Open Letter to My Dead Grandmother
I wrote her a letter tonight, but as it's not like she can read it, I may as well make it open. More details here, behind the cut.
Which is weird, because I never wrote letters unless pressed growing up--and yet, here we are.
Well, Na-Na, mom never let me have YOUR poppy seed roll, but the one Laurel Mendes and I made in your honor today was well-beloved by Hrafnar Kindred's goðorð. That's kinda like a parish, only smaller. Oh, and we don't make people wait until after the thingy to eat, we eat during, because we're eating with our gods not...um...you know.
Anyway, they really liked it, and we're all loud and all, but I think you'd'a liked 'em. Like you, they speak up when they like what's going on, and speak up twice as loud when they don't.
Some of them are raising their kids by themselves, like you had to with Mom and my uncles when their dad died. None of them are a nurse like you were, but we have a couple veterinary techs and a physical therapist.
I wish I knew that good Polish curse you used to scare Mom with so I could mutter it darkly when I am frustrated, but nobody I've met who knows Polish knows "when your father gets home, he's gonna smack you in the back of the head so hard your eyes will fly out!"
Still, while I haven't yet gotten up the gumption to come and look for you in Heaven like you asked, I think when I visited your grave and took some earth home with me, I picked up some of the other Wenscos, 'cos ever since then, I have more interest in Central and Eastern European cooking than I used to. I wish I knew more about them; because I don't, they're kinda hard for me to hear, but they talk to me in food, and even though I'd never made anything like a poppy seed roll, I muddled through better than I should have. Next time I will listen when they tell me to use an egg wash, and maybe I'll turn the oven a little hotter.
I think of you whenever I go to a hospital to visit one of my people who's sick or having a baby. When my friend Boris had cancer, he was in a Catholic hospital, so I thought of you a /lot/.
I am sorry I liked the other grandmother's chewy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies better than your crunchy chocolate chip walnut cookies. I only recently realized how much it must have hurt you that what I liked most was the time with you and banging on the nut chopper, not the actual cookies. I wonder if what I like best about the other grandmother's chewy cookies is that they were always the first thing we got when we burst in her door from an eight-hour drive, and a shoebox more of them with every holiday. She's still with us, but I think she may have baked her last cookies; I know she's written her last letter.
I hope you like how I make the spaghetti sauce that you passed to mom and tried to teach me. The next time I make it, I will try to find the time to make the bracioles that you like to put in (and Mom doesn't).
I will never forget that you /always/ took the time to find The Right Ingredient when it came to special meals, and never mind that that meant going to the West Side Market way far away in the middle of town. You showed me my first farmer's market, and that Polish sausage you gave me was the spiciest thing I have eaten before or since, and damn if I don't love you for it.
I will never forget that you taught me that relationships are important: not just within a nuclear or extended family, but with long-term family friends who run businesses, like the Heyduks who used to run the flower shop down on Lorain. I bet you had many of these, and I wish I'd known about more of them.
My eyes may be the color of my father's people, but the part where I need glasses was Mom's, and, I think, yours. That's all right: it reminds me that I have to look /sharper/, because every morning and evening, I have moments when I can't.
I love you, Na-na. I wish I knew how to express it better when you were alive, but I'm very, very happy that we got to meet in Florida before you died, and after I was grown enough that we could see one another as adults.
I hope to make you proud of me, in all ways but a great-grandchild.
While I never met him, my best to your first husband, my grandfather.
Your Apple Dumpling