Remembering Grandma Betty

While this blog is mine, I have reiterated that it is not solely comprised of my stories. It would be nearly impossible for me to have all these roommate situations. Although, I do laugh when people think that some of these stories are my experiences. Nonetheless, today’s entry is the opposite of annonymous – it is extremely personal. Last week, I lost my Grandma Betty. She was 91 years old and one of my best friends. For me, writing is the outlet I choose to express my feelings.  I needed a space to mourn and cherish her memory publicly. The below is how I will always remember  Grandma and what I shared at her funeral.

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Last year, at about this time, I started a new writing project. Grandma Betty sat at the kitchen table watching and helping inspire me with her stories me as I typed my first blog entry. The post was titled “Giving Thanks for Roommates,” an ironic first topic considering I was naming my blog “Roommate for Rent. “

With Grandma’s encouragement, she shared the humble and grateful memories of living with her brothers and sisters – being thankful for having a roof over their heads, the opportunity to be reunited with the 5 Lucky Ones (the phrase she used to refer to her siblings), and how she didn’t think twice about scrubbing the bathroom floor on her wedding day – after all, it was her turn to clean!

This was Grandma Betty – a humble, fiercely loyal, fighter who taught all of us to see the best in people and overlook their faults. She dropped everything to celebrate the special moments in our lives. And of course she didn’t mind dressing up glamorous to match the occasion.  I am grateful I shared these milestones with her and all of you who are here have your own moments— from bat mitzvahs to college graduations to weddings to birthdays.  Yet, it’s actually the everyday moments where her teachings and expressions continue to be a part of our lives, enabling us to celebrate and treasure her memory in the simplest of moments, that will last forever.

  • When I cross the streets of NYC, I hear her say “Be Alert!” And I think of her when I explore Alphabet City to go dancing or karaoke, which she loved to hear about how late I was out, but I always took a moment in between these parties to pause and realize how different her life was as a child of the Great Depression, having just enough to get by on Avenue C.
  • When I’m at a flea market, I look for jewelry she would have loved – the rose earrings and anything jade or amber. Sometimes, I come across MahJong tiles turned into rings, and I think of how she attempted to teach us all to play, but we often thought it would be more fun to cheat and trade tiles when she thought wasn’t looking. She was always looking, especially at Brett and Michael.
  • When I go to blow my nose, and I subconsciously stick a tissue in the side of my pant’s, not in the pocket, but in the band between my pants and underwear, and I think of how she did that.
  • When I think of Israel, I think of her adventurous trip years before mine, how she described the incredible country, our heritage, and all it represented to her faith. Then, when I went to Israel, we discussed our shared memories of hiking Masada and the wonder of the Western Wall, may we all pray for Israel right now.
  • When it’s a Jewish holiday, I think of the traditions she wanted us to carry on, especially the culinary ones. I’m so grateful for the chance to have spent hours in the kitchen by her side. While I often impatiently waited to sprinkle cinnamon and sugar in those rugels, I marveled in every moment of how she would measure without a spoon or a cup.  Aunt Esta, Brett and Michael will always remember Grandma’s generosity, sending endless care packages of roast beef, noodle kugel, and rugels home with them, not to mention, the bagels,lox, and cream cheese moments they shared together.
  • When I pass Va Benna, Kosher Italian Cuisine of Rome, the current restaurant and former bar where my parents met on the Upper East Side, I remember how Grandma glowed when she would tell the story of how Jeff and Iris met, and how it was Aunt Helen’s apple cake that won him over the next day.
  • When I think of the friendships in my life, I remember how Grandma always told me how important it was to have friends and family. She would have been beaming today knowing that we are all here together and celebrating her life.
  • When I go dress shopping, I look for that $10 sequin gown in the clearance rack, and if it’s gold or red, I know she would have loved it. I know how much you loved the red glitter flapper dress she bought me, and I’ve cut off a string so that it’s with her forever.
  • When it’s cold, and we wear the hats, scarves, and sweaters she so lovingly knitted, first with her needles, then with her loom, using one hand, she preserved. We will always remember her, especially her great grandchildren – Sarah, Lauren, Michael, and Samantha — who loved their holiday packages wrapped in plain brown paper. If you received a Betty original, you had made it big time. To carry a piece of her with you forever, we would like to give you her business card as a momento today.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught that there are three ways to mourn – to weep, to be silent and to sing. Grandma would have it no other way but to have us all sing, and especially a stanza from her favorite, Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way.”

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried

I’ve had my fill, my share of losing

And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that

And may I say, not in a shy way,

Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way

 

Grandma, you will be a part of our lives everyday even though you are not here. With all the nuggets of wisdom you have given to us, Grandma Betty, we are actually the luckiest of them all to have known and loved you.

 

 

 

 

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