As we are focusing this issue on community service and heroic women of the past, I would like to take a moment to honor two women who have (and are) fulfilling both of those categories … my grandmothers! Both of my grandmothers were keepers of their homes. Both of them raised children who are productive members of society. Both battled numerous hardships in life, and yet have been a blessing to many others.
Ma, my father’s mother (Sara Suther Washburn),was working in Washington DC for the FBI, when she met her husband. She left behind a career, and successfully raised a family, even through very difficult circumstances. Thirty-nine years ago, my grandfather passed away after a battle with cancer. They had four boys, ranging in age from fifteen to four. Ma raised her sons, and has never remarried (as of yet) because, as she puts it, she has never met another man like my grandfather.
Ma is well-known for having a hospitable home; she never locked her doors! Abba says that when he was growing up, people were constantly in and out – you never knew who might be on the sofa the next morning! Because of this gift of hospitality, my mother actually was one of her guests and that is how my parents met.
Ma is the most “non-fearful” person you would want to meet. My mother laughs about the time they were traveling together and ended up in a very bad part of Louisiana. My father had food poisoning (that was not funny), and they had to pull over because of how sick he was. As they were waiting on my father, some very large, rough men approached my grandmother and mother to get some money. Mama said that Ma was not intimidated by these rough men in the least and basically told them to get going.
One year ago, Ma had a really neat idea. She has twenty-one grandchildren, and so she has dedicated one day of each month to pray for each grandchild, in age order. She will call us on “our-day” and talk to us, and find out what she ought to pray for. I think it is wonderful!
Ma is frugal … her favorite place to shop is Goodwill! We love to go thrift-store shopping with her. She is always looking for deals, and likes to find interesting gadgets – especially kitchen-helper type gadgets.
Since selling her home in North Carolina in 1999, Ma has traveled about, helping to care for family members and friends. She has moved from home to home helping with whatever the need is. She has lived with dying family and friends, and also family and friends who are recuperating from illnesses or operations. Lately she has lived with my uncle for a number of years, helping him to raise his children. Ma is wellloved by a lot of us and Mama says she is the best mother-inlaw any woman could have.
Babci, my mother’s mother (Marianna Dana Lasocha), was raised in Poland during World War ll – Babci, pronounced Bap-shee, is the Polish word for grandmother. She and her family suffered much at the hands of the Nazis. At the age of 20, she came to the States and met my grandfather, who was also from Poland. He and his family had also suffered during the war … when it was over they were liberated from work camps and had been sponsored to immigrate to the States. Babci and Dzadzi (grandfather) had very little to begin with, but they worked hard, and raised a family of five children. In 2000, Dzadzi passed away of an illness similar to Alzheimers. The disease had gotten progressively worse over the years (he could barely speak when I was a little girl, and was a total invalid at the time he passed away), but Babci had continued on “for better or for worse”. She cared for Dzadzi under extremely stressful and difficult conditions, until he had to be hospitalized or cared for in a nursing home. Babci went daily to see him, even though he could hardly respond to her. During the last year of his life, he was able to come home and be in a hospital bed in the living room. Babci cared for him beautifully, always trying to make sure that he was as comfortable as he could be.
Babci is a wonderful cook, and has taught us how to make Polish food. She is a good seamstress, and used to sew her family’s clothes. She can also crochet, and one of my treasured keepsakes is a baby blanket that she crocheted for me. She made each of us children one! Due to the traveling distance between us, we don’t get to see her too often, but when we do visit, she always welcomes us warmly – usually with pans of lasagna, and sweet smelling beds with big fluffy pillows and overstuffed down comforters!
Babci is very active. She helps to care for my younger cousins that live near her. She is very generous, often when we are visiting we see her helping out different people who are going through hard times. She continues to oversee the rental properties that she and Dzadzi invested in years ago. She gardens and has beautiful flowers!
Babci is an inspiration. Because of her desire to give her children a better life, she gave up her homeland and was cut off from her birth family. She did not want to raise a family in Communist Poland. Because of her sacrifice, she was not permitted to return to Poland until Communism
collapsed. Sadly, she was not allowed to visit her dying mother. She overcame the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture, and the language barrier. Mama says one of the most important lessons she learned from her mother was that Babci would often say “It does not matter what someone looks like on the outside…..what matters is what they look like on the inside”. That has helped Mama to keep the right focus in life.
I love you, Ma and Babci! I’m so thankful that you are my grandmothers, and I hope that we have many more years together!