Thank you Grandma!

That's me sitting in my grandfather's lap - grandma to the right
and my siblings standing in the back row 
This afternoon I sat at my kitchen table snapping fresh green beans memories of my grandmother flooded my mind - Before I knew it I was telling my children, my two boys, the memories I had of my youth...a replay of events that once happened thirty-five plus years ago...however...then it was my sweet little German grandmother telling me about her childhood growing up in a land once known as Prussia.

As I recounted those days to my children I also, by happenstance, explained to them something so simple yet so many today take for granted - how to cook - what to look for in that bean they were snapping, how we were going to prepare them for a fresh green bean salad to go with our dinner tonight - and then how lucky we were a friend gave us those beans enabling us to be able to eat a healthy fresh meal for a very low - next to nothing - impact on our budget.

It was so natural as we went through the motions of preparing our beans to be blanched. I could see my grandmother, that little round woman with soft features smiling as she prepared her love for her family, and in those few moments I realized the stress of my day was not on my mind - I was not preoccupied with that ever constant calculator in my head - nor did I feel the pain in my ankles and hands despite my autoimmune condition kicking up and flaring it's heels this week - Yes, life's worries took a backseat to living in the moment and appreciating what was before me along with the memories that mean so much.

Clayton Mark (Evanston, IL) - my father worked
there when he was a young man after the Korean War
and returned to there when moving back to IL after
living in California where I was born - He would
become the president of the Local UAW
I am so very grateful to have had that relationship with my grandmother - from the time I was in 1st grade up to the time her and my grandfather moved in with our family I would spend my afternoons after school at her house on Florence Ave in Evanston, IL....there.. waiting for my father to pick me up when his shift was over at Clayton Mark where he was a heavy machinery machinist.

In all reality it was just a couple of hours a day I would spend with grandma - but, in those hours so much was accomplished, whether it was hopping a bus to go shopping at the fish market, deli or bakery to walking a few blocks to visit her friends where they would share coffee and sweets while they spoke to each other in their native language -  I would sit quietly trying to dissect what they were saying as I flipped through the pages of a German magazine.

It was those simple every day routine experiences of watching my grandmother take care of her family, care for her friends while she honored her heritage that has taught me more than I ever realized. Without realizing it I was learning how to be a strong  loving woman. I realize this now as I reflect back to my grandmother's life -

St. Nicholas - Evanston, IL 
Taken before leaving her home in Rosengarten
to come to America to marry the man she loved -
Then she was Bertha Keuchel - a young woman
risking all to become Bertha Woywod
That sweet old round German woman had lived through so much -  As a young girl WWI ravished her village and she watched her loved ones survive through poverty a war causes - She said a farewell to the man she loved and kept an unwavering faith that when he arrived in America he would settle down and send for her to join him, and they would be married - That faith paid off and they were married in St. Nicholas Church in Evanston - the very same church I spent my childhood attending...where I would be confirmed, and schooled.

Together they survived the Great Depression raising three young children, my father being the youngest - And she survived a pain no mother should ever know when her eldest son died an untimely death at the tender age of nine. A death that could have been prevented if a doctor had given him the tetanus shot he needed after slipping on a fence while climbing and injuring himself -

She survived all of this and more and with her family so very far from her back across a sea...many of whom would perish at the end of WWII as Stalin's Army overtook Prussia and the village of Rosengarten would never be known as such again. She also survived the scrutiny many German immigrants underwent at that time...much like many Muslim Americans must deal with today -

She lived and survived through so very much -
And through it all she remained a kind compassionate
woman - When those around her were happy and content
she was content -
So many tests of endurance and perseverance - a woman so strong but when I look back to my time with my grandmother I recall her kindness, her warmth - her loving nature and the skills, unbeknownst to me at the time, she was teaching me as together we sat at her kitchen table snapping beans - peeling potatoes and sharing a piece of history.

My father as a young man with his mother -
Two souls to have touched and shaped me
to be the woman I am today! 
I've always been known as my Father's Daughter - a statement that is so very true - but something I realized today is the woman I am, the survivor in me, I owe to the lessons learned from my Grandmother - She passed away when I was just 16 years old - but will forever live on in my memories and what I pass on to my children - 

Thank you Grandma  - Rest in Peace!


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