As I’ve mentioned in my “About Me” section, I fully credit my grandmother, Norma Helisek, as the one person who perked my interest in cooking.  She taught me her skill, gave me her recipes, encouraged my interest, and formed memories I will always cherish in the tiny kitchen of her home.  She was a mother-figure to me for many years.  I spent summers and weekends at her house, cleaning (as she was in very ill health the last five years of her life), cooking, watching her soap operas (her “stories”) and playing rounds of bingo with her and my brother.  She was stubborn, a bit abrasive, commanding, but incredibly loving.  I took care of her in the last couple years of her life, as she took care of me for much of mine.  She meant more to me than any other soul on this earth.

It is baking that reminds me of her.  She was always making pies, cookies, cakes, and so forth.  One of my fondest memories was me and her sitting at her kitchen table while she instructed me on how to make chocolate chip cookies.  She just sat in her chair, reading off the recipe to me while I mixed it up, spooned it out, baked them, cooled them, and then she and I poured ourselves a glass of milk, and we ate some cookies together.

Little did I know at the time she was in the advanced stages of liver cancer.  She didn’t tell my brother or myself, and I wouldn’t know it until after she had passed.  She sought to protect us from an ugly reality that would shortly thereafter put her through agonizing pain, then take her from us.

To this day, I associate chocolate chip cookies with my grandma.

She passed away five years ago today, after a long battle with emphysema, liver cancer, and an aging body that was slowly failing.

I got home from work and sat at my computer, thinking of the various issues on my mind when my thoughts came to rest on my grandmother, and the anniversary of her passing.  I thought of her, all our memories, all the things she taught me, and how much I loved her.  I stood up and went to my kitchen, where I had spent the day baking batches of cookies for Christmas, among those batches chocolate chip cookies.  I took one from the bag, sat back down on the couch, took a bite out of a chocolate chip cookie, and started to cry.

I miss her something terrible.  Five years later, I still get choked up thinking about her, because I love her so much.  She helped make me into the woman I am today.  She taught me many things.  She was a major pillar of my life.

I think I’ll spend today baking, in memory of her.

In Loving Memory

Norma Jean Helisek

May 23, 1934 – December 19, 2005