Thursday was, apparently, the 50th Anniversary of my Biological Grandmother’s Death. Julia Wojtkiewicz passed away (from a cerebral hemorrhage) 5 days shy of my Dad’s 6th birthday. He says he remembers much of the activities that week and they still feel very sad.
My Dad’s Dad (thought to be Biological, I’ll get to that someday) then took care of him for the next few months until his untimely death. From what I understand, Tony Wojtkiewicz passed away of Cancer. I believe his was Lung Cancer. Dad remembers him as hard working but a drinker and smoker and hardly ever home.
So, my Dad was left an orphan at 6 years old. This is where my Gram steps in.
My Gram is my Dad’s older sister, June, by 21 years. June and my Dad were both born to Julia but of different Father’s. June’s Dad was also named Tony. June had one son six months older than my Dad and one son a couple of years younger.
She and her Husband, my Grampie, took my Dad in. She was 27. Apparently no one else wanted to. Overnight she became a Mother to three boys instead of two. Overnight she had to raise a boy that had just lost both of his parents in the same year. Overnight, she had to get her boys to accept a brother. Overnight, she had to explain to strangers how in the world she had two sons only six months apart. Overnight, she became my Hero. And I wasn’t even born yet.
She raised three school boys, then pre-teen boys, then teen boys, then band members (what three brothers wouldn’t throw together a band), then bid them farewell through tears when each joined the military.
Gram celebrated each of their weddings in the same beautiful pink and blue flower printed dress and later gave each grandchild a piece of it. Mine was a potpourri sachet.
Gram celebrated the birth of each grandchild with so much joy in her eyes. When my parents called her to tell her of their pregnancy with me, before they could get the words out Gram says “I know the happy news, isn’t it great, your brother and his wife are expecting their first!” It’s a story they all still laugh about. My cousin was born six days earlier than me. We are Gram’s eldest grandchildren.
We all grew up swimming in the family pool, playing in the family barn, spending every summer together on the Family Compound. Grampie had given each boy an acre on the property when they returned from the military. My Dad was the only one that did not build on his. My two Uncles live on the Family Compound still today and often times I’m jealous. Ok, all the time, I am jealous.
I was told some of the story as a teenager, if I remember correctly, not too long before my Grampie passed away. Never knowing before my Gram was actually my Aunt. Never knowing before how my two Uncles were actually my cousins or second cousins or something like that. Never knowing their three children each were actually, oh jeez, who knows? All I knew was Gram and Grampie lived on the Cape, had three sons and eight of us grandchildren. And I loved visiting all of them.
Not long before I got married Gram gave me a wonderful surprise. Shortly after Grampie passed,away from Leukemia, Gram had her engagement diamond and Julia’s engagement diamond made into earrings. She wore them for years in their memory. She gathered my older cousin and I one day and gave us each one of the diamonds. She split up the pair she had been wearing to remind her of her loved ones lost. She gave me the diamond from Julia so that I would have something from my biological Grandmother. Something, in addition to my name.
Gram called my Dad on Thursday to remind him of the day. He hadn’t thought of it until then. But, then he could think of nothing else. So many things could have been different. But the way God worked them out, I’m ok with.