devoy to an appartment near the shopping centre in new west. she lived there for many years.
she slowly started to age..and finally had to move out. her daughter, victoria, took her in to her condo and there she lived the last, oh, 6, 7 years.

it was in these years that she her age started to catch up with her. she would say, everytime i visited her, "i wish the good lord would just take me away. i'm good for nothing".

the years of milking her parents cows..the babies she had, when she herself, was but a baby..the gardens they planted on the their land..the years she worked for the coffee company and house cleaned..the christmas dinners she would make. they were all catching up and soon, dear gramma emily was very frail.

it wasn't til this year, that it was all too much; gramma needed 24 hour care.

i remember visiting her several times.
i remember the last time i visited her, at the beginning of june.
it was just me and her. i remember my great aunt victoria said gramma's hearing was really bad, so i would have to talk very loudly.
today was no different.

"hi gramma, it's tracey", i said, almost so loud i thought for sure that the entire floor heard me.

she looked at me. studying my face. trying to recall who this girl was in front of her.

we continued this one for about 10 more minutes. then she said, "oh tracey. how are you?"

she remembered. even if just a little, she remembered.

i caressed her thinning thick grey locks; so this is where i got my thick hair from.
i held her tiny hands in mine; this is NOT where i got my hands from. :)
i touched her wrinkled cheeks, her soft forehead.
she watched me, her eyes telling me so much, yet she said nothing at all.

this was the woman who i visited and got hugs from..who fried up left over hand-made perogies for me for lunch..who took me on the bus to bingo at night..who gave me her jewelry..who brought me decks of cards and little souvenirs from her reno trips..who showed me how her old ring washer worked..who always had a pocket full of cinnamon hearts or sunflower seeds..who liked to wear button up sweaters..who i'd watch get herself ready in her little bathroom on devoy..the one who taught me how to say i love you in ukrainian - "ya lube you teba"...

here she lie...motionless...breathing slowly...eating very little.

i offered her some of her juice, she drank it a couple times then shook her head no.

i didn't want to leave her.
there was lavendar lotion on her bedside table.
her bedside table, full of her things; a photo of great grampa, flowers, a baby doll.
a baby doll..the baby doll that her daughter victoria gave her only since gramma moved in with her.
she had told victoria about the story of her mother throwing away her doll.
my great gramma never had a doll. so victoria bought her one.
and there it sat, on her bedside table of her room in the pallative care floor.

i took the lotion and opened the top.
lavendar..not my favorite scent, by far.
in fact it gives me instant headaches.
yet for some strange reason, it didn't today.

i started to lotion her hands. she watched me, our eyes meeting and so much was said.
i rubbed the lotion into her little old frail hands and thought to myself, "wow, what these hands have done"..
their many years of working & loving.

then suddenly i had a thought: this was going to be the last time i see my great gramma.
i knew it.

i embraced her and told her i loved her, ya lube you teba, my babushka, i'd say. she kept telling me with her little voice, "i love you too.. thank you for coming to visit me."

i remember how hard it was to leave that room...i didn't want to...

i cried all the way down the hall, silently.

it was a week later that she passed away. she was 93 years old. nothing prepares you for death.
i was so thankful that i had taken photos of her that day with my iphone. and that i had spent that
half hour with her. that i was able to say "goodbye" to my little gramma.

yesterday we buried her ashes with my grampa at valley view cemetary in newton, surrey. she didn't want a service or anything. but a few of us went and buried her ashes. it was so moving for me. my kids and hubby were there; they all had a special relationship with gramma emily...she loved jonathan like her was with caleb that we did a 5 generation photo everytime we could, and miss rosie, born annarose emily, she was named after her and loved little gramma so very much.

i brought a couple photos to lay at her grave - one of her and i 20 years ago..and one of us the week before she died.

and of course, i brought lavendar.


Fran Chelico said...

that was beautiful tracey...sorry for your loss...she sounded like such an amazing woman.

jeanie said...

oh hon.
❤ ❤ ❤

Chris said...

hugs for you...

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