Goodbye Grandma

Yesterday, Vi Gura finished her time on earth and, after more than 100 years, is in heaven. 

I’m certain she wouldn’t have wanted me to come see her in her final days, I do wish I could have said goodbye. I’m glad her three boys were there with her at the end. I know it was tough for them as it is for any child to watch their parent fade. I also know she knew they were there and felt their love and comfort.

I’ll miss grandma. Like much of my family, I’ve never lived close to her and only got to see her occasionally. Perhaps that’s why our visits were always so joyous. She would go out of her way to make sure I felt welcome and fussed over. And she fussed better than most.

I’ll never know for sure, but I think her secret was the cookies. She would always have them ready when we arrived and I think she used them to slow us down just long enough to get us talking with her. “How are you? Tell me about school.” Questions teenagers don’t often answer but were required at her house and the cookies were the conversation starter. Later, when she was older and didn’t bake any more, the first minute of our visit included an apology that there were no cookies. She loved to talk and visit with most anyone and she didn’t need the cookies to get us talking, but I never argued the point.

I came into her family later than my step brothers. I joined by way of mom’s remarriage, but that difference meant nothing to grandma. I was family. My wife was family. My kids were family. Our family was forever met with smiles and hugs and laughter.

I don’t remember much of my early childhood any more, but meeting her stands out. I think I was in fourth grade when my mom got remarried to Vi’s son John (Terry). Along with my new step brothers Jeff and Chris, we all drive down from Evanston to grandma’s house in Peoria for a visit. Only a few minuets after we arrived, she pulled me aside, sat me down, and said:

“I’m Vi Gura. Welcome to our home and family.. Jeff and Chris call me grandma and I hope you will as well, but call me anything you want. Just like them, I expect you to study hard when you are at home and to have fun when you are here. I used to teach and school is important to me. You just call me anytime you need me.” And then she gave me a cookie.

That simple introduction set the tone for the next thirty years. Children of second marriages don’t always fell welcome, but she knew that first real interaction was important. It worked and stayed with me. From then on, she was always grandma and I was always part of her family, even when school didn’t go as well.

On every visit, she talked about being proud of me and, later, proud of my kids. Well, now it’s our turn… Grandma, we are so proud to have known you and we will miss you. Certainly, we will always love you and the family you created. Enjoy catching up with your husband John and all your friends. You taught us all the value of spending time with others and the quality of the conversations that come from genuine curiosity. While I hope it won’t be too soon, I look forward to visiting with you again someday.

If its not too much trouble, I’d sure appreciate a cookie when I get there.

-Mike

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