My dad's parents lived on a hill along the Allegheny River and from their home we could see the city in a distance. It was beautiful. Many Sunday afternoons, we'd spend time there, watching football or MTV (when it was good), while eating the awesome goodies my sweet but hardened Pollock grandma would make. The older fellows, like my grandad, father, and uncles would sit downstairs, pounding Rolling Rocks, watching a black and white TV, and talking about guy stuff. My dad's sisters, and my grandmother were serious chain smokers and Pepsi drinkers. Nobody complained, we knew what we were getting into when we went there, it was the early 1980s.
On occasion, a curious little old woman, with her head wrapped up in those things old ladies put on their heads, would stop by with stuff in her little bag. She was even more of a Pollock than my grandma. Her name was Efka.
She was short and it looked like she came right off the boat. She was going blind. She walked so slow, we could see her coming down the street and prepare to hide if we were feeling anti-social. We were shy timid little children, and sometimes we weren't in the mood to deal with foreign strangers. Though, looking back 30 years, she seems far more bizarre than we realized at the time.
She'd bring pies and foods and stuff, and talk in meek little way, sort of screechy, and of course was die hard catholic. Everyone at that time was catholic, I hadn't heard of other options yet. She smelled, and her face had many wrinkles from years of hardships. She had a rough life.
As the years went on, probably only a span of 3 or 4 years, she couldn't make it down, and sometimes we'd get ordered to bring food up to Efka's house. It was on a hill up a dirt driveway, and there were cats galore. We would knock on the door or window, though she wouldn't come, so we'd just leave it outside. My sister and older cousin were amused, and I think they tried to scare and make up weird stories about her as we walked up, if I remember correctly. Her place was the stereotypical old cat lady dwelling and now that I'm older I'm wondering how she spent those last years, with lost vision and probably dementia coming on, if not in full force. What did she eat, how did she live? Did she bathe?
I don't think she had much family.
She was eventually put in a home.
Last night, I was talking and joking with a lady at the fire company about her becoming a cat woman and Efka jumped back in my mind. And as I thought back to those days, a bunch of depressing mental images about those times starting flowing through my brain about her, and my own innocence at that time, not understanding how sad that whole situation was or seems - at least to me now.
Of course, Efka remained humble, even a bit jolly, in a subtle way, and you'd never know, or, at least I didn't pick up on it. She was just a weird character of my childhood that came and went as so many others do.
God bless Efka.