Before I get into telling tales of Mom, no tribute would be complete without some thoughts and smiles about Grandma.
After my parents divorced, visitation with Dad’s side of the family was every other weekend. Always at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. It was located in a pleasant area of South Florida known as Keystone Point.
The house was classic 60’s Florida: jalousie windows, terrazzo floors, a large patio deck. It had a backyard that rolled down to a dock and seawall. And it was all protected by a fence covered in colorful hibiscus flowers. I would always be up early (like at dawn) and grab a rod and sit on the dock trying to catch fish. Grandma was always up next and usually had some comment about me being inappropriately clothed.
More often than not, my sister and I would be in the kitchen with her whenever she was cooking. The smells from whatever meal she was working on were just too amazing to pass up. It didn’t matter how recently you had eaten, either. Sitting there and inhaling those scents instantly made you want to taste her newest concoction. Grandma was firm about not doing “tasting”, though, which just built up more anticipation for later. She was a sly one, for sure.
Grandma had many exciting tales to tell. I so wish we had taped those conversations all those years, for they would have made a wonderful book. She and Grandpa escaped Cossacks in Russia and immigrated to America. They lived in New York during the Great Depression and WWII. The stories she recanted to my sister and me would keep us mesmerized.
As the years passed, Grandma began experiencing some effects from arthritis. One of those effects was to make her pointer finger crook just a bit more than normal. Sometimes, when she was talking and pointing at one of us, we would giggle and say “Which one are you talking to, Grandma?” She would pretend to be mad and say “Don’t make fun of your Grandma!” We usually stopped right after that warning; often because Grandma was holding a large cutting knife in her other hand, which we pretended to be afraid of. The three of us had a lot of fun times in that kitchen.
Grandma was great about all sorts of other things, teaching about hygiene, talking about school, helping me with reading and (as I’ve mentioned numerous times in this blog) imbuing me with a love of words and word games.
Years later, after Grandpa had passed away, Grandma was moved into one of those “care assisted” places that look like a hotel. This was probably a few years before she really needed to be moved there, since she was fully ambulatory and not yet showing her later-years’ senility.
For years, my best friend and I would always take her out to a local restaurant for lunch on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Never did one of these visits go by that she would pass up the chance to admonish me that I needed to be more outgoing (a trait I had managed to accomplish some years before, though she never believed me) and despairing in my lack of a wife and kids. I always insured her I would make sure she got the first invitation to the wedding. The three of us would spend an extended lunch time filled with laughter and warm partings. It was delightful.
Grandma, also, is gone less than a decade. I’m not sure, but I may have been the last person who got to speak with her coherently. She was just shy of 100 by that time and had few moments of lucidity. But darned if, after a few moments of confusion over who I was, she didn’t admonish me to be more outgoing and urge me to find a nice girl. That was my last moment with Grandma ever, still making me laugh, if this time through watery eyes.
As I sit here and type this, I cannot imagine having a more wonderful Grandma and my happiness at all these memories has me sniffling and tearing up with joy.
Should I ever find that “nice girl” and make the commitment to settle down, I’ll make sure that the first invitation we make out has Grandma’s name on it.