Searching for Gita: The Final Chapter
From part 21
Mrs. Hargrove was admitted to a nursing home and a short time later was placed in a facility specifically for dementia. Raymond was struggling financially and emotionally. His partner and best friend Cooper and his wife Cindy blessed him with a large monetary gift.
Mr. Neville hired an old friend, Jeffery Strum, who was a private investigator to search for Anna Wronski. By a stroke of fate and unexpected circumstances, he got connected with Sasha and their search was over.
Sasha breaks the news to Gita then pops the question.
Then he took her face into his hands, swiped her tears away with his thumbs. "I love you, Gita, with all my heart and everything in me." Then he kissed her tenderly.
They pulled apart and laughed.
"Do you remember when you kissed my cheek when we were children?" Gita asked.
"How could I ever forget it? I knew at that moment I would love you forever."
"I remember my heart flip-flopped. But just now, it did a somersault."
They were forehead to forehead whispering affirmations of love. Then Sasha pulled back, took something out of his jacket pocket and gave it to Gita. A small box from the jewelry store. She began to cry and tremble. She opened it and there rested a ring filled with diamonds. He took it and put it on her finger. "Gita, my little Pearl, will you fill me with lifelong joy by becoming my wife?"
She was so overcome she couldn't speak. She looked up into his face and just nodded. Finally, she eeked out a yes.
Sasha threw is head back in exultation and yelled to the universe, "She said yes!" He took her face in his hands once more and they kissed long and sweet.
"Nadszedł nasz szczęśliwy dzień, said Gita" - today is our happy day.
Elvin Neville met Sasha, Gita and Ula at Seatac airport. His heart was full as they met with warm handshakes and joyful greetings.
Ominous billows of black and steel gray clouds blew across the pacific northwest sky. The windshield wipers on Mr. Neville's three year old Buick Riviera were on high. Traffic lights swung back and forth on their cables at intersections as the winds grew stronger. Fir bows big and small flew pell mell from the trees to the ground. He turned up the heat to keep his guests warm. Sasha and Gita were in the front at Ula's insistence. She was comfortable in the back.
"I'm real sorry about the weather," Mr. Neville said. "You come all this way for this happy reunion and a storm is here to greet you."
"We have storms in Poland too, Mr. Neville," Sasha said in his thick accent. He knew English fairly well, but Gita and Ula knew only yes, no, hello, goodbye, and please and thank you.
"Of course you do. Still, I wish it was more pleasant. On a clear day you can see Mount Rainier. It's so majestic it will take your breath away. I'm hoping it clears up before you return home."
Sasha squeezed Gita's hand and smiled down into her face. "Are you ready to meet your mama?"
"Yes, but my stomach is queasy."
He put his arm around her and she snuggled into the crook of his arm. The nausea passed quickly. And then they were there. Mr. Neville pulled into the car port in the back of the house and turned off the ignition. "Are you ready Miss Gita?" he said, smiling at her.
She guessed what he'd asked her. "Yes," she said, and squeezed Sasha's hand hard. Her heart was thumping wildly until she thought it would burst out of her chest. Sasha kissed her head and they got out of the car.
Mr. Neville lead the way. His wife Bea welcomed them in at the back door. "Come in, come in out of the cold," she said. She stopped and looked into the face of Anna's long lost daughter. She could see so much of Anna in her. "Gita?" she said, and threw her arms around her. Gita returned the affection knowing the woman had been taking good care of her mother. "Your mother...she searched for you for so long," Bea said.
Gita looked to Sasha who interpreted. Bea took their coats and hats and motioned them into the kitchen. She offered hot chocolate, coffee and warm cinnamon rolls. Gita's eyes darted everywhere, searching for Mama. Bea read her face. She looked at Sasha. "We can have refreshments later. Anna is in the living room. We can go in whenever you're ready."
"We're ready," Sasha said. He took Ula and Gita by their hands and followed the Neville's into the living room.
An old woman sat on the couch with the Neville's cat in her lap. She looked up at the group of strangers who were staring at her. Her eyes squinted as she tried to figure out what was going on.
Bea sat down beside her. "Anna dear, we have some visitors. Remember we told you?"
Anna studied their anxious faces. 'Why, that woman looks like Ula,' she said to herself. "Ula? Is that you?" she said in her native tongue, her eyes desperate.
Ula went to her and took her hands in hers. "Yes, Anna, it's me, Ula, your best friend."
"Ula," Anna cried. They embraced and rocked for a long time, weeping and rejoicing. Anna pulled back and looked into Ula's face. "Ula, I can't believe it's you."
