This family life: an ode to my grandma

For those of you who follow me on Instagram and Facebook, you may already know but for those of you that don’t, this past Friday February 19th would have been my late grandma Gittel’s 91st Birthday. I’ve had a very close relationship with my grandma my entire life. When I was a kid she took care of me while both my parents worked during the day. I have such fond memories and stories about her that I simply would like to share in honor of her.

Swimming pool summers

I was extremely fortunate to have a membership to a pool every summer as a kid. Thanks to this, my grandma would always want me to enjoy my summers off from school. So everyday we would go to the pool. But my grandma was special. She made sure I was fed. How? Well, instead of ordering pizza or relying on take-out, she would bring a legit meal with us. I’m talking snacks, sandwich, and she would always get me ice cream from the ice cream truck. Let’s just discuss this sandwich situation real quick. Most kids had some form of peanut butter and jelly, a staple American kid approved lunch. Who doesn’t love a good pb&j? (Or ab&j for the eclectic bunch). Anyways, I don’t think my grandma understood the deliciousness of a pb&j sandwich, instead she cooked what she knew. Old Ukrainian/Russian dishes. So what kind of sandwich would I get at the pool in the middle of summer? Some katkleti. They are basically cutlets of meat that more or less are the Russian version of a hamburger. But their shape is definitely different than an American hamburger. However, they smell. Or so I thought as a kid. And so I would be incredibly embarrassed that I was eating such a smelly food in 90 degree heat in front of everyone.

Always a phone call away

When I left to go to college out of state it was a difficult transition. Being away for the first time in my life from my parents, that was hard. But what was also hard for me was being away from my grandma. I became so used to visiting her at her nursing home at least once a week, that I had to find a way to continuously talk to her. And luckily I did. Whenever I had a problem, I called my grandma. If I was stressing about an exam, I would call her and she would always share a prayer for me to do well. When I would walk around campus and just felt lonely, my grandma was a phone call away. She always made me feel so loved and we would just talk about everything. From what was happening on her soap operas to what her boyfriend brought her at the nursing home. We talked about relationships and when I was coming to visit her next. And what was so great was that if she was feeling lonely, which often happens when your stuck in a nursing home, she would call me, and I was there to cheer her up. It was like this beautiful mutual friendship that I just adored. It was what we both needed at that time. Both being away from family. We always had each other. And an unspoken bond of being on our own.

Caramel lattes from Starbucks

My grandma didn’t have many vices. She didn’t smoke, she could drink, but it was definitely just on occasion. She was thrifty. But caramel was my grandmas kryptonite. Even though she had diabetes, I couldn’t help but buy her caramel lattes for her when I visited her at her nursing home. Watching that big smile appear on her face when she saw that Starbucks cup made my heart grow 10 times bigger. She grew to love sweets, and sometimes it was all I could do to cheer her up. Show up with something delicious for her to eat. It was a treat. After all she had done for me, I wanted to repay her somehow. To show her all of my appreciation. I would sometimes get her sugar-free treats. But what was important to me was seeing that beautiful smile on her face.

Chef & sous-chef

Being a homemaker was what my grandma lived for. It honestly brought her joy to cook, bake, serve her family. And as a kid, I would just constantly see her making something in the kitchen. Being the curious kid I was, I wanted to help her (and sneak some food in at the same time). I learned how to make cakes, cookies, salads, all these authentic Ukranian/Russian dishes. I’m so grateful that I was curious enough to ask to help. She was always willing to tell me how to make a hamantash the perfect triangle shape. I learned how to fold dumplings correctly, how to make a strudel, and even how to make filo dough from scratch. My grandma was my very own personal Martha Stewart. She allowed my love for cooking and baking to flourish by encouraging me and pushing me to make dishes that intimidated me.

Vacations & Dining Out

As you can see my grandma helped my parents out a lot with me. And so my mom also wanted to show her some appreciation. To acknowledge all the hard work my grandma was doing throughout the year. So we always had family vacations in the summer when I was out of school. We would go somewhere for a week and enjoy ourselves. And we ALWAYS brought my grandma along with us. My grandmas favorite part about traveling? Dining out. Honestly, this woman took her week of vacation as a week off from being the homemaker that she was. She would lay out by the pool, and relish in the fact hat she was being treated to a weeks worth of meals somewhere other than her home. A meal that she didn’t prepare, she was so down.

Basically, my grandma was amazing. She was the hostess with the mostess. I could go on and on about all the stories and memories I have with her. Like our target trips that would literally take HOURS, being the queen of a sale. We would always come out of the store with one too many bags of stuff. Not only was she an amazing woman but her strength was incredible. As a women who fled the USSR with her family to America in hopes of a better life without much of an education and without knowing the language, she made it work. She raised two beautiful daughters and helped raise her two grandchildren and even helped with one of her great-grandkids. I know she was stubborn. But I loved her anyway. She would always make me laugh just by pronouncing something wrong. From various characters on tv shows to simple things like the word “thank you”. For her it was more of a “sank you”. What I loved was that because I was so close with her I could more easily figure out what she was trying to say compared to other family members. I was honored to give her eulogy at her funeral. It was the first time I spoke at a funeral but I held it together. I will always have a copy of that eulogy. Just like I will always remember my grandma as the beautiful, strong, and caring woman that she was. I love you Gittel- thank you for everything, especially for watching over me from up above!❤️

Now, please share below any memories of family members that you have who have passed and what they taught you. If you knew my grandma and have some stories you’d like to share, please share them below. Death is a hard fact of life to deal with and I hope this post can serve as a conversation starter to discuss memories of people who have since passed and remember all the wonderful ways in which they impacted your life. Let’s continue the conversation below. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to get notified of new content.

Thank you, and see you all next week!

Zoya

A 20-something girl on a journey to find herself with hopes of helping others feel their feelings.

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