A very special bond

Mints bring back memories
My grandfather died when I was seven years old. Still, I remember how he would give us peppermints to eat when he took us for drives in his car. I’m now 65, but whenever we eat peppermints in the car, I think of my grandfather. I hope my grandson will have good memories of eating brownies at my house, since he is crazy about my brownies.

Diane Foley
Kingston, Ontario

A grandson’s essay speaks volumes

I married Don and his ten children and (now) twenty-two grandchildren three and a half years ago. After we read all the wonderful stories about grandparents and grandchildren in the February Catholic Digest my husband suggested that we share this paper that one of the junior high-aged grandsons wrote. His teacher had given the class an assignment to write about someone in their life. No one can imagine the emotions I felt when I was given a copy of his paper. It did, indeed, touch my heart. It made me proud, and it made me cry with joy. He summarized what I hope all of my children and grandchildren might feel for me.

By Ben Schneider

Someone who means a lot to me is my step-grandma, Ann Schneider. Ann may not be my grandma, but she is a great substitute. After my grandma died of cancer in 2000, I didn’t think I would ever see my beloved grandma again. But I did; I think she came back through Ann.

After her death I didn’t know how my grandpa took it, but I soon found out. Whenever we visit my grandma’s grave I am still amazed at what happens there. My big strong grandpa cries. I always thought that he was invincible, but to see him cry like that really shook me. Then Ann came along.

You could say they were dating. They went to Mexico together and went to visit all my aunts and uncles too. I could tell she was having an effect on him. He was happy again, and if my grandpa is happy then I am happy.

If I were to get Ann something special it would be a dog. A small little dog that likes to bark and play but is obedient. Ann likes to be outside and be in the kitchen. With my grandpa getting older and he likes to sleep, it would be nice for Ann to have a companion. I love Ann and am lucky to be able to call her grandma.

Ann Schneider

I’m my grandchildren’s cruise director!
I am the mother of eight good children, mother-in-law of six good sons and daughters-in-law, grandmother of 12 ½ wonderful grandchildren. I had a near death experience four and a half years ago. I asked the Lord if he needed me; I was ready to go to him. Then I told him I still had more work to do here on earth.

I’m the grandchildren’s cruise director — I, along with their parents, introduced them to different cultures and experiences. We never had enough money to take eight children on vacation, so we had museum memberships to every museum in Chicago. We knew all the zoos, parks, and free events 365 days a year. When the older children married, they asked if I would be their children’s cruise director. Now the grandchildren call me their culture grandma. They will be left with great memories of our times together.

Gloria Onischuk
Oak Park, Illinois

Becoming the best grandparent I can be
I had no grandparents while I was growing up. My paternal grandparents died by the time my father was five, and he was raised by his grandparents. My mother grew up in St. Anthony’s orphanage in Toledo. I must admit to feeling a bit of jealousy and wistfulness when my school friends talked of their grandparents. I heard of Sunday dinners, special treats, nights at Grandma and Grandpa’s, and sometimes vacations. In my own way, I longed for that “extra” attention, the unequivocal love of a grandparent.

It may have worked to the advantage of my own grandchildren. As a grandparent, I try to be the one I conjured up in my mind as a girl; the combination of many grandparent stories I’d heard in my youth. My husband and I make grandkid time very special for us and for them. I even keep a journal for them. I record our time together so that when they do grow up they’ll not only have their memories, but mine as well.

Jan Kosmyna
Toledo, Ohio

My grandparents and the Rosary
As we drove north toward Downey, I could see Grandma with her orange, yellow, and brown colored yarn croqueting the latest baby blanket for the next lucky person. It didn’t matter who was giving birth, if there was a new baby coming, that baby would have a new blanket from my grandma. My grandfather drove very calmly, quietly, and cautiously as I glanced out the window at the billboards towering alongside the freeway. When I saw the Coppertone billboard, I knew I was halfway to my special weekend at grandma’s house. I am the middle child of five and this was a BIG deal to have special time with grandma and grandpa.