As Gita observed the scene she couldn't take in that this old frail woman was Mama. Mama and Ula were close in age but this woman looked twenty years older. The last time she saw her mother she'd been blonde, smart, and sassy. She searched her features and recognition began to dawn - her gold flecked brown eyes, the small mole near the left side her mouth, and the set of her chin.
Anna looked up at Gita and Sasha curiously. Her mind was processing. 'The woman, so young and beautiful.' she observed. 'Red hair and freckles like my Gita had. She came with Ula.' She remembered now that Bea had told her Gita was coming. She'd shut out the information, resigned to the idea she would never see her daughter again, that she might even possibly be dead. But the red hair, the freckles, those eyes.
Ula brought Gita near. "Anna, darling, this is your Gita. She is all grown up now, and she has been looking for you for a long time."
"Mama?" Gita said. "Mama, it's me, Gita."
Anna's mouth opened but nothing came out. Her lips trembled and her heart was breaking. "Gita? My Gita?" She threw open her arms and Gita flew into them. The house filled with the deep sobs of sorrow and joy; mother and daughter merging as one.
"Gita, my little pearl."
Gita was six again. "Mama, Mama I've missed you so."
Bea was beside herself sitting in the rocking chair saturating her handkerchief.
Her husband stood across the room, watching the emotional drama unfold. His eyes filled, too, and his handkerchief came out. Sasha watched in awe, so happy for them he could burst. Eventually, Anna, Gita, and Ula sat together on the sofa, laughing, touching one another, asking questions, making comments.
"Ula, you look so young, and I am so old. I've not been well."
"Anna, your smile, it has only grown more beautiful."
"Mama, I remember your eyes."
Anna fingered Gita's hair. "Daughter, your hair is still red, but darker. And bless your sweet freckles." She kissed Gita's face. "Where have you been little Pearl?" She glanced up and saw Sasha. "And who is this man with you?' she asked.
Gita stood up and took Sasha by the hand. "Mama, this is my husband, Sasha. He helped me find you. He's a good man. Sasha, this is Mama."
He stepped forward and took his new mother-in-law's hands in to his and kissed them. "It is my great joy and privilege to meet you, Mrs. Wronski. You are every bit as special as Ula and Gita have told me. I love your daughter. I can see your spirit in her. She is her mother's daughter."
"Your husband, Gita?" she said in wonder, smiling at her daughter.
"Oh, Gita," the old woman said. "He is so handsome. That's quite a beard on you, young man. You have strong Polish features."
"He's more than handsome, Mama. He's kind and gentle, strong and determined. And he loves God, Mama. The way you taught me to love God. And he loves me."
Gita, Ula, Anna and Sasha sat and talked for a long while. The Neville's didn't need translation. Love and joy transcend language.
Finally, Bea invited them all to the kitchen for refreshments. The men partook of the goodies and discussed the investigation and process of finding Anna, while the ladies continued their lively chatter. Then they all went back into the living room for more talk and catching up.
That evening, Bea announced she was ready to start cooking the evening meal.
Anna, Ula, and Gita went in to see if they could help. Anna, full of her old vigor, pushed Bea aside, put on an apron, and began giving orders to the ladies. They made a traditional polish dinner and the feast was sumptuous and eaten leisurely.
When dessert was served, Mr. Neville broke out the bottle of champagne he'd bought for the occasion. Bea brought out a tray of wine glasses. When the glasses were filled He stood at the head of the table and raised his glass. "I would like to offer a toast."
No interpretation was necessary. They all knew a toast when they saw one. "To love that perseveres, and to this most remarkable reunion."
Sasha repeated it in Polish. They all klinked glasses.
Then Sasha stood and offered his toast, first in Polish, then in English. "To the Neville's and loyal friendship." More klinking.
Then old Anna struggled to her feet. Tears pouring down her face she purposed her toast. " Nadszedł nasz szczęśliwy dzień."
"Today is our happy day, " interpreted Sasha.
"Moja córka zaginęła, ale teraz została znaleziona."
"My daughter was lost, but now she's found."
"Niech będzie błogosławione imię Pana."
"Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Anna never got to drink to her own toast. Gita threw her arms around her and kissed her cheek over and over. "Kocham cię mamo."
"I love you mama," Sasha repeated in English.
"Dziękuję Bogu, że znów nas zgromadził."
"I thank God he brought us together again."
Flying away with the angels
Raymond Hargrove quietly ushered Anna Wronski into the intensive care unit where his mother lay gravely ill. She'd had a stroke two days before but took a turn for the worse when pneumonia set in. Anna took Mrs. Hargrove's hand and cooed tender words of comfort.
