I was sitting here reading blogs just wasting time till I felt like heading up to bed. And it hit me. It happens to me every now and then, out of the blue. I think of my YiaYia Helen.....and I start to cry. I think of her all the time and usually I am fine. But once in a while it just really hits me hard and I start to cry. That happened to me tonight. Then I composed myself and just felt the urge to write. To write about how much I love and miss my YiaYia. I wish I could post a picture right now so you could see how beautiful my YiaYia was but I don't have a scanner right now, and when she was well it was in my pre-digital days.
YiaYia passed away a few years ago. She suffered from dementia and had to live in a nursing home for several years prior to her passing. She was 91 when she left this earth, so she lived a good long life, thank God. The dementia started setting in, though, in her 80's. It was slow to take hold so we still had a lot of good years with her. But eventually she just wasn't the same. When she did pass, though it was heartwrenching and so very hard, deep down we all knew it was time. And really, I am damn lucky that I had my beloved grandmother till I was 36 years old! A lot of people aren't as fortunate.
But I don't want to think of her death. I want to think of her life, and of what a life it was! Not that it was easy. She worked till she was in her 80's! She was a hairdresser and owned her own cute little shop.
Everyone loved my YiaYia. Everyone! And she loved people. She was the most warm, the most loving, the funniest, silliest lady there ever was. And oh did she love her family. Her love for all of us was fierce! And my brother and I were the luckiest two grandchildren ever because we were her only grandchildren! We only had to share her with each other!
I have so many fond memories of my YiaYia. While I was growing up both my Mom and my Dad had to work full-time. But there was no daycare or teenage babysitters for us. Nope! We had our both our YiaYia's and our Papou to take care of us! And we were with our YiaYia Helen the most. She was there waiting for us when we got home from school. If we needed to go somewhere she would drive us. She would make us a snack. She would play with us. She would do whatever we wanted. We always had so much fun!!!
Many Saturday nights our parents would get together with friends. That meant my brother and I got to sleep over YiaYia's house!!! We had a routine. She would make us a yummy dinner (she was the BEST cook!), we had our baths, then we watched...wait for it...the Lawrence Welk Show!!! lolol OK, it wasn't our favorite but our YiaYia loved it. Plus, we knew once we sat through that she was going to let us watch "The Love Boat" AND "Fantasy Island." And then it meant we got to have our "ginger brandy" (basically a glass of water with about an 1/8th of a teaspoon of ginger brandy). Then it was off to bed...after our drop of ginger brandy we slept well! lolol The next morning YiaYia would get us all dressed up for church and Sunday school and our parents would meet us there.
The summers were the best. We spent 6 out of the 7 days of the week at Salem Willows, this local beach/amusement area near our home. We were there every weekday with our grandparents. They let us play in the sand and the waves for hours, let us go on the rides, let us play in the arcade, bought us ice cream. Then on Sunday the whole family would spend the entire day there, swimming, playing, grilling, lounging.
My YiaYia was also super-creative and I like to think that maybe I got some of that from her. She taught ceramics for years and showed me how to paint them. She has a big kiln that is still in the basement of her home (my uncle still lives there) just waiting for me to get on my husband and brother to move it to my basement. She would never get rid of it. She always used to say that someday I would want it. And she is right. It is a treasure. Something that so uniquely is a piece of my YiaYia and I am never letting it go.
My YiaYia was very active in our church. Oh how proud she was of our Greek heritage and our Greek Orthodox faith! She was President of the Philoptochos (a ladies society) at our church for decades. In the early 80's she was named Parishioner of the Year. I even got to give a little speech at the event honoring her! Each October our church holds a weekend long Greek festival, the main focus of which is, typical of Greeks, the food! The Philoptochos were always in charge of the Greek pastry booth, which was, as you can imagine, the most popular. My YiaYia ran that booth like a well-oiled machine....and gave my brother and I all the pastry we wanted! lolol I still get very melancholy walking up to that booth to this day, even though she was unable to be in it for several years prior to her passing.
Oh this is funny! My Mom loves to tell the story about how, if my brother and I were misbehaving and she was trying to send us to our rooms or to bed early or whatever we would call our YiaYia and tell her that our Mom wouldn't give us supper. Oh boy did she get mad at my Mom!!! She would get her on the phone and let her have it! No one, even my Mom, was going to deprive her grandchildren! And she and my Mom were as close as can be!!! But I'll tell ya, no one came before my brother and me in our YiaYia's eyes!!!
I thank God that my YiaYia was still pretty well when I got married in October 1999. It was one of the last times I remember her really being herself. In the years that followed she started to slip away more and more. But that night...that night she was, as always, the life of the party! I remember I wanted both of my YiaYia's to be introduced along with the parents and the rest of the bridal party. I had my Uncle Harry introduced with them, as well. He had one of them on each arm. Well, my YiaYia Helen was in her element! She walked in that ballroom like she was Miss America, grinning from ear to ear and waving to the crowd! She got right in there and danced with us and our friends! And we had them play the Chicken Dance just for her and she got right out there and led everyone! And she looked so incredibly beautiful that night in her flowy, soft blush colored gown and her cute little heels and her ever gorgeous skin just glowing. I swear my YiaYia didn't have a single wrinkle till she was in her 80's...and she was a sun-worshipper!!! God bless that olive skin!!! I made sure my photographer took a picture of my YiaYia, my Mom, and me together that night and it is preserved forever in my wedding album. Three generations. The two most important women in my life!
So. I am just missing my YiaYia tonight. Like every night. But tonight I cried. Like I do sometimes. I just miss her so much. Sometimes it is still so hard to believe she is actually gone. I mean, I know she is always with us, watching over us. She was an angel here on earth so it just stands to reason she is an angel in heaven, too.
I love you YiaYia......