Friday night, I always counted on roast beef, rice, and a vegetable – always with gravy and never without giving thanks before our meal. I never remember what the vegetable was, because I never had to eat it, but I do remember how my grandfather and grandmother would give thanks.

After dinner, it was party time. Grandma and I had some highly competitive, almost vicious card games of “Concentration”. I never lost a game. I always asked, “Are you letting me win grandma?” She always replied, “No way. Shuffle up the cards and let me try again.”

Grandpa would always come in at about 8:00 and ask, “Chickie (my grandma) are you ready?” Always before our popcorn or ice cream, I would follow grandma to her room. From a small, center drawer in her dresser, she pulled out a special, clear, pink-beaded rosary and hand it to me. Soon we knelt at grandma and grandpa’s bed. I couldn’t rest my elbows on it like they could, but my chin could reach. There we would pray the entire Rosary. Papa went to bed immediately following and grandma and I would party on until we could no longer keep our eyes open.

Saturday was shopping day! As I ate breakfast, I heard grandpa opening his safe to retrieve the money he had budgeted for our shopping trip. Grandpa always had the car ready in the driveway, warmed-up and idling for grandma and me. Grandma put on her lipstick, as I jumped out of my skin to get out the door. As papa stood next to the car door, I quickly climbed in, and as he would make sure I was securely fastened, he would always say, “Get whatever you want, but don’t ever get the first thing you see.”

Everyone at the Stonewood Shopping Center knew my grandma. Sometimes it was hard to be patient as I listened to stories of the schoolyard. Grandma was the yard lady at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the local Catholic school, for many years. She smuggled goodies to the students that were her “favorites.” It was funny to hear grown adults, all of them, lean in to me and say, “I was her favorite,” when I knew very well that I was.

It was always late when I finally decided on that special thing that caught my eye. It was always the last thing we bought, but always the first thing I had seen. But I never regretted my decisions. As we pulled into the driveway, my grandfather met us with a big smile, opened my door and said, “Did you girls have much luck?” We were exhausted, but could always find the energy to play a few rounds of “Concentration,” pray the Rosary, and have popcorn or ice cream

I had a love/hate relationship with Sundays. I loved going to their church, because it was so beautiful that I thought for sure it was God’s favorite church – but I hated the wake-up call at 5:30 a.m. Papa’s poached eggs on toast always put me in a better mood, and off we went. As I sat in God’s favorite church, I always gave thanks for my special grandparents and for my special weekend.

As I became an adult, I strayed from Catholicism and back again, stronger than ever. I always did go back to the first thing I saw, and I never regretted my decisions. My husband and I received the Sacrament of Marriage and have four children who attend Catholic school.

Throughout my many conversions my grandparents passed away. My children never met my papa, but they did get know “Horsy grandma” – as all of the great grandchildren began to call her. She just wasn’t the same though – frail and forgetful.

On the night after grandma’s death, my oldest daughter, who was in kindergarten at the time, snuck off into her room. As I walked down the hall to check on her, I could see her kneeling at the side of her bed holding a chunky, oversized, children’s rosary that she had received at Baptism. My heart skipped a beat as I asked with pure wonder, “What are you doing Cali?” She replied, “I am praying the Rosary for your grandma and grandpa. Do you want to pray with me?” With tears in my eyes, I knelt beside my daughter’s bed and rested my elbows to pray the rosary for papa and grandma. I thanked God for my special grandparents and the miraculous gift of greater hope and faith I was given by God that night through praying the Rosary.

Laura Thies
Laguna Hills, California

An Irish grandma’s love

The small stage area of the bar is bustling with activity. One band is taking down their instruments while another is trying to set up. As the musicians find their place and begin to play, a cheer rises from the corner of the bar. My cousins rise and surround the stage – one of our own is playing. I look to the faces of my many cousins, heads bobbing and lips mouthing the words to the song, and feel a quiet kind of joy and sense of pride. The day happens to be March 17th, one of the most important holidays in the life of an Irish Catholic. Our beloved “Gramma” and matriarch of the Grogan Clan of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, lost her life to cancer just under a year ago. As I stand shoulder to shoulder with my cousins, I am reminded of the woman who taught us all so many important lessons. I see her love in the faces of my family and the pride they show for the one who is singing on stage, and I know, at that moment, she is not far away from the celebration. Cleo Grogan always was – and still is – the life of the party.