"I forgive you, Mrs. Hargrove. You were a good friend. You meant well. I love you in the love of the Lord Jesus who died for our sins and gives us eternal life."
Raymond sat in a chair on the other side of the bed, holding his mother's other hand. "I love you Ma, so much. You've been a good mother. I tried to be a good son. It's okay to go now, Ma. He stroked her hair and nuzzled his nose on her cheek. He whispered again, "I love you Ma. It's okay to go now."
The silence was profound after Ma took her last breath. Raymond could sense some sort of Divine presence in the room. He looked askance at Anna.
"It's the presence of the Lord," she said. He felt like falling to his knees, but He wasn't sure what was going on in his heart. One thing he did know was that Ma just flew away with the angels.
Anna bent over and kissed Mrs. Hargrove's forehead and closed her eyes with her hand. Raymond came and stood next to her, tears streaming down his face. Sacred joy blended together with pain and grief. It was the most profoundly beautiful moment he'd ever experienced in his life, "Goodbye Ma," he said. He turned to Anna to thank her. "Mrs. Wronski, It was so kind of you to come and say nice things to Ma after the way she's treated you."
"Your mother had a soft heart underneath the crust. She meant well and defended me to the boys who harassed me. She was sick at the end so it was not her fault. God bless you, Raymond."
"And you, Mrs. Wronski. I heard you have reunited with your daughter. That's such exciting news. You must be elated. I am so very happy for you and I think Ma would be too. Do you suppose she can see what's going on down here?"
"Perhaps so. If she can, I know she is indeed happy." She kissed Raymond's cheek and started to turn to go.
"Mrs. Wronski?" Raymond said. "I have no words. Thank you seems inadequate. I am forever grateful to you."
She patted his shoulder. "You're a good boy, Raymond. You're Ma raised you right. Goodbye, son."
In the distant lower end of the cemetery, soft pink blossoms graced the spring cherry trees. Mount Rainier stood as a breathtaking monument filling the western skies of the Puget Sound region. Thirty people who had frequented Mrs. Hargrove's Grocery over the years, and other friends and family gathered around her hillside grave to say their final goodbyes.
The Neville's, Anna Wronski and family, and even Cowlick and Spectacles, the two hoodlums who had harassed Mrs. Hargrove and vandalized her store were in attendance. A large arrangement of yellow roses was splayed atop of her casket. In the memorial church service, everyone who'd felt led to spoke on what Mrs. Hargrove meant to them. There was lots of laughter as people recounted memories of her eccentricities and spunky antics, and there were tears - her enormous presence was now gone forever.
"'Jesus said," recited the minister at end of the graveside service, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.' Mrs. Anna Wronski, Mrs. Hargrove's friend, would now like to say a blessing." Anna looked around at all the guests and raised her hands.
"Władyka błogosławi ciebie i utrzymuje ciebiewładyka robi jego twarzy błyszczeć na ciebie i byćmiłościwa do ciebie władyka podnosi up jegokontenans na ciebie i daje ci pokojowi przez naszwładyki jezus chrystus."
Sasha repeated the blessing in English. "The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace through our Lord Jesus Christ."
"Amen." said the small crowd.
Mrs. Hargrove was lowered into the ground. Each person threw a carnation down and walked away to their cars. Anna remained standing for a moment, her family waiting at a distance.
"I miss you, Mrs. Hargrove. But one day we will meet again."
A Bittersweet Goodbye
Anna returned to her little house, bringing Gita and Sasha with her to stay until she got her passport and a green light from Dr. Reynolds and Dr. Ptak to return to Warsaw. Ula remained a guest of the Neville's. The passport had come in the mail and their airline tickets were ready. Tomorrow they would be leaving the pacific northwest and head to Warsaw - Anna's true home. Anna's life in America was coming to an end. She was sad and joyful. Gita was fairly giddy as she helped sort through her mother's things and decide on what to take. But there was another reason she was so exultant.
"Mama, Sasha and I would like to take you for a drive. You know, to see your neighborhood one more time. Get your sweater and let's go."
The three of them sat in the front seat of the Neville's borrowed Buick and Sasha drove. In a few minutes, they pulled into the school parking lot. Anna broke into a smile. "Here? This is where I've been searching for you Gita. Every school day for years and years, but I never found you. But now you are here."
"Yes, Mama. Mr. Neville invited us for coffee in his office."
They walked down the main corridor and the school secretary waved them in. Mr. Neville welcomed them into his office and had them sit down. Anna noticed the slightest hint of mischief on his face. After a brief chat, he made a suggestion. "Anna, why don't we show your daughter and son-in-law around the school."
