We had a nice gathering at my aunt’s house tonight to celebrate the life of my grandmother on what would have been her 102nd birthday. Her three children, six of her eight grandchildren and 10 of her 12 great-grandchildren were on hand with other relatives in what was a very light-hearted night, the centerpiece of which became a post-dinner exchange of stories about her.
There’s one Grandma Sue story I don’t think I’ve shared before. A baseball fan who would talk more than once about how wonderful she thought Carl Hubbell was, she went to Dodger games with us into her 90s, though admittedly her view of the team was much more impressionistic and easy-going than mine. In the 1990s, she was very surprised to hear me criticize Eric Karros, who was having a rough time and not delivering, I felt, when it counted. Sure enough, at the next game we attended together, Karros went something like 9 for 9, and she grabbed my arm and laughed with each and every hit.
Several people tonight made the point that Grandma Sue was decidedly unsentimental, though that would seem to imply she didn’t cherish moments like those – but that’s not really what they mean. Rather, as my cousin Debbie put it, she was born completely lacking the self-pity gene (much unlike her seventh grandchild). She didn’t wallow in hardships, but not because she had embraced some self-help philosophy – it simply never would have occurred to her to do anything but move forward. My grandfather, Aaron, died in 1994, ending their marriage at 64 years. Grandma Sue laid him to rest, and then went on to have some of the richest years of her life.
Once, roughly around that time, she noticed I was depressed and asked why. I said it was because a girl had broken up with me, and Grandma Sue simply replied with matter-of-fact demanor, “Oh, well, you’ll meet someone else.” No pep talk, and moreover, no sympathy. At the time, it infuriated me, and to be perfectly honest, it discouraged me from ever again being all that open with her – but not from loving and respecting her. How I’ve envied her ability to just accept and move on.
Tonight, Grandma would have told us not to spend an extra minute in mourning. But what we were reminded of this evening is that we’ll never meet anyone else like her. So as easy as she might make it to take her advice, it’s hard to want to follow it.