GRACE IS REMEMBERED
Growing up the youngest daughter of Grace and Phil Klemow instilled me with a sense of humor. In our house, laughter was the norm, and was right behind food in importance, at 114 East Tamarack Street.
At times we lived in the sitcom the “Honeymooners”, as my father used to pantomine Jackie Gleason when he was often heard to say, one of these days Gray one of these days, Pow, right to the moon. Later we were all sure that they based Edith Bunker on our mom.
Driving down the street yesterday, I remembered a day a few years ago, when she, my sister and a friend of my sister were visiting us in Colorado. We had all gone to the Broadmoor Hotel for a weekend at the spa. On the way home we needed to stop at a drug store for something, and Mom, feeling a cold coming on, asked us to get her some Euthinasia meaning Ecineshia. Like the good daughters we were, we marched in and explained to the druggist our mothers request, while we once again howled in laughter in the special language only our mother could have coined.
She was Sweet, she was innocent, with never a harsh word for anyone outside of her children, or should I say, her youngest child. Larry & Elaine were perfect in her eyes, and I see, looking back, they really were perfect. No mother could have ever asked for a better daughter and son.
Just 10 days ago , she looked up into my eyes, and said, as I wrapped her in my arms, “My Beloved daughter”. I told her I waited 59 years for those words.
If being loved is the measure of success, then my mother was one of the greats. These past 2 weeks she was surrounded by the love of her children, their spouses, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. In addition to all the wonderful caregivers at Provident Place, and her fellow residents. And since her passing her sister, her brother, her sister in laws and her brother in law, are all very pained that they cannot be here today to say goodbye to her. They are joining us all here today to really mourn her passing.
It took me all of this time to realize what a truly great lady my own mother was. We will miss her, but we will all carry her forward in our hearts.
Danielle Delivers Michael's Words
My grandmother…. my family
How do we sum up a life of 92 years in such a short moment as this speech?
I think about my personal experience as a young boy spending my summers with my grandparents with what seemed to be in a town that appeared to be locked in the past, full of all the things that are wonderful about a small town existence. My grandmother would always wake me up with her unique voice and style, “Michael my boy” with a shrilly piercing tone that would go up and then down, that was impossible for me to sleep through. I could not possibly tolerate it for a second time. I would wake up in the middle bedroom of her home that was decorated with bright back and white polka dots on the bedding, pillows and walls. When my eyes would start to focus,
I would be starring at countless books on Werewolves, Vampires and Murder mysteries.
I would come downstairs looking at the wall of pictures leading to the first floor to find grandma in a house dress, powder blue slippers, and trying desperately to get pop pop to put his pants on and a clean undershirt. I would sit at the table in that little kitchen admiring my grandfather, eating a bowl of old cereal that had bugs floating on the top while grandma made sure I was out of the house in time for my bus for camp.
When I came home from camp, grandma would greet me with a big smile as she got up from her couch which was covered with plastic. She never seemed to sit still and I always remember her moving about doing multiple things at one time.
One of the worst things she would ask me to do was go down the basement for a can of something that had no label. I was petrified because almost every time I went down there, she would inevitably turn the lights off while I was exploring the many objects that she would store. Worse yet was when I crossed over the connecting tunnel in her basement to the other house and I heard the door open and whoosh I hear the light switch flick… and I knew I was going to be attacked by all the creatures that she read about. I would yell and scream and inevitably make my way back where I could feel the steps leading back to safety.
I can never forget her facial expressions when she did not approve of something I, or anyone would say. She would usually have a tissue in her hand or a magazine and turn her head to an angle with a disapproving look that was unique to her saying “I never heard of such a thing..Not in Hazleton. She would walk away and I knew my grandmother represented what I would only understood as an adult as a wonderful woman that saw the world in the most simplistic ways.
Grandma had a way of telling everyone including me how she saw things and she was not one to hold her tongue..ever! She was strong and loving at all times.
Time has a way of putting everything into perspective and for me I knew that my grandmother was a lady that loved her family, loved her town and loved her husband. She never remarried and when I asked her about this subject one day, she told me that pop-pop was her one and only and
that was that!!!! There was no other discussion about this. As I look back at my time with her I realize that she was more complicated than I ever knew.
Her mind was like a high powered computer when it came to money and how she would spend it. She remembered ever time I borrowed from her and always taught me the lesson of paying your debt back even if you are a grandson.
I remember her walking everywhere around town… as she came from a generation that did not drive cars. I was always shocked at this as I only knew 2 other people in my entire life that did not drive, my other grandparents.
Last week I drove around Hazleton recounting all of my childhood memories and my grandmother’s faces, posture, smell and her life with me. I figured out….
That She is Hazleton… a lady of strength, character and deep family ties and
what all of us aspire to be in life… a class act.
As I sat in her room in her final hours I saw the absolute love that all of my family expressed for her. I never felt closer to my family and I am certain my grandmother felt our love and our presence. I watched my mother, my Aunts and my uncle’s envelope her with a blanket of adoration that allowed my wife Danielle and I leave with a sense that grandma was in the best possible care that anyone could dream of as they exit this life and begin the next journey. I can only hope that my grandfather is waiting for her as I imagine in my mind.
