Monday, April 14, 2014

RIP Grandma Tokarski

This is a picture of my paternal grandparents on their wedding day. My grandma passed away last February, just shy of her 97th birthday, after a decade-long struggle with Alzheimer's disease. As much as I appreciate her amazing longevity, I just can't imagine being trapped in a body with a mind that is deteriorating on that level for so long. I remember visiting her at the nursing home with Seamus in February 2009 - she sort of recognized me (I think) but she had no idea what was going on. Of course we are sad to lose her, but mostly we are relieved that she is finally released from this horrible disease.

I have so many wonderful memories of Grandma - many, if not most, of my happiest childhood moments occurred in their little house on Marshal Drive in Billings - the same house where my dad and his brothers grew up. They doted on us and spoiled us rotten throughout our entire childhood and well into adulthood. When I was 8, I convinced them to buy me Madonna's "Like a Virgin" on cassette tape (They were devout Catholics) - My sister Linda and I proceeded to dance around their living room singing along to the title track over and over again for an entire weekend, having no idea what the lyrics meant, of course. It's amazing what they put up with from us!

A mass was held last February along with a small graveside service. My dad, Hassie, and Annie were able to be there for that. Being weary of funerals after the last few years, the rest of us decided to wait until the weather was nice to fly out to MT and have an informal graveside memorial gathering for Grandma. And so we all gathered last Monday around the graves that contain both of my grandparents and my dad's 3 brothers, and shared some favorite memories of Grandma. Afterwards, we headed to a VRBO rental in Absarokee to spend some time together. It had been so long since we had all been together and I think we were all reminded of how oddly life-affirming a death in the family can be.

After much negotiation, Eric and I decided that I would take one half of the DuBabies and he would keep the other half at home with him. Neither of us could stomach being away from them for 5 days. I chose to bring the child who was more likely to sit still on the plane, which happened to be Greta. Conveniently, she is also the better sleeper. It was like a mini-vacation for me and Eric, and for Gris who was home with Gus during the day. I think both the twins enjoyed having some one on one time with us, and as far as we can tell they hardly even noticed the other was gone.

Of course I took a ton of pictures - the setting was so beautiful! Our cabin had a wraparound deck with a panoramic view of the Beartooth Mountains. We spent the first night with my mom in Billings. Not much of a view there, but the company and the food were fabulous!

 Greta enjoying some post-bath Grandma O snuggle time. 

The next morning Stephen and I went for a run through our old neighborhood. This is the house we grew up in. Structurally, it looks the same, although the porch and the paint job are new. Hard to believe a family of 7 squeezed into that house!

We got stuck in a cow-jam on our way to the cabin. 

 Once we arrived, Greta was in heaven.



 There is a little pond about 1/2 mile up the road from the cabin. We braved the wind to walk up there the first day.
My dad and Stephen doing some male bonding.

Not sure if I've mentioned that my siblings and I went in on a nice karaoke machine as a Christmas gift to each other last year. This was the first opportunity we were all together to use it. I must say we rocked it - from Lady Gaga to Huey Lewis, John Denver, Dr. Hook and of course Billy Joel.

 Katie and I synchronized our dance moves. 

 Father-son duet.

 Totally non-creepy brother-sister duet. 

 Ninner's solo set.

Dad and Hassie sang a John Lennon song and everyone was in tears by the end. Was it bad singing or heartfelt sentiment for these 2 lovebirds? We're not telling.

Greta was a less-than ideal sleeping companion. I think in her dreams she is a windmill. 

Linda captured this sweet moment between me and Greta, and also ruined it by trying to get Greta's attention as she was taking the picture. Note Greta's facial expression.

 Cats! Did I mention that Greta was in heaven? 

 Greta with Aunt Linda.

 And Uncle Stephen the cat whisperer.

 Dad and Hassie looking good.

 Aunt Annie gives good hip.

One of Greta's few 2-syllable words is "tractor"

 Stephen totally schooled me in buck hunter. But you wouldn't know it from these photos.

Group shot on the deck before parting ways.