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21 Sep 2009

What I Learned From My Grandparents: Although both of my grandparents are resting within the Earth...

Although both of my grandparents are resting within the Earth, their spirits, and their lessons, walk beside me every day.

My grandparents were first generation Polish and Czechoslovakian Americans. Both were Carpatho–Rusyn.

Each had learned many difficult lessons during their lives about family, faith, and perseverance in the face of great difficulty, and also a staunch determination to, above non prescription viagra all else, do the right thing no matter what.

My grandmother, although only 4’11,” had the heart of a lion. She would tell me when things were tough, “Remember, dynamite comes in small packages.”

I remember her and my Grandpa telling me stories of what it was like growing up in the Great Depression… times when they had not enough to get into the movies; how they used everything and wasted nothing; how their families survived through community; how they learned to forgive family because blood was thicker than any deeds they had done against one another.

From them I learned about turning the other cheek and striving never to sink to the level of your hardships in life. I learned the value of frugality. I heard about their struggles to forgive parents who did the best they could despite hard circumstances.

I learned about taking a leap of faith when things were their absolute worst. I learned about the importance of looking out for one’s own, and one’s own was not restricted to the extended family – it was the community of fellow immigrants.

I saw my grandfather turn soil into life every Spring, my grandmother make school clothes a reality for us every year because of her diligent attention to savings. Both of them got angry with each other, but always forgave each other; and both of them functioned as agents of peace for my own family when my mother and father divorced.

My grandparents were the cornerstone of my value system, and had an even larger impact on me than my own parents in the years of my adolescence, after the divorce.

Upon her deathbed, my grandmother, who had been virtually in a coma for three days, dying of cancer, sat bolt upright, grabbed hold of my hand, and told me in a voice not her own, to “Stay on the straight and narrow.” I had at that point only been sober for a year. I have kept that promise to her for fifteen continuous years now – almost a miracle in the life of a recovering alcoholic. No matter how bad things may have been, I have managed to maintain my sobriety because of the value of keeping a promise, which I learned from her and my Grandpa.

I learned that it was possible to love someone so much that the most unselfish thing I could do was to let them go to the Otherworld so they would not suffer any more in this body, and to relinquish my own selfish fears of losing them and suffering pain with their departure.

My grandfather showed me that strong men can cry, and that a good man always stands up for what is right, no matter the consequences. He loved my grandmother faithfully for well beyond fifty years.

He demonstrated the importance of providing for family, and proved that a boy growing up seeing his own mother beaten severely by an alcoholic father could grow to be a man who would not sink to the same level; he had a stoic sense of self-control that was always calm and grounded.

Both of my grandparents went from this life on full moon nights, although they departed about two years apart from each other.

Every month when the moon shines brightly, I feel an especially close connection to them, and I ask their guidance in my decisions in my life as a single parent and sole provider to my children.

I still hear my grandmother’s voice in the answers to things I am wondering about; and see my grandfather standing beside her, or at the same table as us, nodding in agreement – saying very little but showing much through quiet determination and the potent example of his actions.

My grandparents taught me the meaning of love, commitment, honesty, dignity, respect, and right living.

Those lessons never die. They are still breathing within me every single day of my life.

Story by Christine Anne Sumner.

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