Officially, grandparents’ day is the first Sunday after Labor Day, falling on Sept. 11, 2011. Bad timing this year. Guessing that there’s a slight chance it’ll be overshadowed this year, I’m moving it up…to today.
One bubby and Zaidy available to adopt. Must have: ample spare time for doting, firm belief that I am the most amazing human to walk the earth (or at least give me that impression), gushy, squishy elbow skin to play with, ability to tolerate me playing with your elbows, soft hands, kind eyes, willing to tell stories about your life - bonus points if they include how to re-use tin foil, anecdotes of your own stupidity to offset my own, and unconditional love.
Payment for these services include: frequent calls to update on my life, say hi, wish you a happy Thursday; partner for crossword puzzles and clipping Sunday coupons; optional chauffeur - as long as it doesn’t involve parallel parking; someone who believed you are much more wise, valuable, and priceless not despite your age but because of it; verbal adoration and boundless love.
To apply: send newspaper clippings about various dangers in the world I should be sure to avoid, home-made cookies, completed crossword puzzles or hand-knitted anything. This is not an exclusive position - will accept multiple applicants.
I have come to understand that not everyone is as lucky as I was to grow up with such incredible grandparents. My grandparents, like fine wine, definitely ripened with age, so that by the time I came around, they were primed and up to the task…most of which involved making me feel like I was the most special, favorite person in the world.
Even more impressive was that upon conferring with my co-workers (i.e. sibling, cousins, etc), I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. That being said, you should know, really, I was the favorite…I’m absolutely sure…don’t tell…
I did nothing to earn this blessing. Simply lucky, I had one snowbird set that lived close by for half of the year and another who lived in Toronto and sent care packages during the months between visits. There was Friday night sleepovers, tutorials in gin rummy, afikomen money from the top giver Zaidy, letters at camp, and adoration galore.
When visiting my father’s parents in Canada, I was greeted a picture shrine featuring my brother and I cataloguing each year and milestone throughout their rooms. The seventeen course shabbos dinner required prolonged fasting to be able to partake in the most delicious brown foods that you’re better off not knowing their origin, sprinkled with love that was so strong that Zaidy Leo had to be warned…“don’t squash them Leo!” lucky - I know.
To be fair, I have to say that I still have one grandparent left. A Holocaust survivor who escaped after her big sister forced her to take on her identity and made it out of Poland never able to remember when her real birthday is after being Rene for over 70 years. For the past ten years, the amount she remembers can fit on a pinhead. The squat huggable bubby Rene isn’t there.
I often have to remind myself that she is still living, if we can call it that, in a nursing home in Toronto. Alzheimer’s has stolen her mind, and so she doesn’t know who I am, who she is, or where the sink is.
She doesn’t scold us “Don’t touch the hair!” when we tease that her updo adds four inches to her 5 foot frame, cook five cakes just in case we might be hungry when we visit after dinner, travel with suitcases full of socks and cotton pjs and frozen corned beef when she comes to visit, or gaze at me the entire visit as if I could do no wrong.
Who knows - maybe she knows more than I think. This is what I know - she doesn’t speak, her eyes stare at a wall, and she can’t hug me when I say goodbye. So I mourn her like I do Bubby Ida and Zaidy Charlie and Zaidy Leo. My biggest fans have all disappeared and it was a rude awakening to discover that it’s hard to find people who think I walk on water.
I collect grandparents like others collect baseball cards. My Zaidy radar is finely honed, buzzing at shul, on airplanes, or on the side of the road.
I miss my grandparents on the obvious days - holidays, birthdays, Tuesday nights, and Thursday afternoons. Then there are those moments where I am overwhelmed by their memory: the old man cologne that screams Zaidy Leo, the envelope handwriting I could swear Bubby Ida wrote, the sight of a woman peering of a balcony waiting for her loved ones as Bubby Rene would wait for us without fail, peeling apples for the charoset just like Zaidy Charlie.
Last night, it was simply the chill that makes me reach for the pink blanket Bubby Ida knit for me, wishing all the while I could trade the blanket for a hug with her.
Then I remind myself, I am lucky…lucky to know what such love feels like, lucky to have them to miss…
And yet, I’m still interviewing applicants