Wednesday, August 26, 2009


When my mother was married at thirty-two years of age, my paternal grandmother was fifty-two and my maternal grandma was seventy-two. Grandma Foley, Mom's mom, was always sweet. She was Irish, told stories, and spoke in a soft voice. She was precious. Grandma Barvick was Polish, energetic, organized my underwear drawer and spoke with a tone of authority. She was a good woman. They were as different as two people could be.

Grandma Foley and I always had a very special relationship. My Paternal Grandfather and I did as well. My sister once noticed that he never called me Sheila. I refuted that of course he did and she replied, "No. When he speaks of you, it is always... always, My Sheila."

And so it was. I was my Grandma Foley's girl and my Grandpa's Sheila. Grandma Barvick and I were never as close. I owe her a lot and I love her. But I would never call her sweet and I know she would never call me hers.

They are dead now, Grandma Foley and Grandpa. Grandma Barvick is still around at almost 95 years of age. I try to get the kids out to see her every month, but like confession, that is the plan, but it seems to be more like every six to eight weeks instead.

My younger brother is in town and we went out to see GG (Great Grandma) a few days ago. It has been six weeks since we have been there of course. I have made a habit of always asking her who I am. All but once she has said "Sheila." After I got glasses, she thought I was her neice, Renee.

She knew me this time. We took pictures and talked in the library at her nursing home. I got the kids involved in a game of Scrabble and pulled her wheel chair up to the table so she could watch. At one point, she was trying to say something and my sister in law was not sure what it was. I leaned down to hear her now soft voice ask if the kids were cold. I told her no and returned to help the players find words among their tiles for the game. I thoughtlessly reached down and grabbed her hand to hold while I was helping keep the game going.

The way she held my hand. The way she seemed to appreciate having hers held. It can only be described as sweet. Holding my hand, while I made up words like "dirtyell" or gave advice like, "just make 'an'"'was the sweetest encounter we had ever had. Not the most improtant, not the most profound, but the sweetest.

It is all different now. How do I describe her? What will I tell my children about their GG when she is gone?

She made me clean my room.
She let us watch TV.
She was bossy and opinionated and energetic and extremely efficient.
She was a hard worker and a good woman.


When she grabbed my hand when I was young, I knew I was in trouble...
When I grabbed her hand when she was old, I knew she was sweet and I knew I was hers.


  1. You captured GG perfectly. I find myself explaining my dad to Helen and Rose in the same terms I intuitively used to understand grandma: She showed her love through actions, never words. She was always "doing", usually in service of others, though sometimes I think her charitable acts were overlooked because of the abrasive demeanor that accompanied them. I loved her house for it's forbidden delights - endless bowls of ice cream and off-brand cookies and completely unsupervised access to the TV. If my mom ever found out that I was watching Knight Rider and Baywatch! ...but of course she never did because looking back on it, I see now that, as far a grandmothers go, GG was a pretty good partner in crime.

  2. Aunt Ann was my godmother!
    Sometimes I thought of her as my fairy godmother as she never forgot my birthday!
    She loved family/religion/food/marriage/and children.
    CIRCA June 1966:
    Scene: L.A. Hollywood Palladium
    Bernice, Aunt Ann and I go to see Lawrence Welk and his orchestra (as this was a must do for Aunt Ann on this trip). Well, GG orders a round of cocktails called GRASSHOPPERS. We gulp them down soon to find that they really make you get up and dance like grasshoppers(as it is a sip me now pay later drink). The room and dance floor = never the same. Bernice and Ann dancing to polka music & twisting and shouting ---- I drove them home and they didn't get up until Noon. It was a BLAST from the past!
    The Pietrzyk sisters were well known in K.C. and loved big family outings,hairdressers and funny stories.They all loved to cook and socialize.
    CIRCA 2009 JUNE K.C.
    This was the last time I saw my godmother,held her hand,combed her hair got her a drink of water and gave her a big squeeze and kiss.
    Lucky me!
    Interesting sidebar:
    Aunt Ann's obit was published in the K.C. Star on December 2,2009 my mother's birthday.