SIMONE VIRZI — News Writer
My great-grandma still flaunts the fact that when she was younger, she had knock-out legs. In fact, on her fridge is a picture of her posing with a few people, and she’s wearing a knee-length skirt. Needless to say, she did have killer legs.
As her 90th birthday is this Thursday, I’m becoming increasingly grateful to say I have gotten to know her and her love for her own legs.
I firmly believe my great-grandma is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. Her mother came to America from Poland on her own, so my great-grandma can speak and read both English and Polish. When she’s angry she’ll yell in Polish. She is the most dedicated Catholic I know; she’ll watch mass on TV twice a day, and she carries around multiple rosaries in her purse. She gives the little money she has to charity.
My great-grandma was around during the Great Depression and will tell anyone who will listen what it was like. She grew up in Connecticut on a farm. For Christmas she would get bananas and oranges; it was something she looked forward to because she didn’t normally have them. She’s made comments around Christmas time about how many gifts there are, remembering the little she had when she was younger. I think she believes we’re spoiled, even though there are families out there who spend significantly more on presents.
One surprising fact about her is that she loves football and basketball; she finds baseball boring (that must be where I get my taste in sports from). One time at a family party, she made one of my aunts turn on the UConn men’s basketball game.
She didn’t say one word: she was wrapped up watching the fourth quarter of the game. The boys lost. She went on a rant that they needed to work as a team. To hear a little church lady talk like that was hysterical. The women’s basketball team played afterward—the channel had to be changed so she could watch. She has more confidence in their ability to play as a team and win.
When she walks, my great-grandma generally uses a walker or her cane. She’s told me several times when someone asks how she’s doing, her response is, “I’m still walkin’ and talkin’!” I always joke with her she does more talking than walking. She does talk—a lot. Some people think I talk a lot, but she has me beat. Last spring I had my roommate come home with me to celebrate my sister’s 18th birthday. Well, when my great-grandma met Ashley she was so excited to have fresh ears to tell her stories to. And she did. Luckily, Ashley is fond of older people and didn’t mind her stories.
My mom and I run a lot of errands and help her around the house, so I see her often. I’ve gotten to know her for who she is, beyond simply being my great-grandma. I’ve gotten to know Helen as a person. She loves the color blue and being by the ocean. She reads the newspaper front to back and does word searches every day. She loves chocolate and oatmeal raisin cookies.
It doesn’t take a whole lot to make the woman happy. For her, it really is the simple things in life she cares about the most. She gets excited when we bring her plastic grocery bags and rubber bands. She also gets excited when you fix her TV.
In our hectic lives, sometimes it’s easy to put an older relative on the backburner. However, I see my great-grandma whenever I can. I listen to her stories, even if I’ve heard them before. I listen to the advice she gives, even if it’s inevitable. For instance, she likes to tell me, “Don’t ever get old.” Nevertheless, I listen. I cherish the time I spend with her, even if she’s having an off day.
As my family is planning her 90th birthday party, I realize how fortunate I really am. I have friends who don’t even have grandparents, let alone a great-grandparent. I’m lucky enough to say at 21 I have gotten to know a stubborn, yet amazing woman who loves her family, and has always been proud of my accomplishments.
SIMONE VIRZI — News Writer