Goodbye my grandma. We love you!
My grandmother who we all called Grandma Grace was definitely a unique person. I was always amazed when I looked in books at the stereotype of a grandmother, because that sure wasn’t the one I had. She was funny without trying to be. How many people are nostalgic about weather forecasts, but I never got a note that she wrote me that did not start out with the temperature and weather usually like this. :81 degrees sunny.
We often would go out to eat when we came to visit in her younger days and my grandmother would order from the menu according to price not what the food was she would say “ I ‘ll have the $3.95 and I would ask “What did you get grandma? She would say “I don’t know, but the price was right.”
She preferred polyester to silk and costume jewelry to real. From her my daughter and I have both inherited a purse fetish. She had them in every drawer in her home.
We all love chocolate from Grandma. Even on her last days I snuck her some chocolate sauce, which she responded too, her last meal was a sundae (not bad).
My mom was always having to replace lipsticks which no matter how many she bought for grandma were gone or went through the wash because she had them in every pocket. My daughter and I also have a lipstick in every pocket and purse, and when I go to do the wash I am forever finding them just prior and think of her. As a child it was the little things you think of, my grandma was never without a chicklet box or a National Enquirer or Sun Magazine. She loved what we call the “trash” magazines. She was nuts about her “stories” or soap operas on tv and no one was to bother her from 1230p to 4p until they were over.
She was convinced she was not pretty and for some reason whenever you paid her a compliment she pruned up her face and said we were wrong. In fact I always thought my grandmother was pretty. Her skin was gorgeous to the end. She lied about her age for as long as I remember. I never knew how old she was until recently. She had lovely green eyes too, but she never liked them she said, she preferred brown. She had poor hearing, everyone knows that but never regarding her age or talks of that or anything about what something cost. That, she heard perfectly.
Many of my memories involve her younger, She kept her house “just so” and was forever straightening it up. She loved her home on Tamarack Street. She had theme rooms such as “Her orange kitchen and her blue bathroom and black and white extra bedroom. Any color orange and any shade of blue went.
Mostly though, I know she was happiest when we were all together, before she started loosing her memory. She would be staring at all of us, taking it all in. She loved her family. All of her children were successful in marriages and careers. Everyone has stayed with their spouses unheard of in this day and age. All of her grandchildren are married and happy. She saw her great granddaughter live to sixteen years, my Rebecca, and was able to appreciate her great grandsons Daniel and Stephen, my brother Robby’s sons. My Cousin Danielle, Larry and Marion’s daughter bought her brand new gorgeous baby Sydney to see grandma at the end when she wasn’t doing well. We have a wonderful and fun to be with family.
She always thought we only came to see Pop-pop and never her, and that after he died we would not come. Well Gram, this is all for you, and we are all here about and for you. We love you, and will always smile and cherish all the memories we have had of our “Amazing Grace.”
Gracie loved the "Coney Island Hot Dogs" and "Bramies" (sp) Hamburgers. Her favorite snack was a glass of milk and a choc. tasty cake cup cakes.
Our weekly Sunday visits always included plenty of food and most always a pot of coffee, & freshly made cabbage soup, meat borscht, for which she was so famously popular. And of course there was that convenient store in the basement of their home which the kids were invited to go down and choose their famous icecream for desert, it was offered as a sundae, pie alamode, or just plain.
Picnics at out home brought aunt Gracies' famous potato salad, which was absolutely great and like no other. She told me her secret to the success of her recepie. (Season the potatoes while they are hot)
Traveling in a car with Gracie was an experience she did not care for,when Phil was doing the driving. She always held on to a part inside the car to brace herself, and continually elevated herself from the seat, still holding on and yelling, ("Phil, Phil!)
She was a creature of habit. Always had the same hairdo, wore the same red lipstick, and kept the "Ponds Cold Cream" in the refrigerator. I told her it was not necessary to do that, but she thought it had to be kept cold.
Wherever she went, she took a large shopping bag. I often wondered what was so important that she had to lug that around. She had an assortment of bags, that went to restaurants, visiting etc. accompining her.
She loved people, especially her mah jong group. She never let anything interfere with her games.
Strong she was, in charachter as well in spirit and was very decisive.
It was never a problem for her to lend out her kids for the weekend; and I loved it! I had them all individually at different periods when they were very young. We enjoyed having them, and they liked the experience of a different ambience.
When Elaine was about 10 or 12, we took her with us on vacation to Atlantic City, where she delighted in the role of being in charge of baby Valerie.
The fondness for Grace & Phil always brought many people to the house. It was forever "Open House." The door was never locked. Food was plentiful, and the joy and laughter filled the home.
It was the BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, and Grace and Phil contributed graciously and joyfully. Their home was a home away from home that allowed us to be free and easy and open with each other, and the love was felt by all of us. We never wanted to leave and depart from the wonderful conversations, jokes and fun filled times.
We are blessed to have had Grace in our lives.
Shalom Gracie! We all love you!
February 20, 2008