Kaitlin Donohoe

The story of Paw Dan McCloy
The most fresh and recent memory is of my husband’s grandfather. He lived to be 98, and was very lucid and smart as a whip to the very end. Up until a few months before his death, he was still fishing with my husband. Paw Dan McCloy was a quiet, unassuming man. He didn’t say much, but when he spoke you knew it was the truth. He was one of seven boys and at least one of his brothers lived to be in his early hundreds. His name was Sam — Uncle Sam — which always made me smile. And he was a very devout Christian. All of the boys were, as far as I know. Uncle Woodrow, another brother, entertained us with beautiful hymns played on his harmonica. They truly loved the Lord.

When I go to my vegetable garden, I think of Paw Dan. He had such a green thumb, and as a matter of fact, some of his veggies are still growing. They just came up again, even though he’s in heaven – or maybe because he is. His orange tree and fig tree are loaded with bountiful fruit, as was his life.

I was raised in foster homes since the age of 5, so I really didn’t know my own grandparents very well, and I have only vague, distant memories of them. But my memories of Paw Dan are alive and live on in my daughter and husband.

He was a convert to Catholicism. He was quiet about his faith, but you could see it in his hands and strong shoulders. In his later years, he was too frail to go to church, so he’d watch Mass on TV at my mother-in-law’s house. He never complained and ate anything that she put on his plate. One of his funny habits was mixing all of the food together. He said it was all going to the same place, anyway. By 7 a.m., he had his house cleaned, his bed made up, and his clothes hanging on the clothesline. He sat in his backyard, drinking in the morning, appreciating nature, and feeding the birds and squirrels who came daily. He took scrap wood and build birdhouses and birdfeeders for his family and friends. He used to speak about how he had to quit school in the third grade and go to work to help support his family.

I could go on and on about this wonderful example of Christian love but there are not enough hours in a day to speak of how wonderful he was. I guess since I was not fortunate enough to know my own grandparents, God saved the best for last in my knowing and loving Paw Dan.

Kathy Acosta

Planting beans, learning lessons

I was 6 years old in 1951, and my paternal grandfather Giuseppe Cappuccio was 91 years old. He was still remarkably active — he had never been sick or hospitalized in his long, often hard life. An immigrant, he made a life in America and supported his family with his hands, working on the railroad or the surrounding farms. In 1951, he worked a small plot of land adjacent to the house he had built where we both lived.

Beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers all grew in wonderful profusion under his care. Each summer day, I followed him as he worked. We did not speak — he spoke no English, and I spoke no Italian — but I found his gardening methods utterly fascinating. His tools were worn and some held together only by his intricate hand wiring. Water was carried in a bucket up and down each row. Everyday, he religiously watched for weeds and bugs, which he picked and promptly squashed. He had an ongoing war with the birds who nibbled on his precious crops. His weapons were stones, and his 91-year old eye was a thing to admire when he stalked a marauding bird.

One day, he presented me with a few bean seeds. They must have been limas because they were goodly size seeds as I can remember. I found an old, metal basin, filled it with garden soil, and planted my seeds – mercilessly over-watering them. Then I began the watch. Each day I checked to see if anything came up, but nothing happened. One night, one of our cats scrambled through the garden and upended my basin and its precious contents.

The next morning, my hopes were dashed by the scene. Disheartened, I left it as it fell and moved on to other 6-year-old pursuits. Grandpop left it alone too, just as it lay.

A week passed and one morning, as I followed him in silence, he motioned to me to follow him to where the basin lay. Carefully lifting one end, he peered under it. I looked too!
What an amazing sight! Little sprouts, white and spindly, had pushed up through the soil. The loosened soil fell away from the seeds, and I could actually see where the sprout had pushed its way out of the seed casing to find the light and begin growing.

