My grandfather was the kindest, most self-assured man I have ever met. He loved his children and grandchildren unconditionally. The strongest memory I have of Dedo Gus is of him holding his grandbabies to his cheek, while rocking and cooing them in his arms.
Dedo Gus also loved his wife unconditionally. His relationship with my grandmother was the only healthy marriage example I have had in my life. I can still see them holding hands in their family room: Dedo Gus sitting in his chair and Baba Vicky lying down on the couch next to him; their hands clasped while watching TV. That image was a constant occurrence, engraved in my memory from the time I was a little girl until I was a wife and mother. They had an everlasting love.
It is amazing that their love lasted for 67 years. There were many who thought they should never have married. However, Kosta Kordovich was always a man confident in his own convictions. He was born May 25, 1911 in Bukovo, a small village outside Bitola, Macedonia. When he was a young man in his teens, he left for an incredible, yet scary opportunity with his father: They sailed for America, hoping to grasp a piece of the Dream. They lived in Rochester, New York for many years, working odd jobs. Kosta eventually built a profitable restaurant business. When he was 27 years old, Kosta went back to Bukovo to find a wife with whom to enjoy the profits of his hard work.
He never had any doubts that he would marry someone from Bukovo. He knew that his future wife would have to be kind and genuine. He also knew that real love would be essential: He didn’t want a woman who would marry him just for his money. He wanted a woman who would love him for him. It’s no wonder that when he saw Velika, the oldest girl of a humble family, a girl who held her head high and smiled at everyone she talked to, a girl who smiled at him, but didn’t vie for his attention like every other girl in the village, that Kosta pursued her.
Kosta Kordovich and Velika Popovski were married on November 13, 1938. Shortly after they were married, Velika became pregnant. In August of 1939, Kosta was told he had to leave Bukovo without Velika because of the turmoil in Europe. WWII was imminent. Kosta had earned his American citizenship, and if he did not leave the country at that time, he would lose it. Kosta left on September 3, 1939, without being able to see the birth of his daughter.
Kosta made it back to America safely, but longed for his family. He didn’t know how long it would take for them to join him, but he knew, even after only ten months with Velika, that she was the woman he wanted. He worked hard, bought a house, and wrote to her every day. He knew the war would slow down the mail, but not hearing from her all those years was as difficult for him as it was for her. Six years after the war started, his letters finally reached Velika. She immediately wrote him back. For the next six years Kosta sent clothes, medicine, and non-perishable food items to his wife and daughter in Bukovo. When their visas were finally approved he bought tickets for them.
My mother recalls holding my grandmother’s hand for dear life as they approached her father. She was a shy, twelve-year old who was scared to meet him for the first time. She held on to her mother’s hand even while her mother and father embraced. He then looked down with tears already in his eyes as he gazed at his daughter for the first time.
Dedo Gus cried every time we talked about the day they were reunited. He was so tender-hearted, especially about the beautiful things in his life.
The most beautiful thing in his life was my grandmother. He always cried about his love for her. From the day they were reunited, he never wanted to be separated from her again. That created some difficult moments in their marriage: Baba Vicky wanted to travel and see the world; Dedo Gus wanted to sit in his chair, watch his TV, and sleep in his bed. My grandmother would beg him to go somewhere, anywhere with her, but he would refuse. For years my grandmother would be angry with him about that fact.
Until one day, when my Uncle Nick was stationed in Germany, Dedo Gus finally told Baba Vicky to go visit him. He saw how miserable she was about not being able to visit her son; Dedo’s own misery took a back seat. He cried when he said goodbye. He cried every day she was gone. He cried when she returned–but he never told her she couldn’t go somewhere without him again. He loved her too much not to let her fulfill her heart’s desire.
He also loved Baba Vicky’s personality. Anything she said would make him chuckle. Even when she was angry and yelling at him over something, he would laugh and say, “Pile. Crce. Te sakam. Te sakam.” Little dove. My heart. I love you. I love you. If she were really angry, she might yell at him some more; but usually, she would hug him and kiss him, and all would be forgotten.
I always felt safe and happy at their house.
Their house was always filled with laughter as well. One of the funniest memories I have of Dedo was when he recorded a country music special by Anne Murray. They didn’t have video recordings or TIVO back then. All he had was an audio cassette player. The show started, he pressed record and sat back to enjoy the music; however, it wasn’t what he expected, so he got up to turn the TV off just as Anne Murray was saying, “Ah. Just like old times–” and then, clearly and in English, the recording captured my grandfather saying, “Oh, fuck you!” I had no idea he knew that English word. My Uncle Nick played that recording over and over again in their kitchen. My grandfather was laughing so hard he was crying. He begged Nick not to play it again, but of course Nick did. I can’t remember how many times we listened to that tape, but I do remember laughing with Dedo until my sides hurt.
My grandparents lived a long, happy life together. I’m convinced it’s because of my grandfather. He loved my grandmother and let her be who she was. He didn’t try to change her; he just loved her. He never stopped her from making herself happy. He was the only man I have ever known who acted like that; I haven’t encountered another man like him since.
In February of 2005, my grandfather was slowly dying. Sadly, my grandmother was in the midst of dementia, and she didn’t understand what was happening. Dedo knew he didn’t have much time; he was so sad to leave Baba and worried about what would happen to her when he was gone.
I had just given birth to Ian in January. As soon as I could, I booked a flight for the two of us to be with Dedo Gus in his last days. I wanted him to meet his great-grandchild, to hold Ian to his cheek and whisper his blessings over my child–but I got there a day too late. He went from being lucid one day, to mostly unconscious the next. I held Dedo’s hand and put Ian’s tiny hand in Dedo’s and introduced them. He died a few days later on February 22, 2005 in his sleep in my mother’s house, where he had lived for a number of years.
It was difficult to watch my grandmother living the initial shock of his death over and over again. She kept looking for him, wanting to sit by him, to hold his hand–but he was no longer there. She was so lost and lonely without him. Shortly after my grandfather died, my grandmother’s dementia took her memories, which was a blessing–she no longer yearned for the love of her life.
I’m so blessed to have witnessed their love. I’m blessed to have known such a steadfast man. At times he appeared stubborn, but my grandfather was just a man who knew what he wanted from the time he was a young man until the day he died. Our world would be better with more men like him. I am blessed to be able to say that Kosta Kordovich was my darling Dedo.