Life is full of ups and downs.  You truly never know what will happen.  Despite a few challenges life has thrown my way, I'm one lucky kid.  Why? I have a pretty awesome family!

Not many people can say that they have met their great-grandparents let alone their great, great aunts and uncles.  I have met not just one but two great-grandparents and one great, great aunt.  The best part was all three of them lived within just a few blocks away from me.

One of my great-grandmas (my great-grandma on my dad’s side) made the best grilled cheese sandwiches (AKA "Toasta cheese").  To everyone in North Riverside, Illinois, she was Wanda Manika.  But to me, she was my G.G.

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My G.G. lived six blocks away from my house with her sister, Angeline (my great, great aunt).  My sister and I would see my G.G. (and Auntie) almost every single day!  We even shared many weekend dinners as a family usually enjoying some pizza, burgers, or Chinese food.  Needless to say, G.G. was a huge part of my life.  It's hard to believe that she has been gone for 10 years.

G.G. was not doing too well in 2011.  Like any 99-year-old woman, she had her good and bad days.  Her bad days scared me the most.  Around the time of her death, I was a 15-year-old freshman in high school, and I was slowly starting to become a young adult.  I could not imagine my life without my G.G.  She watched me grow up from the day I was born sharing all my special childhood memories. From my first words and steps to watching me play volleyball, basketball, and soccer, G.G. was always there cheering me on!  She even helped me study for my weekly spelling tests!  Losing G.G. would end up being the first major loss in my life.

One of my last memories with G.G. is watching Super Bowl XLV.  We were watching all the pregame celebrations, and Keith Urban just happened to be performing.  What a coincidence, right?  My G.G. took one look at Keith and said, "This guy needs a haircut!"  I started laughing incessantly, and she was laughing right along with me.

10 years today without my G.G...not a day goes by that I don't think about her.  I always wonder if she knows I am realizing some of my childhood dreams. I often wonder if she is proud of me.  It would have been amazing to have shown her everything I have accomplished so far and my life in Sioux Falls.  I know wishing all of this may sound selfish. However, if you had an unbelievably special great-grandma like my G.G., you can’t help but feel like a very important part of your life is missing.

G.G. if you happen to be reading this somewhere, know how much our family loves and misses you. You will always be our G.G.

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