Next month would have been my grandmothers 92nd birthday. Unfortunately, she passed away a few years ago, a day after my 23rd birthday. I remember it like it was just yesterday. I was away at the beach with my mom when we got a frantic phone call from my cousin alerting us that my loving grandmother had suffered a terrible stroke. Luckily we were able to rush home, ditch our vacation plans and be with her in her last couple of days on earth.
I, however, struggled with my emotions. This woman, who instilled a love for cooking and baking and gardening, was unable to speak in complete sentences. I wanted to be there with her, to somehow help her. The child in me just wanted this horrific nightmare to end, I wanted to wake up and for her to magically be healed. At the time I had a boyfriend who was coming to see me for my birthday which happened to be Friday the 13th. I never associated bad luck with that date. And yet, I had the worst thing happen to me. I was there as my grandma left the hospital and went back to her nursing home. As I hugged her goodbye, to go home for the evening, she whispered in my ear, “when is your birthday, I know it is soon”, I replied, with tears filling my eyes, “it’s today”. She told me to go, enjoy my day with my boyfriend as she began crying. I struggled to contain my emotions and hugged her goodbye. Maybe in that moment we both knew that she was passing away soon. That was the last real conversation I had with her. She passed away the next morning.
I share all this because I was inspired by watching “The Goldbergs”, seeing the close bond between little Adam and his grandpa, Pops. I too, shared a strong, intense bond with my late grandma and because of that learned so much from her and am incredibly grateful for how strong our bond was, and continues to be even though she is no longer physically here with me, I know her spirit is around me, watching over me.
1. Don’t let anyone take away your spirit.
My grandma was the queen of being silly. She taught me to never lose my childlike wonder, even as I grow up. She would be the ultimate playmate when I was a kid, letting me paint her nails gnarly colors and put a billion bows in her hair because I thought it made her look beautiful. She was patient with me and taught me kooky riddles and hand claps from Eastern Europe, where she was born.
2. Always look your best.
My grandma was always put together. Even in her nursing home she made sure that her nails were painted and her hair looked good. That’s a challenge for anyone to live up to. And by doing so, she was able to find a boyfriend, who kept her company in her last year.
3. If your going to drink, only drink vodka, straight.
Again, my grandma grew up in Eastern Europe, where vodka reigns supreme. I never saw her drink anything else, and she could party with the best of them. Out-drinking most of the guys in our family, year after year.
4. Always keep a tissue in your purse.
As is common with older people, they always carry tissues with them. My grandma was known to carry them rumpled up in the sleeve of her sweater. I may not go that far, but I do carry tissues with me in my purse, just in case. Someone else might be extremely grateful to have it.
5. Cakes and cookies and salads, oh my.
My love for being in the kitchen is a direct result of being my grandmas sous chef growing up. She was infamous for her cooking and baking. She brought all the delicacies of Eastern Europe to America. From cheese blintzes to her incredible napoleon cake, I saw her work away in the kitchen and love it. I saw how it made her light up when someone tried something she had concocted. Now, I share in that same spirit. I feel elated when someone tries something I made and loves it. Nourishing others through delicious food and being in the kitchen is one of the strongest ways that I feel close to my grandma everyday.
6. Traditions and family are important.
Being from a communist country, my grandma was never able to celebrate any Jewish holidays. And then she came to America where Jewish holidays can be celebrated. And most of these holidays revolve around food. She was the hostess with the mostess. Making sure everyone had a good time. Being the queen of entertaining guests, I learned the importance of preparation. I also learned that family is forever, regardless of where people live or what ridiculous arguments come up, blood is thick and will overcome any struggle that comes up.
7. It’s OK to move away.
I went out of state for college and for four years didn’t live in the same city as my grandma. But I could call her at any time of day, and as long as she wasn’t playing bingo, or doing arts and crafts, she would answer. Conversely, she knew she could call me at any time of day and I would drop what I was doing to talk to her. Even though she wanted me to be closer to her, she was always overjoyed when I was able to visit her, and I visited her quite often. If I was home and had no plans, I would carve out some time in my day to spend with my beloved grandma. Even if we barely spoke because she was watching her favorite daytime show “The Jerry Springer Show”, I’d bring her a caramel latte with extra caramel and watch as her lovely face lit up as I walked through the door.
We all learn from those that we spend the most time with. I spent the majority of my childhood with my grandma. She helped raise me while my mom was working full-time and going to college part-time, and my dad was working the night shift at his job. She was not just my grandma, she was my best friend. And I will forever be grateful for our special bond.
Now, I’d love to hear from all of you. Have any of you experienced close bonds to people who have passed away? If you feel moved to, please share your stories in the comments below. As always, I love hearing from all of you. Your feedback and comments fill me with such love.