They filed out of the office and took a leisurely walk through the halls, looking into classrooms and stopping to admire an occasional decorated bulletin board. "Where are the children?" Anna asked. She frowned in disappointment.
"They're having an assembly today in the gymnasium. Let's take a peek in."
When they got to the double doors, Mr. Evans, one of the sixth-grade teachers, opened them and invited them in. As they stepped through the threshold of one hundred and seventy-five children, plus teachers, parents and other honored guests stood to their feet and cheered. Mr. Neville led the three of them to the head of the room and took a microphone waiting for him. Anna was looking around in wonder. Her eyes were drawn to a large banner hanging on the wall that said "Thank You Mrs.Wronski!" surrounded by little hearts. She looked at Gita and Sasha who were smiling down at her and clapping with the crowd. She looked at Mr. Neville and smiled as if to say, "Oh you little dickens." Then she turned and waved at the children and guests. Young Madeline French presented Anna with a large bouquet of flowers. Anna stooped down and kissed her cheek and thanked her.
Mr. Neville indicated for the children to sit down and be quiet. He took the microphone.
"Mrs. Wronski, we are here today to say we love you and to thank you for all the years of kindness you have given to the children, for making them so happy. We have some children here who are now onto high school and college, but you touched their lives and they wanted to be here to honor you today. And now we have a little treat for you. Mr. Timmons?"
Mr. Timmons waved a choir of students to the front. There were children from every class, plus some alumni who towered above the young ones. "Mrs. Wronski, we have a very special song to sing to you. It's a folk song from your homeland, in your native tongue. Jak Szybko Mijaja Chwile - As Time Goes By. For those who don't know the song, it is a poignant message about time going by so quickly, saying goodbye to those you love, but the precious memories will last a lifetime."
Mr. Yates began the piano intro and the choir began to sing. Anna, Gita, and Sasha joined in the singing. But shortly into the song, Anna choked up and tears spilled down her cheeks. She would miss the children so much. They'd been her family for so many years. They had touched her life in a hundred ways like when she'd been in the hospital months ago, so many children had sent over cards and pictures of good wishes and it had brightened Anna's very dark world at that time. There had been times when children saw her sitting alone on the outside bench looking sad and had sat with her talking and cheering her up. They'd given her Christmas gifts. Sometimes the smallest gesture from a child, a wave, a blown kiss, a hello cheered her up. And she had done the same for them.
And they were sad to see her go but were happy she could return to her homeland and live in happiness with her family. For the next half hour various teachers, children, and parents shared fond memories of how Anna had touched their lives.
The assembly was about over and Mr. Neville asked Anna if she'd like to say anything. She was so emotional that she couldn't say anything but "Thank you, God bless you," and blew them a kiss. It was a long, bittersweet walk back to the car. But once she was in, she felt ready to move forward.
That night the Neville's had them over for their last dinner before leaving for Warsaw in the morning. There was yet another painful goodbye at the end of the evening. How much Anna and the Neville's had come to mean to each other. Her gratitude could not be put into words. Bea gushed all over her as she said goodbye. They promised to write. Finally, Anna turned to Mr. Neville. They both swallowed hard. He wrapped her in his arms and they hugged for a long moment. Anna managed a thank you and patted his cheek. He knew if he said something he'd blubber. So he just nodded.
As Time Goes By - Jak Szybko Mijaja Chwile
End of days
Anna and Gita had five wonderful years together. The old woman lived with her beloved daughter and son-in-law and had been able to be there when a granddaughter arrived, Anna Gita Mazur. She had her grandmother's blonde hair and her father's blue eyes. Then a grandson two years later, little Dominik Antoni with his mother's red hair and one day her freckles. Sasha was a good and kind son-in-law, but most important for Anna was that he was a man of strong faith, good character, and the most loving and kind husband and father she'd ever known. She only regretted that Rufin had been such a terrible father to Gita, an evil man. But she refused to let that take up too much of her mind and heart.
She died quietly at home surrounded by her family. Gita held her in her arms as she took her last breath. She looked beautiful, a slight smile, a profound peace on her face. Gita grieved hard, but she felt so blessed to have been able to reunite with her mother; that her mother was able to see her grandchildren; that she died fulfilled.
She and Sasha saw difficult times in the years ahead because that is life. But they trusted in God and sought His guidance, and managed to weather the greatest of storms together. The spirit and strength of her mother always seemed to surface in her when meeting a challenge or heartache. She was Mama's little pearl, but she was a strong one because Mama was strong.
© 2018 Lori Colbo