on an 86th birthday, or how to live a full life (part 2)

A legacy is something left, some lesson or idea or tradition or behavior or mannerism. A legacy is that which stands the test of time.

Like I mentioned when I wrote about my Grandma Koci, my Grandma Banas is no longer with us. She’s likely beating the angels in bowling right now. Had she been here on Earth, we would have celebrated her recent 86th birthday with cake and a good card game.

newborn me, with my grandma

I’m not sure she realized that she’d left a legacy at all. Indeed, we rarely realize that we’re building a legacy every day. We’re leaving powerful lessons for those around us. From this Grandma Banas, I’ve learned much. 

Begin every recipe with frying an onion.

It’s somewhat of a joke on my mom’s side of the family. Cooking? Fry an onion. They think it’s funny and I think it’s genius. How I wish I’d connected with her about cooking before she departed; the recipes I could have learned! Polish through and through, she spent hours in the kitchen making European delicacies. Most of the time, they involved an onion or two. Usually rich and obviously homemade. Every time I carmelize an onion, I like to think I’m celebrating her.

“There’s no friends in cards.”

The woman loved playing cards winning at cards. Halfway through the game, if you were winning and she wasn’t, she’d change the rules. Twinkle in her eye, she’d alter the entire game so it went in her favor. Sometimes she’d remind you of that one rule you forgot. Sometimes she’d call you out on how you weren’t playing “right.” Because “right,” friends, is however my grandma was playing. Always. Let your grandkid win? Nope. As she’d famously say, “There’s no friends in cards.” She taught me it’s okay to be a little competitive. And it’s okay to make the littler ones fight for their victories.

Sacrifices, when made for your family, are worth it.

My grandpa worked days and she worked nights to make ends meet for their family. Many families do this for a season; for my grandma, it was every season. I’m humbled by this sacrifice. And every December, I think of her on nighttime drives past lit-up holiday displays. She invested her nights in a factory that made those gigantic, old-fashioned blow-molded Christmas lawn figures. The family was never wealthy, but those Christmas characters put food on the table.
Frosty the snowman

Paper dolls should hold hands.

My Grandma Banas knew how to have a good time with everyone. Background and age were never barriers. She connected with her fellow seniors through mad bowling skills, and with her granddaughter through mad paper doll skills. She made sure I was proficient in making them myself too. Whip out this little craft when you’re babysitting (or with your own kiddos) and mark my words — you are golden.

1.) Fold paper accordian-style.

2.) Trace paper doll figure.

3.) Cut — and be careful at the folds.

4.) Ta-da!

Community is to be cherished.

And she wouldn’t have labeled it as such, but the woman knew community like the back of her hand. Cards? With friends. Bowling? With friends. Age was no barrier to friendships; she spent her retirement volunteering at a hospital. A few times a week, she delivered flowers to those who’d received them. These patients became her friends. Even when living in a nursing home, she was a social butterfly. At her wake, the night before her funeral, people just kept coming. This sweet community she cultivated loved her dearly, and she loved them.

(Photo Credits: Snowman used through Creative Commons by aussiegal on Flickr; Paper dolls my own; Baby picture c/o my family.)


2 thoughts on “on an 86th birthday, or how to live a full life (part 2)

  1. My grandma and your grandma had the same philosophies about cards. I still joke with mine that even though she doesn’t have her star partner (my Papa) around anymore, her friends still host monthly Bridge parties without them so someone else has a chance to win for a change. 🙂

  2. “Paper dolls should hold hands.” I love that! And I totally agree, every recipe should start with an onion. Your grandma sounds like an amazing woman!

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