Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Virgina Piorkowski

Valentine's Day started off great, the boys loved their little trinkets and Kevin made us all homemade waffles. I had plans to meet up with my sister to head out to Oxford to visit my Grandma. After the visit we would meet up with the husbands and children and all have dinner at the Rochester Brewery.

When I arrived at my sister's house, it was clear that everyone had been crying. My sister was extremely choked up and broke the news to me that my Grandma had passed away. Grandma moved to an assisted living home where my cousin works as the director. She has been there for about 5 months. Her overall health and ability to live on her own has been deteriorating for the past year. She really seemed to like her new place and was in better spirits than she was when she was living on her own. Although she had been growing weaker with age, she had no major health issues whatsoever.

My niece, Claire, had spoken to her around dinner time the day before. She said she wasn't feeling well, but anyone who knows my Grandma knows she never feels good. She could be a bit of a hypocondriate. The assisted living community calls their residents every morning to make sure that they are okay, and Grandma didn't answer the phone. They sent someone to check on her and discovered that at some point after her dinner, she collapsed. The medical examiner concluded (without an autopsy) that she suffered from either a stroke or cardiac arrest.

I felt very sad but at the same time I couldn't help but feel pissed off. Not at my Grandma, but at the whole chain of events. We had gone to a birthday party two weeks ago close to her home and I called her that day after the party asking if we could come visit. As I mentioned earlier, she often didn't feel good and that day she said she didn't want any visitors. So we missed out on an opportunity to see her that day, and then on the day Tina and I planned to visit her she passed away. I spoke to her on the phone about a week ago and I'm frustrated that I can barely remember our last conversation. She called while I was dealing with crabby boys and I'm sure I was short with her but other than that, I can only remember a couple of things that she said.

The last time I actually saw her was Christmas and that was just a week and a half after my jaw surgery and I was feeling miserable and not exactly in the moment. So that's why I am pissed. People you love aren't just supposed to disappear out of your life without a proper goodbye. The whole situation just feels so unfinished, I was supposed to see her on Sunday. I was supposed to give her my undivided attention because I was coming alone, without any distractions. I know for certain I would have kissed her goodbye and told her I love you.

My Grandmother was complicated. When my mother was pregnant with me, my Grandmother experienced a nervous breakdown of sorts. She worked at a bank and something triggered her and after that she became very mentally fragile. She developed agoraphobia (sp?), a fear of being in public places, and suffered through bouts of depression. I have always known her to be very up and down. During a majority of childhood I have nothing but wonderful, warm memories of her. She often took Tina and I for the weekend. She and my Grandfather spoiled us rotten as we were their only grandchildren. She spent time teaching us to crochet, bake and took us shopping. She never said no. Always slipping us a couple of dollars or some kind of chocolate treat. I always knew how much she loved Tina and I, she never let an opportunity pass to tell us.

Even as a thirty something grown woman, my Grandma still gave me chocolate bars. She was generous, friendly and kind. She was also vain, stubborn and difficult. She was 100% Polish and along with that came crazy superstitions and a very unhealthy obbession with cleanliness. It also meant delicious polish dinners, angel wings and homade periogis.

She was very much up and down. As a I grew older she had more bad days than good. It was a slow spiral after my Grandfather died of cancer when I was 15. The past five years, the good days were far and few between. She increasingly became paranoid about living alone and no matter how often we visited or picked her up and brought her to our homes to visit we could never relieve her feelings of lonliness. When she called us on the phone, she usually ended up in tears, she struggled with anxiety daily. It consumed her and she was no longer able to carry a normal conversation. Our conversations strictly revolved around her anxiety and medications she was taking and usually ended with her mad at one of us because we weren't doing enough to help her. It had become a tragically sad situation, she was in a place that none of us could pull her out of.

But every now and again, she would call and not have a care in the world. I would catch glimpses of the Grandmother I remembered and cherished. It would remind again of just how lovely she really could be and how much of her life she dedicated to her family. I'm thankful for the those conversations, because they gave me the patience to handle the "other" phone calls. As I have reflected on her life the past couple of days, it's been all about the good times. I haven't even given too much thought to the past five years and how difficult it has been rather I find myself remembering her generousity and love. It's interesting how the love can trump everything else.

1 comment:

Tina said...

Tammy,
That was a wonderful tribute to Grandma. I read this post at work today and I am working hard to keep away the tears. You captured her spirit and my memories of her so well. And I whole-heartedly agree that I will miss my Grandma and my kids miss their Great-Nanny.