Monday, June 20, 2011

Slovak som a Slovak budem

When I was home this past weekend, my brother and I went to visit my grandmother, who is unfortunately very ill, with shingles, of all things. My grandmother, you should know, is a tremendous bad ass. Although she was born in Astoria (daughter of a WWI vet and an indentured servant), her first language was Slovak-- and she speaks old Slovak, too, before it got all Russianized/Germanized (depending on the region), like most of the central/eastern European languages did-- whenever I try to teach my youngest brother Russian, she corrects what I'm saying to be Slovak, even though she knows full well I don't speak it. She's been a heavy smoker since she was 17 and quit only twice-- cold turkey both times-- when she was pregnant. She never much cared that Yale admitted me, but still gives me crap for not having made the Slavic Women's Chorus once I got here. Once when we were smoking together outside Red Lobster she went on a lengthy rant about how she, personally, would lead the revolt against Michael Bloomberg and his damnable sin tax policy.
My great-grandparents, Rudolf and Jozefina
(He was so handsome! I need to upload a photo of him in uniform one of these days.)
Now in the past few months, my grandmother has lost use of her right arm and fine motor control in both hands, which bothers her chiefly because she can't work her lighter anymore. My mother, despite being an ardent anti-smoker, bought her a giant button activated BBQ lighter in an attempt to be helpful-- please imagine a woman in her early 80s trying to angle a foot-long red and silver contraption with a large flame at the end toward a very small area near her face using her weak hand. 

So luckily old Rutinka can still work matches, and thus bought a big box of the long ones and managed to wear out the strike pad within a few days. Undaunted (and unwilling to buy a new box of matches just for the strike pad), now whenever she wants a smoke she walks over to the kitchen, turns on the stove, and lights the match on the burner-- even when I was there for a visit, and offered to light her cigarette for her, she steadfastly refused.

While she was doing this, she went on for a while about how lucky she is, given that some people get shingles all over their bodies, and she only has to deal with an useless right arm, and apologized profusely for not being able to prepare a duck dinner for my brother before he ships out to Quantico.

Please remember her in your prayers.

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