While at the local Dollar General today, I had to pick up a pack of Nutter Butters. These cookies lead back to one important person in my life, Kathryn A. Charnougrsky Blascak. She was my great Grandma but everyone called her “Baba.”
Upon opening that pack of cookies at my house, I find myself sitting at her kitchen table and her asking if I wanted some. Of course, I never refused the peanut butter goodness. I always hoped she would offer me some when I was over for a visit. Most importantly, cookies meant sitting down and talking with Baba would happen. I never cared what we talked about. It was just being in her presence that made me feel so special. I knew we had a special bond when she would take her wig off and just sit there being her with no hair.
Baba was born October 14th, 1908. She was a tough woman who lost her husband who was 14 years older than her when she was in her early thirties. She went through the Depression. Baba was a woman who could stand her own ground. She had worked on the family farm. Growing up, I never recalled Baba talking about my Great Grandpa Stefan. I know she must have loved him so much because she never remarried. I do not think she pursued or was pursued by any other man.
Sometimes I wish I had asked her more questions. What was my great Grandpa like? How did they meet? What was it like growing up for Baba? What was my grandmother like as a child? What advice do you have for me about marriage, children, etc.? She never talked about these things. In many ways she was a very private person.
If I could see Baba now I would say, “Thank You!” Thank you for having such strong faith that you past it down to my grandma who passed down her faith to my Mom who passed it down to me. I did not always have strong faith and had several years in my life where I drifted from God. They were very tough years for me. I came back and I am stronger in my faith thanks to the strong women in my family.
I recall as a child, helping Baba and my Mom clean the church. I recall Sundays sitting up front with Baba during mass. Afterwards, she would come with us for a Sunday drive. I loved Sundays, because if Baba was around my Dad was on his best behavior. For some reason he had a lot of respect for her and did not drink around her. I was always excited on Sundays and felt hope and joy.
I do not think Baba knew how much she influenced my life. She was a fighter to the end. I remember how we would go watch her bowl in a league and by then she was blind. Her teammates just told her what pin numbers were up and she still would bowl amazing games. I looked up to her for her strength, faith, and perseverance.
On November 9, 1992, I was sitting in class and the phone rang. I had a pit in my stomach and I just knew. My Dad could barely choke the words out into the phone that he was there to pick me up. Right then I knew she was gone, my Baba was gone. I turned pure white and rushed out of my classroom to the office. On the drive home, my brother, my Dad, and I were crying. It hurt so badly. I remember crying for my Mom who had to drive 45 minutes home from work. In many ways she was a second Mom to my Mom. Baba was the first relative that was close to me that I had lost. We lost her to cancer. It saddens me that back then I could not see that it was a blessing that God took Baba. She was hurting, suffering, losing weight, deteriorating fast. It was just too much for me at the age of fourteen to completely understand.
After that, I had doubt. I hated God. When I should have ran to him, I ran away from him fast and hard. I did not look back either. I struggled with my faith for close to 7 years. Often times, I would think if I did an action, what would Baba think? That lasted for a while and it helped me to make some good choices. But as time went on, I stopped asking what she would think. I know now I should have been thinking is this what God want me to do but I was not there yet. During my struggling, I made some bad choices. These choices I can never take back.
I am happy that I know God today and I know he has forgiven me for the things that happened between 14-21 years of age. God had helped me to be forgiven and to forgive others. My faith is stronger than it ever has been and continues to strengthen. I can only hope that when I die, my girls know I have a strong faith and that they have strong faith too.