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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Baba

Baba & Alexander (One of my favourite pictures of the two of them)
My Baba died this week. She was 90 years old.

For those who aren't familiar with the term, Baba is a Polish term for Grandmother. (Well, technically, I believe it's supposed to be "Babcia" or "Babka" -- but hey, every family has their own unique slant on how they use terms, don't they?)


Baba wasn't just a Grandmother to me. She was like a second Mom. But not just a second Mom, because of the special relationship Grandparents always have.

Baba and Deedoo (I'm spelling it phonetically, because that's how we pronounced it), lived across the street from us when I was a baby and toddler. Among my earliest memories are me standing on the sidewalk and calling in a loud voice: "Baba! Baba! Come and get me!" Because I knew I wasn't allowed to cross the street on my own, I needed an adult to walk across with me. And Baba would always answer my call. Not just when I was that really young child, but throughout my life. All I had to do was call out, and Baba was there.

Deedoo died when I was two years old, and shortly after, my Mom, Dad and I moved across the street to live with her. We lived on the main floor and Baba moved into the basement, which was fashioned with a washroom, bedroom, living room and kitchen area -- what we called and continue to call "Baba's Apartment."  The apartment was merely an extension off the main living area and didn't really have it's own entrance or separate living arrangement.

Most people have memories of how glorious it was when visiting with their Grandparents. Grandparents typically spoil the kids and treat them like gold.

Baba and Alexander
Living with Baba, I was fortunate to receive that kind of treatment on a daily basis. And she truly did treat me like gold every single day. Baba had a way of making me feel important, making me feel special, and making me feel loved. She had a way of making so many people feel that way.

She was a woman who loved the simpler things in life. She loved having family around her, loved having people over and entertaining, and particularly loved feeding people. Baba didn't judge people, except perhaps by how they ate. If you liked to eat, Baba had a particularly strong affection for you, because nothing seemed to give her greater joy than continually shoving food in front of people. As I got older, of course, she was also shoving bottles of beer in front of me or repeatedly asking if I would like a shot of rye.



Baba and I at Christmas dinner

So memories of Baba often involve food and drink and how much she loved to feed people -- and that was her greatest joy. Except, perhaps, for the joy she got from her Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren. My cousins Rodney and Kevin and I grew up within the matriarchal umbrella of Baba's family. We were raised, in many ways, more like brothers than cousins, with Baba at the heart of most family activities. Her focus, for the longest time, was wanting to see her Grandchildren grow up -- and at every pivotal moment in our lives she was there, beaming with pride.

She had the pleasure of watching all three of her grandchildren grow up and start their own families, and then watching her great-grandchildren start to grow up. Fortunately for Baba, her recent/short-term memory and mind weren't "with it" enough to be aware that her oldest grandson, Kevin, died last year. We felt it was better that way because it would have devastated her.

We have many fond memories of Baba - most of them take place in the kitchen I'm sitting in right now while I type this up. This house is filled with decades of memories of Baba, with the love that she shared, with all the funny things she did or said, and that we still joke about.

To most of my friends, Baba wasn't "Mrs. Dusick" or "Annie" but rather "Baba" -- she was simply "Baba" to so many people. I, of course, have the distinct honour of being able to say she was "My Baba." I never once lost sight of how incredibly lucky I was to hold that priviledge.

Baba might have died, but her memory lives strong in all those who loved her and whom she loved. Losing her was very much like losing my mother, and I've been slowly preparing for this ever since she got really ill more than a year and a half ago. It feels like the mourning of her loss started way back then and that now the mourning is becoming three dimensional and real.

Yes, many tears have been shed. But there have been many more fond memories, many more special moments, and many more cherished thoughts of a dear woman who was a central part of my life for over 40 years.

When I look at the photo I took of Baba and Alexander a few years ago and the simple unabashed joy in their smiles, I remember the very special woman my Baba was.

And I smile, thankful for Baba.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Mark
I am sorry to hear of the passing of your Baba. It will be a year on Tuesday since I lost my Grandpa, so the memory of the feelings are still there. Please know that you and your family will be in my thoughts over the coming days, weeks and months.
Hugs to to all
Barb