On November 8, Sandy’s grandmother Gizi died. After recovering from open heart surgery, among other things, and miraculously making it to our wedding looking for all the world like Zsa Zsa Gabor, she died very suddenly. She was only 78.
Four years ago, when she and I met for the first time, she actually pulled a ring from her own finger and thrust it into my hand. “It’s just a little something we picked up in Vienna,” she said. She was so glamorous. Last year, just hours before her surgery, she spoke with my parents on the phone. “Tell me what color you are planning to wear to the wedding so we can coordinate,” she instructed my mother, nine months before the wedding and on her way into a surgical procedure very few people thought she’d survive.
At the graveside, just as we were about to start shoveling dirt over her casket, We noticed that her birthdate was wrong on the bronze casket cover. Now, this is an item that is getting buried and won’t ever be seen again. But to send Gizi to the afterlife with a big sign on her proclaiming her to be seven years older? Couldn’t be done. So we waited as the cemetery staff, ever ready for this type of emergency, leapt into the grave, pried off the 1921 and replaced it with a 1928. He also pulled out a can of bronze spray paint and fixed it up, so it would match. I think she would have approved.
I am so happy to have known her for these four years, and that when we do have children I will have stories of my own to tell about her.
Zichronah L’vracha. May her memory be a blessing.* * *
My Grandma Ruth is 90, and she’s shutting down slowly. She was too sick to come to our wedding, but my parents brought her a care package of the most important items: the sweets. When I was little her living room candy basket was a highlight of any visit. Her rugelach, which she still made by hand until just last year, were perfect buttery jammy nutty goodness. Everything at her house revolved around food and I remember vividly the progression of her Jewish grandmotherly demands: “Eat! Eat! ....Don’t eat so much you get sick!”
Sandy only got to know her for four years too, and I wish they had been when she was in her mid 70s instead of in her late 80s. He missed our lunch dates at Hubs, missed the rugelach-making lesson, missed knowing her as she gallivanted around town with her last boyfriend, Wally. He missed knowing her before encroaching deafness and a stubborn dislike of hearing aids made it tough to engage her in conversation.
But, like our children, he will know that side of her through stories and pictures. And having known her at 90, he can at least start to rewind the tape in his mind, taking away those years of infirmity and connecting what he experienced of her to the way we remember her. Now more than ever, I wish he could have met my other grandmother, Eleanore, before Alzheimers made her impossible to know. I wish I had met his other grandmother, May, or his grandfathers, Stanley and Zoli. And I wish I had met my own grandfathers, Shmulke and Herb, who died before I was even born.
Grandma Ruth is in hospice care now. When it happens, we won’t be surprised, but I can’t say we’ll be ready.