Dear Grandma & Grandpa, Thank You

Growing up, I use to think my family was the coolest family in the world. With the diversity of fields each individual was in, there was, and still isn’t a lack of stories, information and learning. My family was simply everywhere. I have family in police departments, fire departments, electric companies, schools, technology companies, real estate, insurance agencies and everyone’s favorite, politics. All around, within multiple fields, there is someone that I can call family. Because of this, at 23 years old, I can say I have a good read on life and the way the world works thanks to the diversity within my family. We’re not a family of painters, teachers or politicians, we’re a family made up of different individuals on different paths riding our own waves through life.

My view on the world and people is what it is because of family. Across the board, there is no shortage of conversations to have with them and there is never not a moment to where you can learn a thing or two just by listening. Despite learning so much from my aunts, uncles and parents, there wasn’t information that I took more to heart than what I would get from my grandma and grandpa.

Within the past month, grandma and grandpa have moved on to their afterlife and are in the lord’s presence now. They went 26 days apart from each other, but it’s satisfying knowing that they’ll be together forever. On Friday, it would’ve been their 66th Wedding Anniversary and I couldn’t think of a better way to honor them than by writing a piece on what they both individually meant to me.

To start off, given us Jarosik boys are gentleman, we’ll begin with ladies first and my grandma.

Grandma, you gave me the biggest blessing I could ever had asked for, your personality and you’re mouth. Thanks to you, I can talk to anyone and everyone about anything and can “flap my jaws” for hours on end. In tune with your personality, you gave me your curiosity gene as well. Without it, I wouldn’t be interested in the different aspects of life that I’m invested in.

No matter what room it was you were in, at any time, you made it a point to have to be the smartest and know the most out of everyone in the room. Some people would look at that and try to degrade it, but she wouldn’t do it to be rude. After having numerous hour long discussions with her throughout life, I was able to figure out that she was this way because she loved to know information and her portraying it to people was her way of bragging. Despite being a journalism major and meeting and talking to numerous people across all different fields, I’ve never met a storyteller the way grandma was.

She was the ultimate storyteller. There’s not another person out there that could tell a story and describe people the way she did; and tell you their exact address, phone number and the city or town he or she lived in, all off the top of her head. You just couldn’t match it.

Looking back at it now, she deserves a lot more credit for me becoming a journalist than I initially gave her. I like to be honest in my storytelling and like to give my friends, family and the people, something that is worth reading every single time I decide to fire up the laptop and get into it. I want to put out a product that is factual and ultimately, can hit home for others while they read.

Over the past year or so, I’ve lost my touch with how frequently I write. Not going to say I’ve lost a passion for it, but it’s been set aside as I’ve gone on to learn more and live life. I’ll never lose the passion because I haven’t reached the benchmark that grandma set for me. Which is to be able to tell a story the way she did. I may not ever reach that point in my life, but it will be the fire within me that stays lit knowing, I’m still chasing to tell stories like grandma.

Overall, my grandma gave me a ton of love from the moment I was born to her last day on earth. I cherished the times I got to see her over the past few years because for once, she began letting me tell the story when we would talk. She was always interested in what I was doing. Especially when I worked at Disney. The first time I saw her post Disney, she was so interested to hear of how my experience was. Even though some of the things I was saying didn’t quite register with her, she was still there listening and learning about what I was doing and put all her effort into understanding everything I accomplished. Her effort was always there. After I was done explaining or answering her questions, she would always give that satisfying smile (whether her teeth were in or not) and give me a pat on the knee and would say she was so proud of me. Before she left us, I’m glad I was able to give her the honor of telling people her grandson worked at Disney World.

Grandma was so much more than what I’ve already said. She made basic Kraft mac n cheese taste like the best dish in the world, made the best grilled cheese I’ve ever tasted and always had the best assortment of cookies each and every time we came over. After trying for years to replicate her mac n cheese, using literally the same ingredients and doing it the same way she went about it, I found out it was the love that she put in it that made it unable to replicate. You usually hear about how good grandmas cooking is amongst all types of families, in this case, it was just that. Grandma’s cooking was unbeatable.

Ultimately she was the perfect spark for the Jarosik family. I like to think of myself as a go with the flow type person; I feel I’m this way because that’s how grandma was. She had a free spirit and when I learned that her favorite animal was a butterfly, the correlation simply added up. She took care of grandpa and was always there to criticize him when it was right to do so. One thing I’ll miss is them bickering in front of us telling one another to be quiet and to listen. Despite living to be 90, there was no shortage of entertainment when you’d go and visit them. As you can imagine, what I’ll miss most from her is the stories. Especially the classics.

I’ll miss hearing she was 1 of 39 in her graduating class from Lemont High School or that she played center for her basketball team (which thank you for the basketball gene as well) and was the tallest person in the school. As my cousin Marty said in her eulogy, she was our biggest cheerleader and that couldn’t have been more true. One of the ever lasting images I’ll have of her, is when she showed up to my championship game for recreational league basketball and had her pom poms out and waiving from the time my name was called in the starting lineup to every basket I made that game. She was truly one of a kind; I just hope heaven was ready for her because they gained one hell of a person.

Now, to the rock of the family, grandpa.

