One hundred year ago, on this day, a baby was born. The youngest of four siblings — the only girl. A loyal wife, a straight-shooter, a firm believer in etiquette and respect.
I simultaneously feel like I knew my grandmother very well while also not knowing her at all. For all the advancements in science, there is still no invention that would allow me, at 42 years old, to reap the benefits of the wisdom of my grandmother.
For almost all of my life, I lived within a half hour of her house. In part, I chose our current synagogue because the sanctuary there has a faint olfactory reminder of my grandmother’s bottom floor den.
She always voted democratic, even when her husband disagreed with her. She was content to let their votes cancel one another out instead of voting his way. She worked well past typical retirement age. She drove around in a ’79 Chrysler LeBaron, which she sold to me for $1 in 1992 — with only 13, 000 miles on it. She took me shopping for birthday gifts at “Fleens” and ended each day with a big bowl of chocolate ice cream.
She died in 2010, having really slipped out of herself a year before that. She met my son a handful of times — held him and talked to him. He remembers her only from stories now, but there was a brief several months when she was an active memory for him. He loves her because I love her. He knows her only from what I know of her, which lately, has not seemed like nearly enough.
During the election, she was omnipresent for me. How she would have loved to have seen a woman get elected. In the months before it, I was so often sad that she would miss it — the same way I was sad that my grandfather didn’t live long enough to see his beloved Red Sox win the World Series in ’04. But then — when all hell broke loose on November 8th — I was glad she hadn’t had to get her hopes up only to see them dashed. I still have some time to see the glass ceiling shattered. She wouldn’t have, so maybe it’s better this way.
I keep thinking of the wisdom she could have gifted me during those long, rough days following the election. And still. She had a way of looking at things that was practical and matter-of-fact, while still being compassionate and honest. At 42 years old, I am in a better place to receive those gifts than I was when she was alive and well. As a teenager, a young woman, a young mother, I didn’t seek her out as often as I could have. I didn’t need her then the way I need her now. I think of her all the time and wish that I could have been 42 when she was 80 and in her prime, with all of her lived experience behind her and still over a decade yet to come.
Today, she would have turned 100 years old. We would have celebrated with chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, chocolate everything. She would have insisted that she was only 95 and she would have been so happy to have us all around her, which was her favorite thing in the world.