Thursday, January 24, 2019

This Day in Astronomy

Are we certain about that, astronomy calendar?

I mean, I was pretty young back then, but this seems like the kind of thing I would have remembered.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Remembering Lois Wanisko

My Grandmother passed away on Monday night, just a few minutes before the new year. This is the eulogy I delivered on Friday morning.

Whenever I would talk about my grandparents, I would always refer to them as “Grammy and Papa”, in that particular order. I loved my Papa as much I've ever loved anyone, but nobody who knew them would dispute the fact that Grammy was in charge of the family, so Grammy came first.

And, for the record, it's spelled G-R-A-M-M-Y. Not -I-E. Sometimes even Grammy misspelled her own name with an -IE.

Grammy loved snowmen. I think. She had a lot of them anyway. I used to wonder if she has received an unwanted gift of a snowman in her youth, which would have led other people to believe that she liked snowmen when in fact she didn’t, which would in turn lead to more snowmen and perpetuate the cycle, but then I thought about that and realized that this didn’t make sense. If Grammy didn’t like something, she was never afraid to let you know.

In addition to snowmen, Grammy liked the disgusting parts of the animal. I always figured that this came from the fact that she was one of the younger siblings in a Depression era family. But Grammy loved her turkey necks and pig’s stomachs and pig’s knuckles. I happened to be up at the Allentown Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago and I called her to see if she wanted me to pick up anything from the Amish butchers up there.  She didn’t; she said she could no longer eat that kind of food. I didn’t really think much of that, but now it makes me almost indescribably sad, that she was denied something so central to her identity before she passed.

My father once said that he could imagine his mom without his dad, but not his dad with without his mom. And that's the way it was. Papa passed away almost twenty years ago, and Grammy went on. She talked about how she missed him, how she would be watching TV and she'd turn to talk to him and his chair would be empty. I think we're all going to have those moments relating to Grammy in the coming weeks.

I've thought a lot about my Grammy's family since then. She outlived a lot of people. It seemed like she would live forever. She had so many siblings and she watched her family dwindle over the years.

Except the family didn't dwindle. Life is made up of meetings and partings. The children and grandchildren and yes, great grandchildren she had raised over the years spread into the world to start their own branches of the family.

She loved us, but she wasn’t possessive of us. As my brothers and I settled into steady relationships, she didn't want to compete with the other side of the family, so the boys would always go to our partners’ families on Christmas Day and the family would hold Wanisko Christmas later on. Usually after New Years, but circumstances conspired to make us hold it early. I thought it was something of inconvenience at the time, no raiding the after Christmas sales for bargains, but it gave us one last Christmas together and I'll always be thankful for that.

Grammy and Pop owned a family business for a long time.  We called it The Shop and spent many summers there. They serviced video games and sold candy, which is pretty much the best childhood imaginable.

Later on, the town bought the building through eminent domain and made it into a firehouse. When I was little, I was so angry about this that I wanted to burn it down, but even then, I realized that this was a plan that would have little chance of success.

We used to have family picnics at her house back when she still owned the shop. On Easter, the kids would go across the street to play baseball with the adult men of the family in the parking lot of the shop, and when we got back the Bunny would have hidden the eggs. You can imagine how frustrating that was. I would just miss seeing him every single year.

Speaking of holidays, my most enduring childhood memory of Grammy and Papa was on Christmas Eve. We would usually go down to visit them at their house in Phillipsburg, but they would always come up on Christmas Eve to give us one present. If I ever need to provide evidence that I had a happy childhood and grandparents who loved me, it's this memory, right there.

I was watching television with Jen and Lily, and someone on the program was asked how she deals with the pain of departed loved ones. She replied, “I carry them with me. What they would have thought, and said, and done. Make them a part of who I am. So even though they’re gone from the world, they’re never gone from me.”

And now Grammy is gone. She had ninety years, and I was lucky enough to share more than forty of them with her but still I wanted more time. She got what everyone gets. She got a lifetime, and she made the most of it. I’ll love you and I’ll miss you and I’ll never ever forget you. You’re at peace now.

And I hope pig stomach is on the menu up in heaven tonight.