Tag Archives: grandmother

February – Bitter and Sweet

21 Feb
Grandma Phyllis with Jordan.

Grandma Phyllis with Jordan.

February 20, 1989 was one of my mom’s happiest days—the day her first grandchildren were born. She had endured the saddest year, grieving my dad’s death just one year earlier, March 1988. The arrival of twin grandsons lifted her spirits and truly changed her outlook.  She was forever enamored with them. She had a new purpose—helping my sister and obsessing over these two, most adorable boys, Jordan and Aaron.

Grandma Phyllis and Aaron

Grandma Phyllis and Aaron

When I get sad thinking about how she did not get the chance to know my children and they were jipped out of having her in their lives, I picture her with Jordan and Aaron. My mom’s bleakest year became her brightest. The announcement of my sister’s pregnancy, the discovery she was carrying twins and even her subsequent bedrest,  relieved my mom’s malaise and gave her a new purpose. Sure, she was worried about my sister for 9 months, but that was healthy and therapeutic.  Their birth gave her new, awesome grandmotherly duties! She loved these boys so much that she even shed her dog anxiety and  warmed up to their Border Collie, Kiwi.  I was shocked and thrilled to see her invite my two-year old nephews to bring Kiwi over for a playdate. She helped my sister and entertained Jordan and Aaron even during her chemo. Playing with her grandsons provided more good therapy than any drug she received. When my children ask about her and when I find myself telling them stories about her, I really do feel a sense of gratitude that I got to see my mom become a grandmother. I know that she was and would have continued to be a great grandma!

Five very short years later, just ten days before my nephews’ 5th birthday, my mom died. Our happiest month, February, became bittersweet and very sad. I was sad that my nephews’ birthday celebration had to be postponed as if that really mattered at the time. In accordance with their nature then and now, they adapted and coped. They did not complain about the long New Jersey stay. Some five-year olds would not have been able to understand. Fortunately, they were probably just young enough to not have their birthday forever marred by our grief.

This year, I did not write a post on my family’s funereal February 10th, the anniversary of my mom’s death. I find solace writing about her any day of the year, but certainly prefer this day over Feb. 10th. On this day and during this month,  I accept the two necessary parts of life—death and birth, bitter and sweet. And, I am thankful for my sweet sister and the joy she and my brother-in-law brought to my mom’s and my life. Happy, Happy Birthday Aaron and Jordan!

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Who is Rich?

21 May

I am, according to Psalm 128:2 in The Old Testament. What matters, my Grandma Ray taught me when I was very young, is that you are rich if you are satisfied with what you have. My mom’s mom, Rachel Shapiro Tabak, was a very special woman who lived to be 93 years old.  I was reminded of this particular phrase/lesson this past Friday night as my Temple’s Cantor spoke during his retirement service/celebration. After 45 years as an exceptionally inspirational clergyman at Temple Shaarey-Tefilo Israel, Cantor Theodore Aronson gave those at services yet another  lifelong lesson.

Grandma Ray’s philosophy and attitude had a great impact on me. She was an inspirational “other mother.” I am sure I did not appreciate my own mother telling me to be satisfied with what I had. She is the one I bugged to buy me another pair of designer jeans, another sweater…. How often are young or teenage girls satisfied with the “things” they have? But, when my Grandma quoted the Bible, I listened. She made sense. “Who is rich? He who rejoices in his portion, as it is written (Psalm 128:2) ‘You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.’” (from http://www.shechem.org/torah/avot.html) My Grandma made me feel good—like I was in charge. I could be whatever I wanted to be.  If you enjoy the life you created, if you do your best to create a wonderful life, you can feel good. She never went into that much detail, all she had to do was quote the Psalm and I understood. My Grandma had a very hard life. She fled Eastern Europe in the 1920s, following her husband to America. After a difficult, almost impossible journey via Cuba, she settled in with her husband who was already in New York. She continued to have personal and financial struggles. I am not really sure how she was able to endure the hardships she had. On paper, she was never even close to being rich. But, what was in her mind and heart made her a billionaire.

This saying puts the onus on us to create a life we love, no matter what we have. How many “rich with money” people do you know who are not really rich? I could feel “poor” because I don’t have my parents. I am deprived of their support. I could feel entitled to pity. But, I don’t feel poor. I feel fortunate for the parents I had. There are many worse alternatives. I know that.

“Other Mothers” (Post from Sept. 1, 2011- http://wp.me/p1lBgS-4f) are all around us, they can be our grandmothers and clergy. I really must credit my Grandma Ray for empowering me to accept reality, the lot I am given, and do the most that I can with it. I appreciate Cantor Aronson. He is grateful for the richness he feels. And so was my Grandma. And, thanks to people like them, so am I.

I Wish I Could Hear Her Voice

13 Nov

Although I recall things my mom said to me and conversations we had, I miss her voice. I had not put much thought into hearing her voice until recently. During a visit with my (very wonderful) cousin, he mentioned watching his wedding video so we could hear my mom talk (and relive that most precious day). We did not get around to watching the video, yet his thoughtful and thought-provoking comment resonated with me.

I’ve heard stories about terminally ill people who make videos and tape recordings to leave for family and friends. Perhaps because I’ve always thought the idea is sweet, but eery or because I was too caught up in the tragedy surrounding us, I did not even think about recording my mom’s voice when we knew her situation was terminal. Yet, now that I am thinking so much about my mom’s voice, I realize how clever it is. I could choose to listen to my mom and she would speak directly to me. It would never replace our daily phone call, but would certainly fill part of the void. Just as important, my children would hear her.

While my mom’s mother, Grandma Ray, was alive, we made a point of asking her to tell her history. She lived into her 90s and certainly had substantial stories of life in Poland, her pious father, emigration to the US via Cuba, raising a family in Harlem, The Bronx, etc. It made sense to record her –her stories could add important personal reflection to a course in world history! I fondly recall my Grandma’s wise sayings, many taken from reading the Bible and Torah: “Who is rich? A person satisfied with what he has.” In Yiddish, “Besser be gornit (better than nothing).” I now think about the impact any saying or story would have if heard in her voice. Although my mom’s history couldn’t  measure up to her mom’s (thankfully), she certainly had plenty to say!

I am going to satisfy this newly discovered desire to hear my mom’s voice by watching and listening to my own wedding video. But, as I think about this, I must stand on the clichéd soapbox to encourage you, if it’s not too late, to record your mom’s (or dad’s or any significant older/ ill friend or relative) voice. Keep filming events and saving the film. Use your phone or computer to record a conversation. Tell your mom (or other person). I am not sure how my mom would have reacted, but I think she might have appreciated the idea of being heard eternally.