Memories

Dancing with Grandpa Artie, circa 1990sMy grandfather had big hands, soft hands, a big voice and an ever-ready smile. He used to call me “Cookie!” And I was never too old for a hug or a cuddle.

He’s been gone now 12 years.

This morning, during meditation, he came to me all joyful and big and familiar. I miss him. Some days, I don’t think about it, but others he is right there and I realize how long it’s been since we’ve been together.

Of course, I don’t remember the way he was at the end – in bed in the rehab facility, wasting away, time ticking until he succumbed to final rest.

My grandmother is there now. A shell of the woman she always was, my sweet grandmother, my shining light.

Gigi & Me at my wedding 2 1/2 years ago

Gigi & Me at my wedding 2 1/2 years ago

Last night, I looked at pictures of my grandparents’ 50th anniversary – so young! (In their 70s.) At a cousin’s wedding. Grandma always wore a pearl choker in these dressy pictures, even at my wedding two and a half years ago.

Her hands were soft, too, even over these last slow months. Her eyes lit up when my children walked in the room. She is the only great-grandparent they have ever known.

I never knew my great-grandparents, so I can’t explain what that relationship is like except from watching my children with my grandmother. She baby-sat for them at times when I was in a bind, and she came over for countless Shabbat dinners, my little Ashie walking her to the car like the gentleman he has always been.

Grandma’s red car had an American flag flying from the antenna. Grandpa was a World War II veteran.

My other grandparents were magnificent in their own rights. Grandma Sarah was a caustic old woman, short and squat, but I loved her. She made the best tuna sandwiches and kept Keebler cookies on the top shelf of every kitchen she ever had. My dad and I used to have Sunday lunch over at his mother’s apartment and even though the fare was simple, it was delicious.

Grandpa Sid, my dad’s dad, has been gone now for 20 years. I was a new college graduate when he passed, and he was sick for years before he died. Lung cancer. He never said much, but suddenly one time later in life, when he had to cart around an oxygen tank so he could breathe, he turned to me and said, “If I could do it over, I would never smoke a day in my life.”

It’s funny how the simplest sentences carry the most weight.

When I was a girl, my grandparents came to school plays and dance recitals, every holiday, even to see new school clothes. They were very involved in my growing up. I always felt badly for the kids whose grandparents had moved to Florida – while it was cool they got to travel on vacations to see their grandparents, they didn’t have the impromptu brunches and weekend sleepovers like I did.

My mom’s parents used to call a sleepover at their house, a stay at the Schussler Hotel.

We are shaped by our grandparents, you know. Our parents raise us, our grandparents indulge us. They teach us more about who we are because it is not such a direct reflection on them. The generational distance creates a sort of freedom for flowing and experimenting into just being.

I fully believe my love of Judaism was sparked by my maternal grandparents. My grandfather was first-generation American, for goodness sakes, and Passovers and Sabbaths at their house were the real deal.

When I returned to Michigan in my 20s, it was in large part to be nearer to my grandparents as they aged. I am so glad I did it.

I am 42 years old, and I have loved my grandmother every single day of all those many years. How lucky am I to have known and loved and been close to my grandmother for that long?

I can’t even measure it. I just know it in my bones.

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One Response to Memories

  1. Jennifer Epstein Rube says:

    Beautifully written Lynne. I totally understand about these formative relationships. It was due to my grandparents and great grandparents that I became a geriatric social worker. What I wouldn’t give to see any of them, even for a few minutes, again.

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