Once in the bluest of moons strange thoughts cross my mind, involving distinctly different memories but which somehow — oddly — are tied together in my heart and mind.
My late grandmother and my hometown newspaper have come to my mind this evening.
I got word today that The Oregonian is going to shut down its presses, darkening the production operation in downtown Portland, the city of my birth and where I came of age. It makes me sad.
And on July 4, tomorrow, I will mark the 37th year since my beloved grandmother, Diamontoula Filipu, passed away. She died on the Fourth of July. I think of her almost daily. I think of her on Independence Day because Yiayia, as we called her, was a great American, a loving matriarch, the best cook who ever lived and was a proud American. She chose to live in the United States and never took for granted — not for an instant — the blessings she accrued when she moved here from Turkey not long after the turn of the 20th century.
My wife told me that Yiayia likely timed her passing just to be sure that we’d remember it. Boy, do we ever.
OK, so how are these two things related?
My wife and I hadn’t been married all that long. She was working in the circulation department on the ground floor of The Oregonian building. We had produced one son already; he was about a year old. Then we learned we were pregnant again.
With this news fresh in our minds — and with little time to inform anyone of it — my wife went to work one morning and told a colleague of hers about our big news. Well, it turns out that her friend’s grandmother was a good friend of Yiayia’s. This friend, apparently, told his grandmother later that morning in a phone call. Her colleague’s grandmother than reportedly called Yiayia to congratulate her on becoming a great-grandmother again.
One issue, though, arose: Yiayia didn’t know about it until her friend told her.
Later that evening, my wife and I walked into our little rental house. The phone rang. It was Yiayia.
She was “mad” that we didn’t tell her first about our big news. She proceeded to “scold” me, telling that she had to be kept informed before anyone else when the news involves something so huge as the impending birth of a new family member.
She then laughed and told me she loved me.
That was Yiayia. Was she a busy-body? Sure. But old-country women are entitled
It might be a stretch to combine these two memories, but they’re in my heart tonight as I think of a longstanding tradition in my hometown going away — and of one of the many happy remembrances I have of my beloved Yiayia.
I miss her every day.