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21 Sep 2009

What I Learned From My Grandparents: In Memoriam For Carolyn McManaman – Born Carolyn Potratz

Besides making the best spaghetti I’ve ever had, the overwhelming memory I have of my Grandmother is that she was kind and accepting. She never treated me like the black sheep that I am. I remember a Christmas when I was 16 and she confided in me that she finally figured out how to shop for me. “I can get you a skirt, but it has to go with combat boots.” No judgment. No lecture about how young girls should behave.

I also remember how calm and graceful she always was.

Even just a week ago on the phone she told me that she had cancer, and she said, “Isn’t that funny? You just never know. I didn’t even feel sick.” She seemed to handle everything with dignity and grace. I guess having seven children either makes or breaks you.

I know now that she was Polish but it took a long time for that bit of info to come out. At first it was German, and then Prussian I was told, and finally a few months before she died, she confided that the Potratz family line was actually Polish, “but we keep that to ourselves.”

I started asking around why Polaks catch so much cialis order flak. Someone told me (upon more research this seems to be a myth, but I love the story anyway) that during WWII they went up against Nazi tanks on horseback with spears. Everyone made fun of the Poles, thought they were crazy. But hey, you got to work with what you got. I guess I see some of that spirit in my Grandmother. Dignity and grace in the face of adversity.

Coincidentally, I have been learning about the traditions of decorating “Easter” eggs for the last few days. In Poland the art was handed down from mother to daughter for centuries, in celebration of Spring. They believed that the egg contained the whole universe. An old song says:

Out of the egg, from the lower part,
Come raw Mother Earth;
Out of the egg, from the upper part,
Soared the high vault of the sky;
Out of the yolk,
The shining sun rose up;
Out of the white,
The clear moon did shine…

It symbolized the power of potential, the mystery of rebirth and renewal. Sometimes I feel that maybe it’s possible to be even closer to someone after they have gone. You have a new relationship to them. They can live inside you then, and seed you with their wisdom.

That in itself is a rebirth.

I love you Grandma,


Story by Arrowyn Craban.

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