Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy 90th Birthday to My Gram!

My grandma, Helen Jasin, affectionately called "Gram" for most of my life, was born in a tiny town in southwestern PA called Fairchance. What started out as a rather conventional childhood took a detour when her dad passed away from a ruptured appendix when she was only seven years old. She then watched her mother waste away for a couple more years after until she died “from a broken heart.”

Gram and her younger sister Ann went to live with their maternal grandparents - Polish immigrants who already had a houseful of kids.

When she was ten years old, the stock market crashed. She often says what kept her grandparents’ large family from being destitute was the fact they owned a small store attached to their house.

Her Aunt Blanche was nine years her senior (and still alive at age 99) and took Gram under her wing. As Gram often reminisces, Blanche is the one who bought her graduation dress for her and then took her to live in South Florida for three years after she graduated.

Gram & Me (age 3) - I wanted her in the picture too!

While Blanche stayed in Florida, Gram moved to Cleveland. She was at a wedding one night with friends when she met a shy young man, who later turned out to be my Gramp.

They were married and then my mom was born. Aunt Carol followed a few years later. Early in their marriage, they resided in East Cleveland, but later moved to Wickliffe in Lake County, and Gram still lives in the same house they shared for 50 years.

It amazes me that despite having a very rough life growing up, Gram is the most well-adjusted person I have ever met. In this age of everyone seemingly being on antidepressant medication, life coaches around every corner, and so many people in therapy, it IS possible to have a long, happy and uncomplicated life without any of that.

My Gram has always been my biggest supporter and confidante, the greatest listener one could ever imagine, as well as the kindest and most humble soul in the world. I love when she laughs – because she sounds like Barney Rubble and that makes me laugh too.

Gram and Gramp were married for 62 years and Gramp passed away earlier this year, leaving a huge hole in all of our lives.

Because they were so important to each other for so many years, we were worried about how Gram would handle losing Gramp. Either she was going to crumble - or she would make it without him. It has been a difficult road for sure, but she has handled it surprisingly well. Perhaps it is because she learned to deal with unspeakable loss so early in life. She may seem meek and gentle, but underneath is the spirit of a survivor – further evidence can be found in the fact that she lived through breast cancer and has had diabetes for many years now.

Other random Gram facts:

She never learned to drive, she has a blue parakeet named Chippy, she loves the Home Shopping Network and QVC (and has a big jewelry box full of rings to prove it – that was a passing phase though). She enjoys pina coladas and Mounds bars (as you guessed, not great for the diabetes!), baseball, Petti’s Restaurant and Papa Joe's subs down the street.

She especially loves gardening. She has the greenest thumb I have ever seen. She is a nurturing personality, which can best be seen when her yard is in full bloom in mid-Summer.

Gram's Yard, Summer 2009

Her favorite exclamations are “man alive” and “geezooey” (spelled phonetically since I have no idea if that is even a word other people say). I think where other people might swear, Gram says man alive or geezooey.

Today, on her 90th birthday, Gram slept in, is getting her toenails clipped at the podiatrist (what everyone should do on such a momentous occasion!) and will be going to “some Bones place” for dinner with the family. I assume she meant Smokey Bones :)

Oh, and she doesn’t want to think about her birthday!


Shoes Always Fit said...

What a beautiful tribute to your gram! You are very lucky to have her and she you.

Anonymous said...

Kristen, your Gram is my kind of woman. And in her granddaughter's case, the apple does not fall far from the tree. Happy Birthday to a human being whose presence here on Earth makes it better. **I like Mounds bars too.** :-) Love, LML