While walking, talking or driving - all in a fog - flashbacks of her kissing me at night when I should have been asleep (I waited for her to come from work before I fell asleep), fighting with my mom about cooking bacon or french fries again (from scratch, of course)...making sugar cookies sandwiches with strawberry jelly in the middle... telling me I am the most precious person in the world...These sneak in constantly, unexpectedly. Reminders she is no longer here.
The thing that is the most difficult is, I fear that she did not know how loved she was and what an important impression she made on the world. I never had the chance to tell her as the last time we were together was almost 10 years ago when my husband and in-laws and I visited Poland to meet her. I did write letters, but that is not the same as saying it in person.
I will always be wanting to ask the questions we ran out of time for - what was her youth like? What were her dreams and did she have a chance to fulfill them? What were her struggles? Her accomplishments? Her thoughts about marriage, motherhood, and being a woman in the twentieth century?
What I do know: she lived through World War II on scraps of bread. She learned to not waste a single grain of rice and didn't take anything for granted. Because of this, she was one of the original environmental crusaders. She had three daughters, like me, and a great husband, also like me. She was a fantastic cook and knitter. She was smart, beautiful, and had a great belly laugh. She worked and worked at home and at work and did not complain. This was in the day of no dishwashers, no laundry machines (she was made to get one of those by my mom just a few years back), no microwaves. This was what having a family was. Taking care of them and having to work hard to do it well. She never spent any of the money my parents sent her. She brought most of it back on her many trips from Poland, in addition to the many special treasures for her grandchildren that came with her. She overflowed with generosity and never thought of herself.
It feels like that the pit in your stomach and swelling in my throat will never go away. The tears might flow at any minute, no matter where I am. It is over. Life is so finite. I watch my daughters play and comfort comes from seeing Isabel's determination, Madeline's passion, and Josephine's fierce independence, and recognizing and remembering Babcia Graniak. And I will be reminded to not make the same mistake again - to make sure everyone important to me knows they are loved, they are precious. That was her final gift and it will not taken for granted.