Helen Torres passed away peacefully, quietly, on the morning of Monday, March 23, at the McAuley Hall Health Care Center in Watchung, New Jersey. She was 91 and beautiful.
Grandma Helen, as she will always be remembered, was born, raised, and lived most of her life in the Hyatt Court housing projects of Newark, New Jersey. This could not have been easy, but she never complained. She said her prayers and followed her doctor’s orders. She was a widow to Flores Torres and together they had four children: Romanita, Junior, Stephen, and Carolyn.
Grandma Helen was fiercely proud of her children, and then just as proud (if not prouder) of her grandchildren, and then again just as proud (if not prouder still) of her great-grandchildren. Her pride for these children, like her love, was seemingly infinite. She had all the time and patience in the world for these naughty kids. She would watch one million Saturday-morning cartoons, play two billion games of checkers, build three trillion jigsaw puzzles, sing five gazillion Happy Birthdays if she could.
So long as she had her children’s love, there wasn’t much she needed. She ate bologna sandwiches and drank tea with milk, no sugar (doctor’s orders). She disdained alcohol—never touched the stuff. Her interests were simple: soap operas, game shows, bingo. She was a bingo master. You did not want to oppose her in bingo. Sweet Grandma Helen could be surprisingly competitive, but, from time to time, she might let you win.
If you were fortunate enough to make her laugh, you’d be treated to one long and great Haaaaaaaa! It surprised everyone—even her. Her laugh was as much gasp as it was laugh, as though she were shocked by the words that triggered the response. How could such a thing be thought, let alone said? And so, of course, you wanted to make her laugh, and you did.
She enjoyed tickling you, too. Being tickled by Grandma Helen could be painful. She was relentless about it, but, afterwards, she would apologize, and say, “Oh, come on! Can’t your grandmother play with her own grandchildren?!”
You couldn’t argue with that.
She enjoyed singing—one song in particular. We can hear her now: You are my sunshine / My only sunshine / You make me happy when skies are grey…
Grandma Helen was always there—rain or shine, day or night—more reliable, more certain, than anything. “You can always know that your grandmother loves you,” she said again and again. And, of course, she was right.
Helen joins Romanita and Junior in Heaven. She is lovingly remembered by many: her son, Stephen, and his wife, Renee; her daughter, Carolyn, and her husband, Michael; her grandchildren (Briana, Nerissa, Stephen Anthony, Jennifer, Michael, Danielle, and Annette); and her great-grandchildren (Brandon, Alexis, Hayden, Baxter, Wyatt, and Veronica Helen).