And then, there were none.

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.


Latest: Kveller


Some Wednesday Lightness: My History with Barbra

At the young age of 18, I became a true Barbra fan. That’s Barbra Streisand. After viewing The Prince of Tides, I was hooked. I fell in love with her music and her films and did my research about her, as a person. I was instantly impressed with her charitable giving and felt her feminist activism was powerful.
When I went to college in New York City, it was important for me to go by the sites that she had been to and I would frequently experience New York while she sang into my earphones as I walked down Broadway. 
When I learned she would be filming a movie on my college campus, I knew I needed to be a part of it. I was able to sign up to be an extra and was lucky enough to get called. In the weeks leading up to my film date, I would see her on campus and get very excited. I so wanted to talk to her and tell her what a positive influence she was for me. I really just wanted to talk about anything with her, I didn’t care about the subject. I wanted to tell her how I didn’t realize how short she was and on days when she was not filming scenes herself, she looked so casual and comfortable. But, I remained quiet.
The big day came and I wore all brown. We were told not to wear black but to wear neutral colors. I was given a pink scarf to wear by wardrobe and I was ready to go. The scene is toward the end of the movie when Barbra is walking through campus with Pierce Brosnan. I am seen for a split second. Filming that one scene took several hours and was a very cool experience. I was asked to stay while they filmed another scene, indoors, but was not used. I was able to watch the process and really appreciate the work.
At the end of the night (after 12 hours of work) I knew what I had to do. As I got my stuff together, most of the extras had left, probably needing to return to their dorms to study. I took a chance and waited by the front door of the building we were in. I heard someone yell, “Rose is coming,” and knowing that was Barbra’s character’s name in the film that Barbra was coming downstairs. I waited. 
As she walked past me, this was the interaction:
Me: “Barbra?”
Barbra: “Yes.”
Me: “I really enjoyed watching you work today.”
Barbra (smiling): “Thank you.”
Cue her bodyguard who pushed me away from her…
And with that, I walked to my dorm as tears began to flow down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed by the entire experience, but the fact that I was able to have a brief conversation with her sealed the deal for me. I was 20 years old and I felt as if I had lived a dream.
Fast forward 20 years and I am now living a dream with my husband and daughter. I do feel as if Barbra has been there through good times and bad with me. Her music can be haunting and uplifting, depending on my needs. Her films are all wonderful and I highly recommend the little known, Up the Sandbox. My love of Barbra will continue and is now shared with my daughter. 
And really, there is nothing like hearing your 4 year old daughter sing, A Quiet Thing/There Won’t be Trumpets at the top of her lungs while riding to preschool in the morning.