My last remaining grandparent died last week. She was 98 years young. I am 40 years old and I am very aware of how lucky I have been to have grandparents live well into their 80s and 90s and be a part of my life.My mother’s mother died from cancer when I was 13 years old and at the time, I felt as if my heart had broken. I had a special relationship with my Nana and while I was beginning to endure my adolescence, I lost someone so special to me. I always think of her when I eat oranges as we would peel and share an orange as part of our special time together.
My father’s father died when I was 23 years old. Although it was difficult to hear the news, my Grandpa had endured quite a bit and it felt more peaceful for him to pass. After his stroke, I went to visit him in the rehabilitation center with my parents. I put on a yellow gown and proceeded into the room with my parents and grandmother. I remember holding his hand and looking into his vacant eyes. He was simply not there. I was overcome by what was my first anxiety attack (I did not know that’s what it was at the time) and I looked at my parents and told them I needed to leave the room. That was the last time I saw my grandfather. I could not cope with his state and knew I would not visit him again. Now, I think of him daily since I call my daughter “lovey” and my grandfather called each of his grandchildren, “lovey.”
My mother’s father died when I was 28 years old. Being 98 years old, my Papa led quite a life. Interestingly, after my grandmother died when I was so young, I became closer to my grandfather. I remember packing up his home when he moved from Chelsea, MA to Brookline, MA. I would frequently give him rides to my parents’ home for holiday celebrations and he would always marvel at my “machine” (car). He was not only kind to everyone he encountered, he maintained his sweet nature as he aged. My daughter is named for him.
My father’s mother passed away in her sleep, peacefully. She had been suffering from dementia and had had difficult moments dealing with others. Grandma loved her family and was always overly concerned with her children’s, grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s safety and happiness. As an adult, she would always tell me not to work too hard.
All four of my grandparents were immigrants from Russia, Romania and Latvia. They left situations that had not entirely revealed themselves and ended up being incredibly lucky as a result. Whether it was to dodge the army or to seek a better life, they each came with the hope of something better, safer and healthier.
I am lucky to have such great memories of them and lucky that I shared special times with each of them. There are parts of me that are direct gifts from them; I am honored to pass on these parts to my daughter so she can benefit from their living.
We talk about it “taking a village” to raise children and for me, my grandparents were very key figures in my village. How brave they must have been to have traveled to an unknown land at such young ages (teens and young 20s). Their lives were blessings for themselves and for those who were touched by them.
How lucky, indeed.