Why is this so hard to write? I think because I don’t want to…because I never thought I would have to. G was supposed to be here forever…we thought she would be here forever. Everything I do traces back to Grandma. Starting with my morning coffee. You see, when we lived with Grandma and Grandpa – she and I would spend the morning together getting ready. She would put a piece of bread in the toaster oven with a slice of muenster cheese… and pour us each a cup of coffee – me with this much coffee and this much milk – her with this much coffee and this much milk…and each with two saccharine. I pretty much still drink my coffee the same way.
We would spend time waiting for my mom to get home from work…and as each car passed by in front of 10205 63rd Road that was not my mommy’s car – and there were many cars passing by 10205 63rd Road – she would say, “that’s not mommy’s car…” until it was.
We could cuddle in bed and talk for hours – but once we got up the bed had to be made…with hospital corners and then you couldn’t mess with it, the pillows were on just so. Nothing was off limits in Grandma’s house…except touching the mirror – that was a nu nu nu. Or the walls for that matter…they would leave marks.
Everything was a learning experience, a game and a treat – no matter what it was. I remember a time that we were in Wallingford. She took Joshy, Dena and I on a walk, and as we walked she was trying to teach Josh and Dena their address – or maybe just try to remember it for herself so we didn’t get lost – and as we walked she sang: “210 Plushmill Road, Wallingford Pennsylvania, I don’t know the zip code…” What child knows their Aunt and Uncle’s address off the top of their heads? I did…and because of the story, so do my children!
Grandma was one of the most empathetic people I know. She felt everything we felt. When we were happy, she was thrilled and had the best clap – lifting her head up and saying OH MY GOD with a squeal. And when we were sad, she would say: “don’t cry, my shainkin – you’re going to make me cry,” and she did.
Grandma Ada knew no stranger. She would start a conversation while in line with the person next to her or with someone walking on the boardwalk. I know, children – I do the same thing, but I come by it honestly. Grandpa Jay and she traveled the world together – and made amazing connections and friendships along the way. They traveled on group bus trips and came home with pen-pals and photos of people of all ages – 30 years younger, and 30 years older – and kept in touch in a time before the internet or Facebook made it easy. They would go on cruises, and loved getting seated with other people – people they would become fast friends with. When I was a bit older I asked them why, and they said it made it more fun to meet interesting people.
But it wasn’t just the random people on trips. What I think we each knew, but didn’t get until the past 48 hours, is how much each and every one of our friends thought of G as their Mom/Grandma. The outpouring from people near and far has been tremendous. They are sharing stories about their relationship with G – ones where she made them feel as though they were her family.
Family. Our family. I didn’t get that we were so different. I just assumed all were like us. Family was most important. Grandma’s seemed to breathe in our CO2 as we breathed in her love as our oxygen. She wanted her family close – physically close, yes, but more importantly emotionally. No one should sleep at a hotel; we all sleep together in the house. There is enough room on the floor and in beds; it isn’t a problem. I used to think it was about money – not to spend the money on a hotel –but you see, I think she knew – by having us “live” together for that short time, we learned more about each other as individuals and as a family. Our idiosyncrasies, our weaknesses and our strengths…and how we are better together than as individuals. It is no coincidence that the 9 of us fight like siblings. We were raised as siblings, not cousins. Each of our parents could reprimand us or praise us like our parents, for better or worse. In the long run – it has proven for the better.
But Grandma and Grandpa created the opportunities for these spaces to exist. Whether it was the trips to the Raleigh hotel in the Catskills/South Fallsburg, Israel, Florida or our family cruises – they made it possible for us to be together and live together, even for a short time, like siblings.
Grandma never failed to tell us how she felt about us, our decisions, our choices…but she never failed to tell us how much she loved us. And that we were her favorite (Shhh, don’t tell anyone!). We were each her favorite.
And when she became a Great Grandma, she finally got the name she had always wanted: Bubbie. See, G was blessed with good genes. Both of her parents lived into their nineties, and Elan, Sheri, Ron, Josh, Dena, Lauren, Evan, Doug, and I were all fortunate enough to have had our great-grandma still living when we were born. We called her Bubbie because that is what our parents did. So to us, G was Grandma Ada until 2001. Jacob, followed by Lior, Liad, Yael, Daniele, Adina, Yuval, Aiden, Eden, Amit, Ariel, Dalia and Jonah – that is 13 if you lost count – called her Bubbie…and all loved their Bubbie dearly.
Love: love is something she was generous with – as she was with everything. We have been so blessed to have had her with us, so close – whether in physical distance or through technology at the push of a button.
Her children, my mom Dona and dad Eric, Uncle Russel and Aunt Judy, and Aunt Marcia, responded to her every need and wish – she even sometimes let them think that their say mattered in the decision. But they learned from the best. Grandma taught her children by example…and we will follow in their footsteps.
But as you couldn’t sway her to do anything she didn’t want to – well, maybe I could, but the rest of you couldn’t – she decided, on what would have been on Grandpa Jay’s 95th birthday, to join the love of her life in olam ha-bah.
None of us really knows what we are going to do without her. I think many us of feel we lost our best friend. I know I did. Who are we going to pick up the phone to tell what exciting news we have? Who are we going to call to complain about someone in the family? Who are we going to pick up the phone to cry with? The answer is each other. That is how she planned it. We are to call each other. Our matriarch helped us build these relationships for the past 70+ years – and it is our job to fulfill her wishes and allow her legacy to be passed on through us.