The past weeks have been difficult for my family. Someone dear to us died suddenly and it has left us feeling sideswiped. My husband’s grandma, his Baba, was 89 and living tenaciously in her own home when her impressive life came to an end. She was baking pies at the time. In the words of one of her son-in-law’s, “She died with her boots on.”
It hurts to think I’ll never again feel her vice grip hug or hear her stunted eastern European voice tell me she loves me. Baba made sure you knew she loved you and I’ll miss the unconditional love she extended to me. I was never a granddaughter-in-law. I was her granddaughter and I was important in my own right.
And, I will miss her stories.
I didn’t appreciate her stories when they were plentiful, and believe me they were. Baba never lacked in tales from various stages of her life. From her childhood in the Ukraine to being forced into service in Germany during WWII to scratching out a life for her husband and five children. Now they’re gone and I wished I had written them down. I foolishly assumed there would be a next time.
I often thought about bring a notebook to her home and recording her tales but Baba, for all her voraciousness for an audience, was not a good story teller. It wasn’t easy for me to understand her. Her accent was thick and her stories were blurred bits of many stories combined. My husband who had grown up with her accent would decipher them for me. Plus, he had heard most of the stories on multiple occasions.
During one visit to Baba’s home when my husband and I were dating we were not allowed to leave until we were as full of story as we were full of food. This visit’s story was about a man from her village who started lifting a pony everyday and then eventually lifting a horse. When we finally left I sat in the passenger seat and said naively, “Baba really had a man in her village who could lift a horse?”
My man chuckled and said, “Pony is her world for foal, a baby horse,”
“Still, it’s impressive,” I mused and imagined the muscled torso of the titan.
“It’s not a real man! It’s a parable. If a man lifts a foal everyday from the day its born, he will eventually lift a horse.”
“It wasn’t an actual story!” I stated honestly dumbfounded. “But she was so animated and adamant.” He shrugged because he knew what I had just figured out. Baba loved to tell stories and most stories are a mixture of fact and fiction. Though in Baba’s defence she would have laughed if she knew I took the story literally.
Our stories are important and Baba knew this instinctively. She told stories because she wanted to inform and because she wanted to live and breathe those moments again. She understood the importance of story and had the tenacity to say You need to hear this.
All fledgling writers should take a page out of Baba’s book. We need to keep the stories coming even if we think no one is listening. Baba didn’t care if you wanted to hear her story because she was going to tell.
She will be missed,