This year both my children have their own Valentines to congratulate. I was eating breakfast at a hotel when one lady approached and asked to share a Valentine story for her anonymous site. It did not have to be a romantic Valentine. Just anybody who you feel special love for. I immediately thought of one person. My grandmother.
About 40 years ago she was working full time and caring for her elderly parents when she took me in. Initially it was about a better school district and starting me on my first year at school. Then she ended up raising me, giving me the best upbringing ever, guiding me, stressing work habits, taking me to movies, theater, and concerts with her. Her life as a professional and community member will always be what I strive for. She grew up in a village, poor and hungry, in a country where authorities took basic posessions from their citizens for all to share. Her family of 8 children had to give up their only cow to the collective farm.The cow would cry passing their house in the evening on the way from pastures to the collective farm. My grandmother and her siblings would gather at the window to see their beloved cow ("feeder") pass by and would cry silently too. The family was allowed to keep the hens, but they had to give away eggs to the collective farm, so that eggs were a special meal on certain holidays only. My grandmother helped her parents at the farm since age 8. When she complained that she was too small for the labor, her mother would reply, "If you only could pick up one thing from the ground, it would be one less thing for me to pick up." So, grandma kept going. Then World War II came. All the food went to the fighting soldiers. There was so little to eat, many days my grandma's family members had one potato a day per person to eat. Life afte war was desperately poor as well. Nonetheless, my grandmother as a university student exchanged her bread allowance for concert tickets and went hungry to be able to see opera, ballet, and theater performances to educate herself about the higher culture, city life. She ended up running financial affairs of a company employing 16,000 people, exporting goods to 35 different countries. She was always proud of helping people and aiding lowest workers in their hardships and pursuit of better life. Many of her coworkers came to wish her happy 90th birthday last year, it made her so happy they remembered her.
My grandmother was the one who pointed me in medicine direction for a career, advised me on my marriage, came to see my children when they were born, remained my soulmate who I can talk to every day. She tells me her only regret now is she cannot visit her great grandchildren due to age. But she is happy she got to see America, the best country in the world. Turns out visiting America was her dearest dream back then, on the farm. She always wondered why Americans lived better and wanted to see for herself. She did, and she was happy her great grandchildren were growing up here. I will be sure to pass grandma's lessons to them - nothing is impossible if you work hard, help others when you can, what you are is more important than where you are from. I will be forever grateful that I was shaped by such a person as my grandmother. Instead of feeling resentful she embraced life as it was and made the best of it.