Grandmothers are the gold standard of relatives. Their love is unconditional. Their generosity boundless. Their affection undying.
My grandmother was all these. As a kid I always looked forward to the week or two with my grandmother. While my grandfather gave me yard chores, my grandmother took me to the science center. She taught me cribbage. She was always up to Scrabble® even though she never seemed to win. And the baking. While Jewish grandmothers have the “eat, eat, eat” reputation, my grandmother could give any bubbie a run for her money.
During my college years she became logistically and emotionally my closest relative while my father was stationed in Italy. For Thanksgiving she became the default destination. When some medical tests made me too ill to attend class, she dropped everything and drove from Huntsville to Atlanta to care for me for a week. She was a nurse by training, but her care came coated in comfort. She cooked for me and became housemother for both me and my roommate.
Inspired by her hospitality, I embarked on a career of mooching Thanksgiving dinners from indulgent relatives. For many years I trekked annually on the busiest travel weekend of the year from Baltimore to Boston just to be with her and my New England relatives. These were more than holiday meal, they were a weekend of activities and traditions including candlepins and concerts and chili. When she became too ill to travel, I transferred my attentions to equally generous but much more geographically desirable relatives, but I still fondly recall the Boston Bacchanals as the ultimate family feasts.
It was just a week after Thanksgiving that my father called to warn me that she had taken a turn for the worse. The next morning he called to tell me that she had passed away in her sleep after 94 years of event-filled living. She was born while automobiles and airplanes were still in their infancy. In his tear-filled eulogy my father related that her family was the first in their town with an indoor flush toilet. As a newlywed she sent her husband off to fight World War II while she raised a family. My grandfather’s career both in and out of the military took them Florida to Alaska, from California to Massachusetts, and even to Japan. She had four children that are scattered up and down the eastern seaboard, but are knitted together with a bond stronger than love.
My grandmother was tireless and seemingly timeless. I never saw her age or grow tired. When I last saw her in July she had somehow become weak, frail, and forgetful. She was a shell of the vibrant woman that had watched me grow up, marry, and start a family of my own. Even in her infirmity she was cheerful and glad for the company.
Now that she is gone, her legacy is the love of her four children, six grandchildren, and eight great-grandkids. She lives on in each and everyone of us.