Jul 30, 2014

Rest In Peace


My dear, sweet Jadziu passed away Monday afternoon.  It was exactly 1 year and 1 week after my Bapchie's passing last year.  He was 94 years old.  He suffered from Alzheimer's for the past 13 years, but that's not what killed him.  It was a blood infection from his pace-maker.  He was otherwise still healthy and strong.  Always so strong.  He has cheated death many times before.  The one word that best describes him was: fighter.  He lived through throat cancer, prostate cancer, the war, pneumonia, car accidents and probably even more things that I'm not even aware of.   He still had the strongest handshake at 90+ than anyone I know.


Ed, as he was known, was born in December of 1918 or 1919, no one is really sure because the town hall where the records were kept burned down.  He was 1 of 6 kids born to Polish immigrants.  He grew up in Ellington, Connecticut where they farmed tobacco.  He was forced to leave school in the eighth grade to work full time on the family farm.  He adored his mom, but from what I remember, his father was a very hard person.  He joined the Army before Pearl Harbor.  He re-enlisted and served 6 years, 5 of those years were spent in WWII.  He was stationed in the Pacific Front in the Philippines.


He married my Bapchie when he returned home from the war.  He was six years her senior.  He never talked about the war that defined him so, much like every other man who served during that time.  They just never spoke about it.  He borrowed $8,000 from his father-in-law to buy their first and only house. It was in pretty bad shape when he bought it, but he fixed it up and continued to do so for the next 63 years they lived there.  He worked his entire life as an auto mechanic at Town Line Auto Body.  He could fix anything.  He was still climbing a massive telephone pole they had in their back yard that one end of their outdoor clothes line was attached too in order to fix the pulley system that was attached about 15 feet high off the ground - at 90+ years old, blind, with Alzheimer's.  Very little stopped him. They had two boys, six years apart.


I never lived close to my Grandparents but we always visited each other.  My Dad says that my Jadziu became a softer person once his grandkids were born.  I am the oldest of the 6 grandkids.  I remember asking him tons of questions about the war.  I know that he still suffered from headaches related to the war even now.  He lost his eye sight years ago, but he never let that stop him.  He would listen to books on tape and still read the paper every day (he could only see through his peripheral vision).  He read every National Geographic ever printed.  That is how he became so smart even though he never finished school.

This was the last time I saw him, a year ago at my Bapchie's funeral.  I had the chance to spend a few hours alone with him while my Bapchie was in the hospital.  He could never be left alone.  He was fiercely independent and his medicine often made him more confused and ornery.   The only time that seemed clear to his memory was his time in the war.  He thought I was female soldier coming to flirt with him.  He asked me all about my 'outfit' (what unit I was in).  I was making stuff up on the fly, it was hilarious.  We also sat outside in some lawn chairs for a while out on the driveway (they lived right off a main road and he often liked to watch the cars go by).  We were sitting very close to my car and he started asking me all types of questions about what type of engine it had.  His mind was still sharp as a tack when it came to cars, he could still tell you exactly how to fix any problem it had.


Jadziu was a life long Boston Red Sox fan.  That is why he is laughing in this picture.  My Dad placed his own Yankees ball cap on Jadziu's head which made him laugh and he said this was the only time you'd ever see this.  He never lost his sense of humor.  He was so funny.  Last year when the kids and I visited him, Bennett was trying to relate a story to him.  Jadziu responded with, "Don't ever tell a story if you don't have to."  It was pure Jadziu.  I traveled to Connecticut for his 90th birthday 4 years ago. He was still suffering from Alzheimer's but would still have moments of lucidity.  As I was about to leave to catch my plane he looked me directly in the eyes, held my hands and said, "May the Lord bless you and keep you."  My eyes still tear up  to this day with that recollection because I knew he knew exactly what he meant.  The thing he didn't know was that I send my kids off each morning with that same prayer.  My favorite memory of him is when I was a little girl and I would sit on his lap in the kitchen and we would eat oyster crackers with peanut butter on them together.  This big, strong man putting tiny globs of peanut butter on teeny tiny crackers...all for his grand daughter.

Thank you for the memories, Jadziu and for your legacy.

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