Posted by: perchancetodream | December 17, 2008

My Grandmother

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I rushed back to the Midwest last week to see my grandmother. At 95 she’s had a good and full life.  She was married to the love of her life, owned a business, and raised two sons. She’s always maintained her own house/apartment although in recent years she’s had some help from my dad and his wife. Her health has been going downhill over the past couple of years although her mind has stayed sharp and when I was able to visit we’d sit and talk late into the night.

Now she’s in a hospice, dying of cancer that is living in her liver but that has spread. It kills me to see her like this. On one hand, I’m praying for release.  If there is some sort of afterlife, I know that all she would really want would be to be reunited with my grandmother and my mom.  On the other, more selfish hand, I don’t want to lose her.  She’s meant a lot to me throughout my life and we’ve always shared a wonderfully close relationship.

As part of the hospice program, she’s being offered food but there is no intravenous liquids or nurishment.  I wish that felt right to me.  She’s gotten to the point where she can’t swallow well (in part because her tongue is so swollen from dehydration) and when she can, her stomach can’t handle the food. In reality, she’ll starve to death before the cancer kills her. I told my dad last night that I wish we could gather her loved ones together around her bed, tell her we love her and then give her some sort of shot so that she’s peacefully drift off.  But of course that’s illegal to do to humans.  We can only be that humane to our pets.  And so we wait. And yes, I’m angry about that.

I’m the nostalgic in the family and when I was home I had the chance to gather the photos that I wanted. Photos of my grandmother’s parents, her as a child, and most .img_0014importantly, photos of my grandparents when they were dating.  My grandparents had a true fairy-tale romance.  She was living in New York.  He was in Michigan.  Her father had died when she was a teenager but her stepfather knew of this great guy that he wanted to fix her up with.  She always told me that her response was “If I can’t find my own date, I don’t deserve one.”  I don’t think she was ever short of male attention.

A few years ago, she went through a maddening phase of cleaning house.  No, not dusting and polishing but of throwing things out.  She threw out, I just discovered, the journal she’s started for me when I was in college, chronicling her story. She threw out my grandfather’s letters to her from Pearl Harbor. The one thing she kept was a letter I’d never seen.  Written to her in 1934 by her stepbrother who had just been to visit her in NY, it was apparently accompanied by a number of photos and negatives that he was returning to her. All except one.  There was a photo of her in a bathing suit that he’d shown to a friend of his.  A “fine guy” with a “roadster” who could have any girl he wanted.  The guy took one look at the photo and went into a “tizzy”.  I remember being told that my grandfather took that photo from my grandmother’s stepbrother, put it into his wallet and showed it to people with the declaration that it was of the woman he’d marry.

My grandmother, her brother, her mother and step-father moved to Michigan.  My grandfather-to-be picked them up at the train station.  He returned the next day while she was up on a ladder, cleaning a chandelier. He asked if he could take her out and show her around. In the 6 years between the time that her step-brother wrote that letter and 1940, they got married (she proposed) and my father was born.  My uncle followed a few years later. They ran a business and worked together six days a week with 2 fights over the course of their marriage (she wanted him to dance with her at my dad’s bar mitzvah and they fought over the fact that my uncle, the youngest, always got away with more than my father did)

He died in 1976 during heart surgery.  She never even looked at another man although her friends tried to fix her up.  She never thought that anyone could measure up to him.

I know that this story is a digression for this blog.  I try hard to keep it focused on fertility issues.  In a way it isn’t so removed though.  I’m the only grandchild and one of the things I most wanted in the world was to have a child while my grandmother was still alive. That’s now not going to happen even if our next and last crazy cycle is successful. I also thought that this was a story that should be out there for posterity. It shaped me and my view of love. It made me open to the concept of love at first site and probably led to my being open to falling in love with my husband when I met him. She shaped me in many ways.

I was fortunate to be able to sit and talk to her when I was home last week.  It wasn’t the sort of rambling conversation filled with long stories that we usually had. But I knew what it meant to her that I was there and that was all that mattered.  Her passing is going to leave a huge hole in my life.  As I told my dad, she was the only one who really liked me unconditionally. It never mattered what I did, what decisions I made, she was supportive and made it clear how much she loved me. I’m going to miss her.



  1. I know.

  2. so sorry about your grandmother. what a beautiful photo.

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