Grandpa, there aren’t enough words that can be said to describe you. I call you the rock of the family because you were just as tough on the outside as you were on the inside. There was no one that took more pride and honor in being a Jarosik. Your heart was full of love, your mind was stored with tons of information and your soul was golden.

It’s because of you that I take pride in carrying the Jarosik name. Growing up, I didn’t quite get what it meant to be one, but over time I soon found out. You were a hardworking, blue-collar type guy, that always took the high rode no matter how long it would take to reach that final destination. There was no one whose words I took more to heart than yours. The man was full of wisdom and despite living 89 years, his soul was much older.

My biggest life lesson that I took from you was your humbleness. I remember you and grandma came out for one of my basketball games in middle school and I think it was the only game you guys came to that I didn’t win. I remember being so upset we lost that game because obviously, you play to win, but I wanted to even more with you guys showing up. After going over and thanking you for coming, I apologized for not winning and you said to me, as calm as can be, “You can’t win em all Johnny. You win some, you lose some. The important thing is you gave it your best shot.”

Those words have stuck with me ever since and now after I lose in anything or if one of my favorite teams doesn’t win, I don’t take things as hard as I use to. From that point, I was able to piece the puzzle together with what he meant with saying that and is something I’ve portrayed in my everyday life. With his humbleness, however, he never wanted it to be about him. Except when it came to his Christmas decorations. But it truly was always about us, his family. He always asked how we were doing and what we were doing every time you would talk to him. He was always a pleasure to talk to because he cared so much. All those times he would ask me to speak up because he couldn’t hear me was because he didn’t want to miss the slightest detail of a story. His effort, like grandmas, was always there.

Speaking of Christmas decorations, there was no better time of the year for grandpa. For almost two decades, he would have me, my brother and Marty come on over one day and light up his house to the exact way he wanted. When we were younger, it was the best time because we got to spend time with Marty and we loved how we could help out grandpa. By the time we all got into our teens however, some years would turn into some arguments because grandpa would want things done this way, but it wouldn’t be possible, but he just couldn’t take no for an answer sometimes.

After a few years with that, we learned that if we just agreed with him and say yes, we would have no arguments, but would be able to ultimately do the decorations the way we wanted. Remember what I said about taking the high road no matter how long it took? Well, that definitely applies to him and his Christmas decorations. 100%.

It’s because of him, I know what hard work is. After hearing countless stories of the jobs he’s done, all the buildings he help built and put up around his home in Summit, the man passed that gene down not just to his kids, but to his grandkids and for generations to come.

It’s often said in sports that you’re only as good as the leader you have, grandpa without a doubt was the leader of this family. With his pride, determination and love, he’s watched his family grow deeper and I know at the end of everyday, he couldn’t be more thankful.

As we got older, he would find little ways here and there to give us “jobs” to do and get us to come over for a few hours. I remember going over there at times and doing the absolute slightest amount of work, 20-30 minutes tops, but he would find a way to make it last an hour or two. At first, I would get frustrated because the work was that simple, but after looking back on things, it was his way of spending time with us and was a way to teach us something. The work may have taken double the amount of time, but in the end, it was exactly the way he wanted things done and done right.

The unique thing about grandpa though, was I always learning from him, even after he was gone. I learned that he was nicknamed ‘The Boss” back in the day and I can’t think of a more accurate description of him. Looking back at the times with him and even going through pictures, he would always be the one sitting in a chair, but just because his legs couldn’t work doesn’t mean his mind wasn’t.

His style and the way he approached being “the boss” is something I’ve tried to emulate into my style. Didn’t matter if he was in a wheelchair, an office chair, a Lazy Boy, could see what you were doing, couldn’t see what you were doing, he was a natural leader and did all he can each time to get the job done. Imagine that, getting work done and done the right way and you don’t even need to stand up or lift a finger. His smooth style in the way he went about things, was I feel the most underrated aspect of his life.

A little fun fact about grandpa, the last four digits in his home number were 0021, meaning, he had the 21st phone number ever in his town and trademarked his Summit license plates. Like, how cool is that!?

Overall, I’m going to miss coming over to his house and seeing him light up when he would see it was us walking through the hallway. I think it was a treat for him when we would walk in and he’d be sleeping in his chair and we’d wake him up and when he came through and saw it was us, all the momentum and energy he had went towards us. No matter how tired he was, he love for his family outweighed everything.

It got to a point over the last few years where he would start to cry a little as we would leave to go home. If it was up to him, he would’ve wanted all of us to be around him 24/7. That’s how much he cared. It made it sad to have to go back home at times, but I know he wanted was best for us.

His love, respect and humbleness is what I’ll miss most with grandpa. His way to go about things in life was such a lesson in itself and is something I plan to replicate when I get to that point. He is the definition of what it means to be a Jarosik. I’ll leave off with saying this: he’s the only grandfather I’ve ever known and he was absolutely the right person for the job. I’m lucky I got to know him, but it’s an honor to call him my grandfather.

To both grandma and grandpa, wherever you may be at this time, I want to say thank you for everything you gave me. You spoiled me and my brother and you gave us the loving grandparents every child should have. For grandpa, I’ll miss shaking your hand every time we saw you, for grandma, I’ll miss the kisses you’d give me before we’d head home. I never got to say goodbye to you both and I know you guys loved me, I just hope you know how much I loved you.

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