This afternoon I was reading a friend's blog. I swear, this time I was not procrastinating. I wanted to see which of two possible jobs she chose, and I didn't check IMDB once. She was talking about the daycare she just found for her son Ben. The woman running it had lots of questions and suggestions, mostly about poop. Only every other day! That's not good. Not good at all. How often does he poop? What are you doing to get him to poop more often? Are you regular?
When I read this story, I had to smile. It reminded me of Grandma Ruth.
Suddenly, I was whisked back to Pesach 1996. Not the first time I met her, but the first time I visited her home in Florida. Boca del Mar, I think it was. The one with the swimming pool and a longer walk to schul. You had to walk past a little lake on the way there. Noah and I went there often for night walks and such. (AJRBL) We both ended up with bug bites all over from those walks.
Grandma Ruth and Grandpa Charles lived in quite a few houses in their time. Four or five of them in Boca Raton. I knew only the last two of those. The memories of those places run together alot. Where did we ride bikes through the neighborhood. Where did we walk Dylan for three hours when he had diarrhea. Where was that huge fight. The one that started about the pillow, not about the dog. I try to differentiate by remembering which had the pool and which did they remove all the carpet and turn the pantry by the garage into another bathroom.
This one was the house by the pool: We were all sitting at their rounded wood kitchen table. It had big clawed feet with tall spindle-backed wood chairs around it. Overheard hung the Tiffany lampshade that followed them to all their various kitchens. This particular night, Grandma made latkes. Grandpa Charles, as always, prepared. Chopped onions, peeled and grated the potatoes, as Grandma Ruth sat on a wooden stool supervising. "Chop those finer. Rinse those in water. Now add eggs, flour."
Grandpa swears he doesn't know how to cook. He needs her direction.
At the table, Grandma, as always, sat forward on her knees. I think it gave her a better view of things. From there, she saw what and how much everyone ate, commenting if you were a good eater or didn't eat enough. Or she would watch the serving plates as they emptied. From time to time, her always manicured hands would reach out and pick a choice morsel from one of the plates then pop it into her mouth.
As we finished, she pushed back her plate and spoke with the most satisfied sigh. "Ah, latkes. I love them. I remember once time I ate so many I was compacted for a week.Grandpa had to take me to the hospital to get cleaned out."
One thing with Grandma Ruth. No subject was off limits. She asked when you were getting married, when you'd be having kids, when would another one be on the way. "Just promise me you'll have a child before I'm dead," she once pleaded with me. "Grandma," I told her. "You're just going to have to stay alive."
She was alive long enough to meet Lila. By that point, though, Grandma and Grandpa had already moved to Atlanta and were no where near as autonomous as they had been in Florida. There were no more frantic trips to Sawgrass Mills to look for a green wedding dress to walk down the aisle at my friend Gaelle's wedding. "Leigh, you look like a green angel in that dress." No long drives to Miami just to take me to lunch at a particular and very fancy kosher Chinese place. It was wonderful, Grandma and Grandpa.
That was the same also my first visit with them. Noah's flight left the day before mine, and the rest of the family were long gone on their return drive to Maryland. I was horribly nervous to be all alone with the formidble Grandma Ruth. She could really be a hardass when she wanted. But those days alone with the two of them cemented my relationship with them as one that was loving, caring and good.
There was a memorial in Atlanta soon after she passed away. What impressed me so much about it was the pure honesty when talking about her. She was not turned into a saint. Yes, she could be loud, mean, caring, pushy, loving, generous, bigger-than-life, honest, soft, nosy and did I say pushy? No one needed to pretend she was anything but what she was and every word of her came true and unvarnished. Each story made us laugh and then in turn we cried.
Now, that big table sits in Jason's kitchen in Colorado. I picture him and his wife sitting there with their ten month old baby. The chairs backs are breaking, in spite of Grandpa Charles ingenious fixes over the years, and the stools remain with the rest of our things in storage in Atlanta. I'd like to keep them in the kitchen the very next time we have one.
I truly miss her. I do.
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This was taken in Atlanta at Aunt Jane's house-up-on-the-hill. I think Lila was 18 months old.