As I stood with an open mouth and joyful eyes, Grandpop smiled. I quickly replanted the little sprouts. I can still remember is the wonder I felt at the moment. It must have been that day that my love for growing things began. I am not the best gardener nor the most proficient, but I still relive that moment with Grandpop whenever I see my seeds sprouting. In fact I relish the moment when I do see them first appear, perhaps even more than when I pick the finished fruits.

I have the feeling that somewhere, close by, Grandpop smiles as we share another silent moment of wonder.

Sally Capuccio Pietrofitta
Somers Point, New Jersey

A grateful grandson
He is 75. His green and red scout cap cover the short white hair that shines radiantly on his head. Red and green flannel shirts always seem to match his forest green scout pants. He wears light tan colored hiking boots, with steel toes completely exposed. With hiking stick in hand, this Boy Scout is forever eager to tackle the most rugged terrain nature can dish out. Like a human compass, he treks through the woods. There is never a trail not memorized, an unfamiliar plant, or an unnamed animal. He is surely the father of nature.

Despite his aged body, artificial knees, and a sextuple bypass surgery, he always hikes on. A 75 year old with the heart of an active nine year old. He is a lover of life. The woods seem to be his home. His determination while blazing the trails makes it seem like he is once again a World War II marine. The years have been good to him – to his soul that is. His body is another story. His body has character, and a character he is.

Always happy, ever-joyful, he never wants to bother the world with his troubles. His overwhelming joy always seems to rub off on everyone around him. I remember songs he always sings as we hike through the woods. I remember how he always refers to “Tuesday.” When asked about the time of something, he always responds with “Tuesday.” He is quite the comedian, quick and clever with words. No matter how upset one might be, he never fails when it comes to putting a smile on someone’s face. He always asks if you want a Kleenex or a hanky if you complain about something, and right then you stop fretting and laugh.

He loves himself, and he loves living. I guess that’s why it’s so easy for everyone to love him. He is Tom Lehmier, my granddad.

Gabe Dillard

Glad to have grandkids nearby
Most of our grandchildren live some distance away, or parental work schedules make visits difficult. When my younger daughter and son-in-law lost their lease and needed to come home, I didn’t hesitate. She owns the mobile home on our acreage so it wasn’t a problem.

A couple years later when the first baby came I was overjoyed. At last — a grandchild I could get to know! We kept her frequently, loved her, spoiled her, and sent her home.

Sixteen months later, her little sister joined us, and I learned again — as I had with my own five — there’s always enough love to go around. I also learned it’s quite easy to say a decade or two of the Rosary while a baby drinks a bottle.

Once again there’s the opportunity to show the birds outside our windows, flowers in season, white clouds, blue sky, moon and stars to eager eyes, and to benefit from their sense of wonder.

Of course, it’s work, too. We get tired and are ready for Mom and Dad to take them home to bed. But I thank God everyday that they’re here.

Mary Calkum
Limon, Colorado

The sweet smell of Palmolive soap
As you entered the enclosed back porch of Grandma and Grandpa’s home, you were always greeted by the clean scent of Palmolive soap – a warm, sweet, fresh greeting – and then the hugs of hello from them both.

Grandpa raised many chickens and had a big garden, so my grandparents had a wash basin on a table so Grandpa could wash up as he came in from his chores. A bucket of water, fresh from the well, sat next to the basin with a big dipper in it. A nearby dish held the bar of Palmolive soap. Visits were always filled with much happy talk, joking, good food, and happy memories.

When I was nineteen, Grandpa had a stroke and passed away a week or two later. About twenty one years later, Grandma also died. After that, I never noticed bars of Palmolive soap in our stores. About ten years after Grandma died, my dad died and Mom decided to move to New Mexico to be near my brother and sister. Mom seemed happy and more years went by. About ten years later, Mom’s health was failing. She was 86 years old at the time.

