Lessons and Memories from ‘Tatik’

Celebrating strong women, generations apart

The folds on her skin had become so pronounced, making it difficult to tell what she would’ve looked like as a young woman. I loved every crease and line on her face. I loved that at the age of 82, she had more black hair than white; she had never dyed it.

“Happy women’s day tatik,” I kissed her soft, wrinkled cheeks, handing her a sunflower bouquet. She gave me a puzzled smile followed by nervous silence. I once again realized that I had failed to help her remember.

It all started about three years ago when my grandmother started to confuse me with my sister. She suddenly became ignorant to all the things that once made her happy. She no longer knew that I was the granddaughter named after her, or that sunflowers were her favorite flowers. She became numb to information, and memories were no more. They diagnosed her with dementia.

That night as I drove around, baffled with questions and filled with bittersweet recollections, the word legacy came to mind. Suddenly, I realized that people are not forever, but what is, is the way they make us feel.

I remembered all the times she inspired me with the stories of strong women in our family. Like Araksya tatik, who raised my grandmother and her two siblings alone, while her husband was away at war. Or her sister Arus who endured many miscarriages before she was able to give birth to four sons, to only see half of them die before the age of 45. These stories were given to me raw, unfiltered, waiting to be told.

She no longer tells me stories, or bakes Armenian gata with me. She doesn’t help me with foreign language homework, and she doesn’t give me sunflowers from her garden. But she gave me her name, tales and lessons to pass on and along.

I realized that that’s kind of what women’s history month is all about, learning something and passing it on and celebrating the power of being a woman. As photographs, experiences, lessons and stories are told and actions are taken, we are given the choice of embracing these or letting them pass.

It could be grandma or Mother Teresa, Ellen DeGeneres or Marilyn Monroe. It’s about celebrating legacy and women who empower.

Marian Sahakyan can be reached at [email protected]