Grandma is the one who would take me to the dinosaur museum when I was a toddler. At least every other week, my family and my uncle’s family would go to Grandma’s and Pop-pop’s apartment for dinner. Starting in first grade, Grandma was the one who picked me up one day a week after school. With my sister, the three of us would go for ice cream, go to the library, and then go to the swimming lessons that my grandparents insisted on paying for. My weekly afternoon with Grandma continued until I entered junior high, and I was very sorry that it stopped.
When I joined the school band in 4th grade, Grandma and Pop-pop attended my very first concert, and most every concert after that through high school, not to mention marching band shows and spring musicals. Amazingly, they managed to do the same for my sister and my four cousins that live in town. They even have made it to events for the two cousins that live in a different state. At the extended family gatherings, Grandma was the one that would answer my sister’s and my questions about how we were related to all of the people present, a game my sister dubbed “Jewish geography”.
Grandma and Pop-pop are the ones that own the lake house, and many a summer weekend has been spent in their company there. I have many memories of Grandma working on the planter box, and of going for walks with her along the lake road. Grandma is the one in the kitchen on Dock Days (the days at the beginning and end of the season when we put the dock into or take it out of the water), making sure that there is ample food to feed the hungry work crew of family and friends. One of our long-running family jokes is that we have to tell Grandma to “Sit! Stay!” because she is so concerned that everyone else gets enough to eat she is often the last person to sit at the table. Even then, she frequently tries to get up to help someone find more food. (Actually, this phenomenon happens during family dinners at the apartment, too.)
Mother’s Day means walking in the Race for the Cure to honor Grandma, who is a 30+ year survivor of breast cancer. She was devastated when her daughter, my Aunt B, was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2004; thankfully, Aunt B now walks with Grandma every year, also wearing the pink survivor shirt. After the walk, the whole family goes to brunch together, and we play musical chairs to catch up with everyone. Even on those years that I don’t walk for some reason, I make it to the brunch and spend a little time talking with Grandma.
Even though they are Jewish, Grandma and Pop-pop have typically spent part of Christmas Day with my family. When my sister and I were younger, they would come over in the morning to help open and assemble presents. When I was about 10, they started coming to Christmas dinner, instead.
When I came out as transgender, Grandma accepted me immediately. To this day, she is one of my biggest supporters.
This week is my Grandma’s 85th birthday. She and Pop-pop have been married for 63 years. They still travel, although now it is only to the lake house or to visit family (once upon a time they did many Elder Hostel excursions). Grandma was diagnosed about 3 years ago with Alzheimer’s. The most obvious effect has been that she tends to repeat herself in conversation; in every other way she is still my Grandma. To celebrate her birthday, she and Pop-pop, Mom and Dad, me, Uncle H and Aunt Be, Aunt B, and maybe a cousin or two are going to dinner tonight at one of the city’s fanciest restaurants, one where men are required to wear a coat and tie. With Aunt S’s help (she’s my Mom’s twin), I bought a new suit, and have successfully persuaded Grandma and Pop-pop to let me be their chauffeur for the evening. It’s my way of saying Happy Birthday to one of the most amazing people in my life, my wonderful Grandma.