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StoryCorps: Remembering A Grandfather Who Gave Her A Sense of Belonging

Libby Stroik
Harry Golomski with Libby Stroik (left) and one of her siblings in 1991.

Libby Stroik fondly remembers when she was little, waking up at sunrise with her grandfather, tiptoeing into the kitchen and drinking milk and sugar with a hint of coffee. She would climb into the "gentle giant's" lap with her mug and they would sway in his rocking chair and watch the chirping birds out the window for half an hour.

But Harry Golomski, a 97-year-old retired dairy farmer who now lives at an assisted living facility, has trouble remembering his granddaughter.

Growing up Black in a mostly-white Wisconsin community, Stroik, now 31, says she sometimes felt alienated, but she felt a rare sense of belonging when she was with her grandfather.

"I was asked many times if I was like an exchange student. Or if we were at church some little kid would be turning around in the pew just staring at me for most of the service," Stroik, who lives in Milwaukee, said during a conversation at StoryCorps recently.

If Stroik could ask her grandpa anything, it would be: What is your secret?

" 'Cause he always seemed so grateful for living. You don't get that from a lot of adults," she said. "It seemed like it came easy to him and maybe that's just from a whole lifetime of practicing. To find that joy and that happiness in the little things, that is something that I strive for as an adult."

For Stroik, it's difficult to see her grandpa in this state, knowing that he may not remember the times they had together. Still, she says, she'll continue to carry the valuable lessons he taught her.

"At the end, all any of us really want is to be remembered for our best selves," Stroik said.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jo Corona. NPR's Dalia Faheid adapted it for the web.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
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