My sister called to say Mom was in the intensive care unit at the hospital, and that I should come out. My sister Ruth and I flew out to spend a week with Mom and my other sisters and brothers. Mom seemed in good spirits and laughed and talked with us while we visited, but didn’t want to sleep. She said she was scared because she had bad visions when she was waking up. “I know they’re not real,” she said, “but they scare me.”

While she slept she constantly called out for help, and tossed about, pulling on the tubes she was supposed to be hooked up to. One of us stayed with her always, taking turns of four hour shifts. I knew my stay was only for a week, so I said I wanted to spend the entire night with Mom. My sister Ruth said she would also. We visited with Mom, recalling many good family times. At about 10:00 p.m., Mom said she was tired, but was afraid to fall asleep. I told her Ruth and I would be with her all night, and we would watch out for her.

About forty-five minutes into her sleep, she started tossing her head back and forth on her pillow, and reached out her arms calling, “Mama help me, please! Mama, get me out of here! Help me Mama, help me!” Her voice sounded like that of a little girl. I went to the foot of her bed to keep her from pulling out any of the tubes in her sleep. As I walked past the foot of her bed, the soft, sweet scent of Palmolive bar soap enfolded me. I moved closer to my mom, and leaned down and asked softly, “Mom is Grandma with you?” In the little girl’s voice she answered, “Yes, and so is the Lord, and Mama says she loves the Lord, and I love the Lord. And Mama says it will be all right.” She slept deeper and more peacefully the rest of the night, without tossing or turning.

I looked everywhere in that room, but could find no soap. Ruth and I knew then that Grandma would guide Mom home. The next day my mother said nothing about that night. Two days later Ruth and I had to return to our homes. Four days after our special night with Mom, Mom went home to be with the Lord.

Paddy Schwemlein
Mendota, Illinois

The blessed mother helps keep our family together
I am a seventy-four year old widow; my husband passed away almost nine years ago. Together we had 13 children, 49 grandchildren, and 29 great-grandchildren. When my husband was alive, we always looked forward to spring and summer breaks so that we could have our grandchildren stay with us. In 1980, we moved to a large piece of land outside of Tularosa, New Mexico. We owned nine acres and our land became known as Mi Ranchito (my little ranch). It was an ideal place to live because there was plenty of room for our grandchildren to play.

Oftentimes, the grandchildren would spend their vacations with us. The boys camped outside with Grandpa, and the girls slept inside with Grandma. We kept various animals: horses, cows, chickens, and so on; the children loved to be around the animals. Today we just have a dog.

I still look forward to the spring and summer vacations so that I may see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It is wonderful that I get to share this tradition with my great-grandchildren as well.

In 2005, I started a club that was geared to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. At the time, some of my granddaughters lived close by, so I asked them to join. We named it Mary’s Angel Force Club.

My empty garage was big enough to hold all our members. My sons and sons-in-law all got together to fix up the garage and turn it into our official meeting place. My son the Deacon blessed all the members and our club house. Then we elected a President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer. The parents donated money for t-shirts, and they donated rosaries. Our meetings always take place on the first Sunday of the month and to this day, not one single meeting has been missed. We celebrated our second anniversary in March 2007.

Our meetings always follow this order,
1. Club prayer
2. A rosary is offered for all the sins of the world
3. A pot luck meal for all the children and parents.

All the grandchildren look forward to our meetings because of the fun that they have, as well as what they learn about Jesus.

Mary Melendrez
Tularosa, New Mexico

Grandma’s devotion and dedication inspires me
I am writing to let you know what an inspiration my Grandmother has been. I have been incredibly blessed to be a part of her family, as she has always encouraged her children and grandchildren to be good Catholics. My grandparents always opened their house to their family and friends. They are well loved by their family, and always will be.

