Who’s Stashu Pandowski?
The answer: me.
When I was a child, at an age far too young for me to recall, my grandmother would watch me. Once in awhile a commercial would come on for a collection of polka songs, and when that accordion struck up, I would jump up and start dancing with a huge grin on my face. The song went something like “Stashu Pandowski was the polka king,” and so my grandmother and her sister, my Aunt Patty, took to calling me Stashu Pandowski (or “Stash” for short). It spread to the rest of my family, but went away once I hit puberty.
With one major exception – my Aunt Patty. Even when I became an adult, I’d still be greeted with “Hello, Stash!” I know that a lot of people don’t care for nicknames they attain in childhood, particularly from family members. That wasn’t the case here. If anything, I always looked forward to hearing it. It was like a sign of refuge, a harbinger of good times to come that would make me forget about my trials and tribulations during her visit. She was never anything but wonderful to us throughout our childhood and beyond, and was there for us more than any other member of either side of my extended family.
I don’t have a single memory of her that doesn’t bring a smile to my face. There was never a curt word towards or about us. She was a woman who genuinely loved life, and that attitude was contagious. It would infect everyone in the room with a boisterous reverence for anything and everything that came up in conversation.
In particular, Patty loved her family. She would light up when she spoke of her daughters and their accomplishments. Some parents will do it to boast, but my Aunt Patty was genuine in the love and pride she had for her daughters. Talk of them would include reactions that were every bit as if she were hearing it all herself for the first time. If I ever have kids, I know that if I love them even half as much and hold them in as much esteem as Patty did her children, I’ll have done alright.
We lost Patty earlier tonight after a long, brave, and tenacious battle with cancer. In the true Murray tradition, she was a fighter until the very end. Please include her, her husband, her daughters, and her grandchildren in your thoughts and/or prayers tonight.