Beloved wife, mother, grandmother and sister, Pola Ann Damian, 86, of Spring Grove, formerly of Mount Prospect, died Monday, April 22, 2019. She was born in Grant Town, West Virginia, to the late Thomas and Nellie Kaider. She was the oldest of five children. She met the love of her life, Eugene Paul, at the age of 15. They were married on her 18th birthday and enjoyed nearly 69 years of marriage. Determined to be a mother, she had five children; thrilled with each addition to the family.
Pola had a life-long passion for service and helping others. Her children describe her as being modest, unselfish, sincere, genuine, caring, organized, strong and devoted to her family, faith and community. In lieu of her obituary, we would like to present this tribute to Mom, “I Remember” written by one of her youngest son, Gary Damian. Pola’s full obituary may be found at https://www.hamsherlakeside.com/listings.
I remember light blue slippers. When I was little, I would come down the stairs, tired and sleepy. My mom would let me just snuggle into her for a few minutes as I tried to wake up. My head was typically pointed down to the floor – providing me with both a perfect view and an indelible memory of her light blue slippers.
I remember the house that we grew up in. I remember the neighborhood we lived in and the neighbors up and down the street. There was never a shortage of kids to run around with. It wasn’t until I got a little older and heard other people say how they had moved around as kids or lived in several different houses growing up, that it occurred to me just how special our home really was. It was stability. No matter what crazy thing our lives had waiting around the next corner – our home was bedrock. We were safe in those walls.
I remember knowing that I was adopted long before I knew what it actually meant. There is a story my mom liked to tell about how I came home from school upset because my teacher wouldn’t believe me when I said that I wasn’t born – I was adopted!
As a kid, I remember my mom (and dad) having a secret language. They would occasionally speak to each other in Polish or maybe it was Russian or maybe it was a mash-up of both? Either way, they only seemed to do it when we kids were around. As a kid, I assumed they were talking about whatever trouble we had created that day. All I know is that it seemed terribly unfair that we had NO idea what they were saying.
I remember the smell of the laundry that my mom had hung on the clothesline outside. For anybody under the age of 30, this is NOT a smell that can be replicated with a drier sheet! On a related note, as an adult with kids of my own, I can’t even begin to imagine doing for a family of 7.
I remember birthday parties. I remember how my mom would allow us, when it was our day, to pick our favorite meal or the dessert (or both). In a family of 5 kids, it was just one of the ways she let us know we were special.
I remember the bread that my mom made at Easter. It was amazing, and I could never understand why we had to wait 365 days to have it again.
I remember vacations. There were 2 constants. The first was that the trip could not begin until we had frustrated mom to the point of her declaring that she was going to stay home. The second was coming home, turning into our neighborhood and the official singing of “We’re home, because we’re home!” I learned that it was ok to have fun and even be a little silly.
I remember my mom protecting my dad. My dad would come home from work and there was some super important teenage thing we needed to talk to him about right when he got home… but my mom magically transformed into a “bouncer” and kept us off of him for at least 30 minutes. I learned that Mom’s and Dad’s protect each other.
I remember getting into an argument with my mom. I don’t remember what it was about, but I do recall being so mad that I decided I was going to run away. I took off and ended up spending the night at our local park. I came home the next morning and said something clever like, “I’m just here to get my toothbrush.” Rather than reading me the riot act (which I would have completely deserved!) she just hugged me and told me that she loved me. She taught me the power of forgiving and being forgiven.
I remember my mom’s budgets. My mom would scribble their weekly or monthly budgets on little bits of paper and she fiercely lived to that. Sometimes she would deliberately show them to me, sometimes I just discovered them on the counter. I learned that our lives, our home, our food, our clothes, school tuition, sports fees… did NOT just magically happen. It was highly planned and accounted for.
I remember my mom starting a business – a beauty shop. She went through cosmetology school, and I remember being surprised and amazed that she needed to learn about parts of the skull. It was all far more technical than I would have expected. But she approached it with a seriousness and dedication that was memorable. And then to watch her run this business successfully – while still doing mom things… she became something else… she was this super-mom! I learned that mom was REALLY smart and could genuinely do anything.
Coincidentally, I remember this as being the time I learned the importance of tipping the person that cuts your hair!
I remember… the first time I felt like an adult around my mom. I was home from college for Thanksgiving. My mom was cooking and maybe it was the tension of trying to cook 10 things at once… I could sense that this holiday was moments away from going super-nova. I somewhat blurted out, “Mom, can I get you a glass of wine?” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I remember thinking, “That was probably not a good idea.” To my shock, she stopped, looked at me, smiled, and said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.” I felt like I had cracked the DiVinci code.
I remember… Being in my 20’s and visiting the house in Spring Grove. As I was getting ready to leave… my mom would invariably try to unload various random food items on me. A can of diet 7-up, a can of soup, a box of Mac & Cheese. I learned that moms never really stop being moms…. they NEVER stop giving… and they absolutely never stop loving on us!
I remember… Being in my 30’s and experiencing the pride and joy of having my mom be there to see me become a husband and a father. I learned that everything she taught me prepared me and made me ready for those moments.
I remember… Several years ago now, coming up for Thanksgiving. My mom was telling me about a memory she had of me. After several minutes, it occurred to me that the story she was describing could not possibly have applied to me. I remember my sisters telling me things were starting to slip with mom. But, this was the first time I directly encountered my mom’s memory loss.
There are lot of extremely cruel aspects to Alzheimer’s. We spend a lifetime collecting memories and experiences and connections with people – so the thought that those things can become untethered was almost more than I could process. It was unfair… it felt tragic… the loss of that history… my mom’s history. But, one day, it occurred to me that the words I needed to ease my sadness had been in front of me the whole time. I REMEMBER…
When speaking about my mom, I started to notice how frequently sentences would begin with,
I REMEMBER… I began to realize that my mother’s memory is not gone. It’s not gone because it lives in me. I REMEMBER… It lives in my brother & my sisters & my Dad. THEY REMEMBER…. My mother’s memory is not gone, because it also lives in each of you. Together, WE REMEMBER… and we each carry with us unique fragments of her experiences, and her connections.
Today, I REMEMBER…
Visitation Sunday, April 28, from 3-7 p.m at Hamsher Lakeside Funerals and Cremations, 12 N. Pistakee Lake Rd., Fox Lake. Mass of Christian Burial, Monday, April 29, 11 a.m., St. Peter’s Church of Spring Grove, 2118 Main St., Spring Grove. The morning of the Mass, all are invited to go directly to Church. Burial will be private in St. Peter Catholic Cemetery, Spring Grove.
In lieu of flowers, memorials in Pola’s name may be made to Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
You may leave online condolences for the family at www.HamsherLakeside.com, or for information call, 847-587-2100.