While growing up, we gathered to pray the Rosary with my family during Lent, Christmas, and any religious occasion. We also recited the Stations of the Cross. My grandparents owned a large piece of land where they had designated spots for each station. Christmastime was extremely memorable because they placed rows of luminaria around the property. The luminarias are a Southwestern tradition and are made of a brown paper bags, filled with sand and a lit candle. They gave off a beautiful glow, which illuminated the path to each Station of the Cross.

My grandparents taught us to cherish the time that we have with our family and most importantly they taught us that a “family who prays together, stays together.” When my grandfather passed away, I feared that we would not be as close anymore. But my grandmother put my fears to rest when she continued our family traditions within her club, Mary’s Angel Force.

My grandparents were always patient, gentle, loving, and kind. When I grew up and moved away, it was always my loving family that I missed the most. It was also the love of my family that has brought me back to them.

I would like to share one of my fondest memories of my grandparents. Every Christmas, my grandparents gave each of their grandchildren a bag of goodies. In these bags were candies, nuts, apples, and oranges. To me, these bags were so much better than getting other gifts. My grandparents did not have a lot of money, but it was the little things that meant the most. Even at a young age, I knew how much love went into the preparation of these bags. On Christmas Eve, my grandparents gathered the family, and we went Christmas caroling to the houses of our older family members or friends. We often sang for those who were too old or too sick to leave home.

During Christmas of 2006, Mary’s Angel Force stuffed bags with candies, nuts, and fruits. Together, we went to the houses of friends and families and sang for them. At each house we left a bag of goodies. Many of the people that we sang for were overwhelmed and touched by the simple act of caring. It was a wonderful feeling both to those who sang and those for whom we sang.

This club has become important to me and my son. I am proud to be a part of this club and, as an adult, I continue to learn about Jesus and the path he wants his flock to follow. I am forever thankful to my grandmother for the sacrifices she made to keep her family together.

Lillian M. Zanelli

Grandchildren bring joy to our lives
Having grandchildren is truly a blessing from God. When I think of my own twelve grandchildren, six granddaughters and six grandsons, I cannot help smiling because they bring so much joy to my life. They make me feel that I am an important part of their lives. They certainly are an important part of mine. What makes them so special?

My grandchildren range in age from 20 to 3 years old. When young Erin comes to visit she rushes over to give me a hug and a kiss, worth a million dollars to me, and then goes to get the books she wants me to read to her. The others love to listen to stories about their own Mom or Dad, my children, and what they did when they were young. They want me to attend their dance recitals, theatre performances, soccer games, football games, and swim meets. This gives me pleasure and keeps me busy. When they are stuck with homework problems or writing assignments, they often call me for advice. Nana is expected to know everything. I also appreciate all the pictures they draw and present to me and their thoughtful written notes, many of which I have framed and hung on a special wall I have set aside for their creative works.

When their grandfather died in 1993 we had only 5 grandchildren. Though they were quite young, they remember their Pops. He was a loving grandfather who took them for walks, played with them, and loved to take them for ice cream. My oldest grandson Andy was 6 when his Pops died. Soon after he had a school assignment to write about clouds. My son and daughter-in-law sent me a copy of what he said:

“I wish I was a cloud so I could go up to heaven to visit my Pops. I miss him so much and wish that he was here.”

Needless to say, this brought tears to my eyes. It is touching to know that his grandfather had been special to him and would not be forgotten. Since then, some of my other grandchildren who were not yet born when my husband died have written notes about him. Most express their feelings that they wish they could have known him.

I am always amazed at what they do and cannot imagine what my life would be like without them. They are all precious to me. Each one is different, and I enjoy being with them.
Three of my granddaughters are now teenagers and are interested in baking. Kayla loves my cheesecake, so she asked if she could come over on Christmas Eve to make two cheesecakes for Christmas Day. Since we were busy all day and had to attend Mass at 8 p.m., we started our baking later and finally finished around midnight. It was a fun time for both of us. These are memories I will always cherish.

Sadly one of my grandsons died about ten years ago; three years after his grandfather. Jamie was eight and had cancer. We still miss him.

Rosemarie D’Alessandro
Wyckoff, New Jersey

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