Valley Voices

Grandma’s love continues to inspire generations of family

Jeanette Baghdassarian and her great-grandson, Joseph Tateosian, watching television.
Jeanette Baghdassarian and her great-grandson, Joseph Tateosian, watching television. Special to The Bee/2015

Luckily, I didn’t get to take my 3 p.m. break at the office that day. We were busy. It wasn’t until closer to 4 p.m. when I checked my phone. Several missed calls and four back-to-back text messages came in at approximately 3:41 p.m.

One message was sent by my wife asking that I call her “ASAP.” I knew that the news was about Grandma. The past few days were rough for her, and since her fall last year, she wasn’t the same.

I reluctantly made the call to my wife, who, with a breaking voice, told me grandma had passed. After I hung up the phone, I spent about 10 minutes reflecting on the news and thinking about the influence my grandma had on me.

Since my birth, Grandma – Jeanette Baghdassarian to her friends – and I spent a lot of time together. On vacations from school, I’d spend a few weeks with her and my grandpa. We would walk to stores like Montgomery Ward and F.W. Woolworth. Exercise and being in nature was important to her.

My brain was telling me it was better for her to pass away. She was in a lot of pain the past few months and her body was shutting down slowly. My heart, however, was saddened about the idea of not seeing her again in this lifetime. She was 82 years old and considering her background we were blessed to have her for so long.

During the Armenian Genocide, her parents were orphaned. Originally from the village of Eskisehir, in present-day Turkey, both her mother’s and father’s families were forced to march and eventually settled in Beirut, Lebanon.

In the 1970s, the Lebanese Civil War took a toll on her. During those difficult times, she lost her brother-in-law to a bomb, the neighbor’s building was destroyed in a battle and countless bullets marked her bedroom, one even hitting her bed in the middle of the night.

Eventually, she and my grandpa moved to Los Angeles. There, she was diagnosed with diabetes and lost hearing in one ear. Despite a past that would destroy the heart and future perspective of any person, she was an optimist and always thankful. Each morning, she would remind us to be thankful that we woke up to see another day and to make the sign of a cross.

When she arrived in Los Angeles, she immediately began taking care of her grandchildren, including me. During her daily chores, she would sing songs about nature and life. As she cooked in the kitchen, the smell of pilaf would fill the air. Once the meal was ready, she would encourage us all to eat. She was big on home-cooked meals and full stomachs.

Grandma loved everyone and wasn’t afraid of expressing it. Whether it was kissing her children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren on the forehead or telling them how special they were, she had her way of building you up when you were down.

My favorite picture of her was when she held my son on her lap and they watched television together for hours. It reminded me of the hours we spent watching television together. Her favorite shows had to do with the animal kingdom. She always cheered for the deer or gazelle to run away from the cheetah or lion chasing them. When they were caught, she would be upset.

I stared out the window to the beautiful mountain range east of downtown Fresno that afternoon. It was a beautiful day. Grandma would be very thankful and appreciate the clean, blue sky.

As memories began to fill my mind, I repeatedly told myself that the world would be a better place if more people thought like Grandma. The things she taught me during our many hours, days and weeks together were: love, forgive, care, eat, sing, remember and most importantly, be thankful for the little things we are blessed with.

Grandma’s love has inspired me to continue to live the way she did. I am in to change even further, are you?

Sevag Tateosian is host and producer of The Central Valley Ledger on 90.7 FM KFSR Fresno and The Community Media Access Collaborative Fresno/Clovis – Comcast 93 and AT&T 99.