Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Grandma Ada, Love Jason

My name is Jason Schwartz. I’m married to Ada’s granddaughter Elissa, and the proud father of four of Ada’s thirteen great-grandchildren.

I have also earned a reputation as the family fanatic, so not to disappoint, I will share some words of Torah that truly speak to the way Grandma Ada lived her life. From

Pirkei Avot:
10. [Rabbi Yochanan] said to them: Go and see which is the best trait for a person to acquire. Said Rabbi Eliezer: A good eye. Said Rabbi Joshua: A good friend. Said Rabbi Yossei: A good neighbor. Said Rabbi Shimon: To see what is born [out of ones actions]. Said Rabbi Elazar: A good heart. Said He to them: I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arach to yours, for his words include all of yours.
I’m going to talk about Grandma Ada’s heart.

I will always remember the first time I met Grandma Ada. Lis and I weren’t even officially dating yet, but I went with her to Plainview to join her family for some holiday or other. I probably said something like “hello, I’m Jason,” and she replied, “I’m Grandma Ada.” And just like that - she was my grandma, whether I liked it or not. Now I do remember putting up some resistance to this appellation at first - after all, what would my own grandmother think if I went around calling other women “grandma?”

What I didn’t know then is that Ada Young’s family isn’t like other families. You don’t marry into this family and then remain an outsider, spending years trying to earn a place. Once you’re in, you’re in all the way. Like it or not. So, while Grandma Ada may not have always had the most open mind, she had the most open heart of anyone I’ve ever known. Lots of room in there for everyone - even our two big fluffy dogs, who she was always happy to have come and stay with her when we visited. So despite that initial reluctance I might have had when first meeting her, I’m proud to call Ada my grandma. Ada’s children are my mom and my aunt and my uncle. Her grandchildren are my brother, my sister and my cousins.

Grandma Ada was really good sport. I used to tease her mercilessly, which I thought was only fair, because she used to beat the pants off me at Rummikub, with equal savagery. I’m afraid I’ve gotten my kids on board too, as we have enjoyed needling Grandma Ada over the years about the many times she discovered, for the first time, that Uncle Russ is allergic to apples, or that charoset can be purchased in a jar. Or about all of the variations she came up with for her favorite part of the Passover seder - say it with me now - “two are the tablets that Moshe brought!”

Grandma Ada was known for many things: Love and affection for family and friends, devotion to her husband, fantastic cooking and baking, stubbornness, storytelling, love of travel, a sweet tooth, Yiddish, a little off-color language, Jewish values, and... opinions. No, you did not have to work hard to pry an opinion out of Grandma Ada. Whatever she thought of what you were doing, she felt it was important to tell you. Now granted, it was sometimes a challenge helping her to understand that telling loved ones exactly what you think of their choices and their behavior may not be the best way to inspire change. But you can be sure that whatever the criticism, whatever the praise, it came from a place of love, fierce pride, and her desire to see each and every one of her family members -- all of us family members -- succeed, be happy, and be menschen - decent people.

What I will remember most about Grandma Ada is her zest for life. She cried easily, and laughed even more easily. No matter what obstacles nature and age put in her path, she always found a way to live life to the fullest, and share it with the people who mattered most. From joining the band and playing the bongos at Beth’s wedding, to playing the slot machines every chance she got, to coming on a cruise with 27 family members at the age of 89.5, to always having some fruit jells and marshmallow twists in the freezer, to dancing with her family at the end of two Passover seders less than two months ago.

We are so lucky to have had Grandma Ada in our lives. What our great sages have tried to teach us in words, she demonstrated in her deeds, each and every day she lived her life: The best trait for a person to acquire is a good heart. Zichronah Li-vrachah - may her memory be for a blessing, always.

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