I was driving home from work the other day, and for some reason I had this overwhelming happiness come over me. Ever have the days where you feel like all is right in the world? Nothing extraordinary happened that day, but everything was just right. Life is good.
I like to think I get this optimism from my grandmother. She was one of the most beautiful women, inside and out. She was a strong woman. She was a loving woman. She was a generous woman. She passed away in 2003, and we all miss her every.single.day.
Every single time I see a butterfly, especially white ones, I think of her. I wear Estee Lauder Beautiful perfume because she did. I smell it and think of her spraying it in her bedroom, with that blue carpet under foot. She may have been getting ready for church, so she would have been wearing a blouse and a skirt. She always looked so nice. Cecilia's middle name is Wanda, after my grandmother. CC has a wonderful spirit, and I pray that I see glimpses of my grandmother as she gets older.
my maternal grandparents circa 1970 or so
I was 15 when I went to Poland for the first time. I went with my older sister and my grandparents. We spent 6 weeks traveling around the country and visiting the many relatives from both sides of my family. I am 100% Polish. My maternal grandparents immigrated after WWII. My father is the only one to immigrate from his family.
I will never forget the morning I was sitting at the breakfast table, in the kitchen of my uncle's house, with my grandmother....
my aunt and uncle outside their home
I had just showered, and my hair was still wet. My hair is thick, and it was rather long at that time. My shirt was wet where my hair laid over my shoulders down onto my chest. It was summertime, so I was in shorts and a t-shirt. I was probably barefoot, although I should have been wearing slippers...everyone always wears slippers over there. We were eating bread, butter and eggs. There was probably cheese out too. Of course there was honey out, since my uncle has bee hives. I was sipping on hot tea. My grandmother was sitting across the table from me. It was just the two of us.
I don't how or why the conversation started, but before I knew it my grandmother was gazing across the room with tears in her eyes. She was in a thoughtful gaze. I could tell her mind was racing, but there was still a disconnect in her eyes..
She was taken by the Germans during WWII at the young age of 17 to a work camp. I believe she said she was 17, even though her real age was 18. Her work would have been more difficult if they knew her as 18-years-old. I believe that is how the story goes. She sewed medicine bags for German soldiers. The work camp was in Germany. My grandfather was in the troop that liberated her camp. They met, and married a short 3 weeks later.
"I would not wish that on my worst enemy" she said, still in a tearful gaze.
I was 15. What do I say? I just listened.
She slept on straw. She had one blanket in the winter. "I was so cold" she told me. I still remember the way her body shivered when she said that.
She was so deprived of nutrients that her teeth were actually loose in her gums.
The last time she saw her mother was at this tender age. My grandmother was amongst her peers and was inside a building, as a work prisoner, against her will. Forced labor. Outside the building was a number of mothers who caught wind that their girls may be inside this building. All the mothers were trying to find their daughters. All the daughters were trying to find their mothers. They wanted to connect with one another through these windows. My grandmother saw her mother. They never made eye contact. They were never able to make that connection.
This was the last my grandmother saw her mother. She was 17.
Aside from that morning at the breakfast table, I never heard her talk about her experience. I knew what happened from family stories, but never did they come straight from her.
I believe my grandmother survived that experience because of her spirit. She had a hard life. She had experiences that could break people. She was a survivor. She was a strong woman. It takes a certain person to survive that. I am not sure if it was optimism that got her through the experience, but it was something powerful. I am sure faith had a lot to do with it.
I like to think I got my optimism from her. There is always a silver lining to my dark clouds. Yes, I have my moments...we all have our moments. But, I do tend to rise above tough times with hope, faith and positive thoughts. I am truly blessed, and my hardships don't compare to what some people have gone through, or are currently going through. I am not saying that I have had a perfect life, not in the least. There are some things that still haunt me, but I rise above. I always try to find light in the darkest of times.
I wonder if all pilot wives have this optimism. My guess is yes! We, often times, have to deal with crappy things like: a commuting husband, a husband on reserve, pay-cuts, strikes, questions of job security, moving away from family, missed holidays, ect. Not to mention just day-to-day things like: misbehaved kids, illness, house issues, being a single parent, ect. But, we rise above. We weather the storm and make it through. We all carry something within us to get through these tough times, and we should be proud of that. And our husbands should be thankful that they found the likes of us, for we truly are a strong type.