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.
She clearly left an indelible impression on all of those close to her, so there will always live a part of her in you, Jon. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with us.
Wonderful story. Thanks Jon.
Thanks for sharing this. My 95-year old grandma died last May. She endured the loss of her husband of 62 years and also her daughter, to pancreatic cancer. She outlived her daughter by 11 years. It wasn’t easy but she managed to find a lot of joy after these terrible losses. She had 7 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren and everybody’s achievements were duly celebrated. She never lost a thing mentally. I miss her every single day and even more when holidays such as Passover roll around. She was a huge UCLA and Dodgers fan and she called me every day during Dodger season to ask what channel and time the game would be on.
Thank you Jon for sharing with us a bit of your grandmother’s life. How wonderful for her, and for you, that she was healthy physically and mentally throughout her last decade. Those of us with parents or grandparents with Alzheimers or other forms of dementia know how challenging old age can be under those conditions — or even more horribly, when it happens to younger people. She was blessed, or lucky, or whatever you want to call it, and how blessed or lucky you are that you took the time to stay close to her.
A while back, in response to one of Jon’s postings about his Grandma Sue I mentioned my own 100+ mother and the apparent similarities between the two. I’m pretty sure they would have liked each other.
And as I’m pretty sure I said first time, I’m not quite as far along myself as Mom’s age may make me sound. l’m an only, and I came along very late.
If DTers will indulge me a bit I’ll close the circle–
Mom passed two months short of 101, a few days before Thanksgiving 2010. In years just prior, at an age where any serious medical issue would have claimed most people, she bounced back from several, leading me to nickname her “Timex” after the old watch commercial..”takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.” Fight as she would and did, complications from a fractured femur were too much–though the femur actually had begun to show signs of healing. She read a lot and was very sharp until almost the very end.
Think about what these two ladies experienced….two world wars, the depression, man on the moon, the cold war,cures for many diseases that claimed many of their peers, conversion to indoor plumbing in Mom’s case, the explosion of knowledge, technological advances, and much more. Halley’s comet appeared twice on its 76-year rendezvous with Earth while both were here. Both were very small children when Titanic sank.
Mom taught 34 years, mostly elementary grades, earning a reputation as tough but fair. A campaign to get her 100 birthday cards on her 100th in Jan. 2010 resulted in a flood of not just letters but some testimonials, a few saying she was their inspiration to become teachers. In her quiet way she had positive influence way beyond anything she ever dreamed.
In her last days in the hospital she would do things like compliment nurses on their hair and clothes and smile and ask how their day was going. She drew a crowd at times even though they and probably she knew the end was near. “Remarkable” was a word I heard more than once about her.
As I think I said in my first mention of the similarities between Grandma Sue and my Mom, both were Grand Old Ladies–very high praise in these parts and in those, too, I feel sure.
The world is better because both lived. May the same be said of all of us when we’re gone.
Thanks for this, Jon. Made my day.