Yiaya Julie was my birth-grandmother. I met her three years ago, when we went to New York and met my birth family. She cried and told me “I wanted to meet you before I die.” The sentiment was funny at the time. But now she’s gone, and I see how lucky we both were for those three years.
I’d never known an old person like Yiaya Julie. The old people in my family were bitter and complained all the time. Yiaya Julie was full of life, always smiling, hugging, and apologizing for her (perfect) English. We spoke to each other in a combination of English and Greek, and she was forever taking me or my kids to her apartment to do or see something special. She showed me pictures of her late husband – my grandfather – and the daughter she lost too soon. She showed my kids her pet parakeet and played games with them.
Since I only knew her for three years, I don’t know that much about Yiaya Julie’s story. I do know that she immigrated to New York from Greece and made a good life for herself. I admire her because I know I could never be that brave.