Throwback Thursday – Little Polish Grandma

Our maternal Grandma was always a bit of a mystery to us. She was deeply religious, we never saw her wear pants, and I don’t think she had a lot of fun in her life. 

That’s why I named all of my motorcycles after her: Bernice, B1, B2 etc. It was never lost on me that I had choices and freedoms that she didn’t, or didn’t allow herself to have. Grandma was widowed young and left with four children to raise. Her life, it seemed, was full of fear. But on a rare occasion we could catch her in a big smile.

picture from the 70s of our ancient, birdlike Grandma with baby Kevin on her lap and me, a toddler, sitting beside her. All are smiling.

Kevin and I were a little nervous when we were left alone with Grandma Z. She always seemed frail and like she wouldn’t be able to protect us. One day, when our parents were on a trip and Grandma was staying with us in our house, a man from Jehovah’s Witness came to the door. In her special brand of English-Polish, she told him he wasn’t coming in, but he was having none of it. I clearly remember Kevin and I huddled behind the front door wondering if this big man was going to push his way past our little, bird-like Grandma. We peered around to see what was happening in time to see the man’s fingers curl around the door frame and Grandma push the door open a bit and slam it back on his knuckles. He cried out and quickly retreated to his car.

Way to go Grandma!

She died in 1987 after a series of strokes. I don’t believe I truly got to know her well, although we visited often and when I got my own car, I’d go see her on my own. One of my favourite memories is of my Dad teasing her about having a boyfriend and how she’d blush and laugh. I don’t think she ever dated anyone after my grandfather died, when my Mom was just ten years old. It’s sad that life was so hard for her. But she was certainly tougher than she looked.


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