I was talking with my mom this morning about how lucky I was to have had all of my grandparents not only alive and well up through my adult-hood, but to have been so close with them.
When my maternal grandmother died (age 96) in 2008, I remember my mom saying that the torch had been passed to the next generation. My grandfather had died in 2001 (age 92) so when grandma died, my mom and her brother, my uncle, became the heads of our small family.
My paternal grandfather died in 1998. He was the only one of the four to have had a difficult death. He had worked in (auto) garages his whole life, except for his military service. He had a difficult death caused by a lifetime of smoking. Emphysema is not one of the easier ways to go.
He had permanent grease under his fingernails, which as a child fascinated me. To me it meant that he was a hard worker and had something to show for it. I think I was fascinated by both grandfather’s hands – my memorial speech for my maternal grandfather was about his large, worn, worked hands. My grandparents were blue-collar working people, with the rough, scarred hands to show for the toils.
My grandma who died this morning was an amazing woman. Like the rest of my family, hard working and tough. She had an indomitable spirit, that I often try to channel when I’m having a difficult time.
She was the last of my grandparents to die. She was 95 years old, and even while in hospice, her same stalwart spirit was there.
Her matzoh-ball soup was legendary in our family, and we were all saddened when she was no longer able to make it. In a Jewish family, food is one thing that we congregate around. It is how we communicate. I grew up with grandma’s egg creams, matzoh brei, (often with cottage cheese mixed in), melty butterscotch brownies, a never-ending confusion from grandma as to why I didn’t like gefilte fish, and of course, her delectable matzoh ball soup.
I’ll never have grandma’s matzoh ball soup again, but my Aunt will carry on the traditions of our family and we will now congregate around her hand-hewn oak dining table.