Sunday, July 26, 2015

In Memory of Dolly

So I'm finally ready to do this. I'll start with a question. Have you ever felt both extreme loss and happiness, both in the same moment? Think tears of sadness mixed with joy. That's been my odd experience handling the death of my Grandma Dolly earlier in July.
I always wished that I had my Grandma's blue eyes!

This woman drew a thread through the cloth of my life, weaving a pattern that shaped who I am today. She never took credit for it either-every one of my accomplishments was my own, even the smallest ones. Did she ever know how much she did for all of us? I hope so.

This blog post is for her

Her adventurous daughter Patty became sick. It was just the time too-around thirteen girls might find themselves changing. But this pain turned monstrous, landing her in the hospital. There in the adult ward they diagnosed appendicitis, fully curable with a few antibiotics. Patty hid those pills in her robe pocket, and they spilled onto the floor when they pulled her fragile body from the hospital bed. Grandma lost her only daughter, and the torture of continuing on seemed almost unbearable. "Some days I just put one sock on, then the other. Then a shoe. Then the other. A dress. Breakfast. Laundry. My two little boys...I had to tell that they lost their sister." Before I was born she taught me her strength, of rising to meet life when death had taken so much.
My Dad, Patty, and Uncle

Years later she found herself in another situation. Her two boys, my Dad and Uncle, grew into healthy, handsome men. My Dad in particular, athletic and outgoing, met a pretty Mexican girl at school. They sent love letters back and forth, loving in a youthful arrogance. Just after high school that pretty girl became pregnant, usually a hushed thing when involving unmarried parents. Grandma laughed "See Mo, it's a miracle!" Not long before, her husband, my Grandpa, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. My Grandpa's response? "No, not a miracle. They were just upstairs messing around..." Perspective, another of Grandma's lessons.
She loved going on the boat with my Grandpa

And then I was born, a great screaming December baby. I was immediately the apple of my Grandpa's eye, the only grandchild he would ever meet. His face lit up whenever I visited, no matter how sick he felt. The breathing tubes and hospital visits faded away with the sight of my chubby cheeks. Grandma cared for him at home, watched his life's light wane as mine glowed. She saw him die in his living room chair. From that moment on, her children and grandchildren would be her life.
She never remarried, and always missed him

We set the table, my sister and I, one of my earliest memories. The napkins folded just so. The little metal pitcher that kept the milk cool. Blueberry pancakes! Bread from the bakery! Bacon, thick-cut! We ate until out little tummies couldn't take another bite, and then we helped with the dishes. Lunch and dinner passed much the same with, with italian sausage, potatoes, and more bread. I picked chives from a pot beside the house. Oh my goodness this woman taught me to eat, to enjoy food to the fullest.
Adventure? Check

I remember the day Princess Diana died. My sister and I were at her little cottage, asleep in an upstairs bedroom. I awoke to her gentle prodding, "Come downstairs, you need to see this." My nine year old self didn't fully comprehend the tragedy, just the tea, cookies, and sunrise on the lake under a bundle of blankets. She needed my sister and I to "witness" the event, an otherwise ordinary day in America that had torn a family in England. She taught me to look, see, and remember.
Grandma and her only attempt at sledding

A visit from college, another trip to the cottage. We stopped for tea and baked goodies along the way. She settled in to her comfy chair overlooking the lake. The sun set on our conversation, my personal bragging time for my Grandma. I told her about my grades, my activities, my future as a teacher. She slapped her knee at it all, "That's my Granddaughter! A mover and a shaker! Just like her father." Grandma Dolly taught me to push, go above and beyond anyone's expectations. In her eyes I could do anything in the world, with that last name "Mrozek."
My sister and I with Grandma

Time has a way of speeding up and slowing down at odd intervals. Grandma became sick this past December, requiring numerous hospital visits and the eventual sale of her beloved cottage. I watched the ups and downs of extended medical care. I pushed her in a wheelchair at a nursing rehabilitation center. We both sized up a handsome nurse working on her floor.

Do you remember Greenfield Village this year? I had the opportunity to set up my shop in the main street, a unique privilege. What I didn't mention was the visit from Grandma, her last time leaving the assisted living center before she died. She walked around, my Dad's arm steadying her, marveling at my jewelry. She kept asking "Did you do that all yourself Kristen?" It was hard to see her so sick. I participated in the fashion show too. She sat in her wheelchair in the crowd, tired but proud.
Grandma loved hearing about my shop

And eventually the dialysis became too much. She was ready to see my Grandpa, her little daughter Patty. Her parents, brothers, a beloved nephew. Grandma told me she wanted to rest, and asked if it was okay, "Yes Grandma," I said, not crying in that moment. "We've had you for so long! It's their turn again." It seemed a thousand years away.
We ate so well at The Eagle Tavern the year before!

But it wasn't. I said goodbye to her before I left for Mexico, knowing it might be the last time we spoke. Not too long after that she stopped speaking, eating, and moving. She laid in the bed quite still, somehow hanging on to her existence here on earth. One of the hospice nurses, Pat (Patricia) helped my Dad and Uncle care for her. They agreed that she waited for my sister and I to return so we could say goodbye one last time.

I found her on her deathbed, gently snoring. I stroked her cheek and her eyebrows twitched. The family joked and talked about who her favorite grandchild was. My Dad sat with a very blank expression, looking at his hands. Grandma was not really there, but kind of. The thin veil between life and death became nearly sheer. I could feel things in the room, things I could not find words for or explain. I said "I love you," one last time, knowing full well it would be the last. I took home her wooden clock that began ticking again on my shelf. My Grandma died on July 3rd in her sleep.
This will go in the room when I get married

Life meanders on in the summer heat. Yesterday we buried Grandma's ashes just above Grandpa's coffin. They're under a tree in a peaceful cemetery, not far from where they both lived. Afterwards we went out to eat at a place that serves delicious bread. It's one of those Polish traditions that I plan to continue with my future family. Until then I'll do my best to honor her memory.

I'll do my best to move and shake the world for her.



  1. A beautiful tribute to your grandmother.
    You are doing her proud.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss...she sounds like an amazing lady. I'm sure she is so, so proud of you!

  3. Thanks everyone! She'd probably be shaking her head, mumbling that I need to get back to my research and not to worry about her!



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