Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ghidu (1919 - 2009)

My last living grandparent passed away last week. Born Nicolai Stremciuc in Romania, he was known as Ghidu to my siblings and I; Ghidu means 'grandfather' in Ukrainian, a language he spoke fluently his entire life.

He lived to be 90 years old, outliving most of his generation's counterparts. Both he and his wife, my dear grandmother Babca, lived with my immediate family our entire lives, and to say he was an integral part of our lives would be an understatement. In our earlier years, he definitely played the role of strict disciplinarian in our home and had a large impact on most major decisions made. Because my family moved to Phoenix 4 years ago, my interactions with him during this time were much more limited; however, it was very interesting (and pleasing) to see the extent to which he "mellowed out" in his later years. Much of the harshness that had been present for many years had almost completely disappeared, and the softer side of Ghidu was displayed. Truth be told, I much preferred this Ghidu; however, he was whom he was, and he never apologized for it.

Here are a few of my favorite Ghidu memories:
  • The great care with which he always tended to our gardens. Growing up, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, etc. were plentiful, even from our modest garden in Chicago, thanks to his efforts.

  • Eating figs and red grapes from the fig tree and vine he tended in our Chicago backyard.
  • He never learned English, nor had a desire to, but still found a way to communicate with the neighbors (thru his grandchildren, of course!)

  • His desire to share vegetables from our garden with our neighbors, while making sure we communicated "God Bless You" on his behalf. For him, that was the most important thing, and over the years, he learned to say "God Bless You," perhaps the only English phrase he ever learned.

  • He loved birds. He fed birds. Leftover food in our household was never thrown away; instead, all vegetable peelings (potato, carrot, cucumber) were finely chopped up and scattered out in the backyard for the birds to feast on. This was his job, day in, day out, even until the very end.

  • The weird combinations of food he often consumed. Mashed potatoes, milk and mayonnaise. Cool Whip on bread. If it was left over and couldn't be fed to the birds, he would find a way to combine it and eat it.

  • He loved sugar water. Take a glass of water. Stir MANY spoonfuls of sugar into it. Drink.

  • The certainty with which he knew where he was going to spend eternity; he couldn't wait to be with his Maker.

These and many more Ghidu memories will remain with me forever. May he rest in peace. He will be missed.

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