The best part about having your grandmother live with you is that she lets you do everything your mother doesn't -- as long as mother isn't looking.

The rule at our house was no dessert until we'd finished our vegetables AND our milk.

I hated peas. My brother hated milk. My sister hated both.

As soon as Mom stepped into the kitchen, Yiayia ("Grandmother" in Greek) would unfold a napkin and place a small piece of cake or pie or bunch of cookies in the center. Quickly wrapping it up, she would hand it to us under the table. Each time my mother disappeared, Yiayia would fix another one, until she had done one for each of us. It was always a treat later, while doing our homework, to pull out the secret package. The fact that it was forbidden made it all the more tasty.

Years later during college visits back home I visited Yiayia in the nursing home.

Although the home was a better facility than most, the nurses seemed unnecessarily strict with their elderly charges.

"Now, Mrs. Vrahnos," I remember them chiding my grandmother, "you have to finish your pureed spinach, or no Jell-O for you tonight."

Pureed this and that is not much to look forward to. My grandmother was blind by now, could barely walk, but she still had a clear mind and a great palate. I started plotting.

I visited her again the next day. After sitting with her through supper I waited for the nurse to leave. I then dipped into my purse and handed Yiayia a napkin-wrapped gift.

Her vacant eyes seemed to light up when she touched it. She stealthily tucked it into the top drawer of her night table, shutting it tightly.

She smiled, put her fingers to her lips and said, "Shhh. And don't you ever tell your mother."