Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Saying goodbye to Grandma

Thank you to all my readers for your kind condolences, whether by phone, mail, email or in person.

Some of you commented that it sounds like she was an extraordinary person.

I agree. There was nothing ordinary about my Grandma. I have never met anyone even remotely like her. My blog articles do not begin to do justice to her. She was truly a unique character (a real character, in all senses of the word). That does not necessarily mean she was easy to live with, or even to visit or speak with on the phone.

One of Grandma's peculiar habits concerned saying goodbye.

You may have heard the old joke:

What's the difference between Jews and __________ (fill the blank with the ethnicity of your choice, i.e. Italian, Irish, etc.)

Answer: the Irish leave the party without saying goodbye, and Jews say goodbye but never leave the party.

Every time I hear this one, I think of Grandma.

For some reason, saying goodbye to Grandma was never an small feat, because she could never just let you say goodbye and hang up. She had to wish you all sorts of blessings, then tell you how much she loved you. You couldn't get a word in edgewise. And Grandma always had to be the last one to say goodbye. No one, but no one, ever got the last goodbye with Grandma. Even if she had already told you how much she loved you, and you'd respond "I love you too, Grandma," she would have to repeat how much she loved you again, never to be out-loved. This scenario could easily repeat itself numerous times in one conversation! I often tried to get the last goodbye, never with any success. Sometimes it seemed almost as though she waited on the line until she was sure you had hung up!

We often analyzed this rather bizarre tendency. Many explanations were offered by family members, but here's the most plausible:

As I mentioned in a previous post, my Grandma tragically lost her birth parents at a tender young age in a violent anti-Semitic pogrom in Ukraine. Certainly that loss left its indelible mark on her subconscious. Perhaps the anxiety of parting with a loved one was too much for her to bear. Perhaps her wounded soul had been silently grieving for decades, tragically deprived the ability to say goodbye to the parents who brought her into the world and raised her till she was three. Consequently, the theory goes, saying goodbye for Grandma was always fraught with angst and unease. Hence her separation anxiety, and her vital need to be the last one to say goodbye.

Whether our analysis is correct is neither here nor there.

But here's my afterthought:

As I left the cemetery last month after having paid my final respects to Grandma, it occured to me that after all these years, I finally got the last goodbye. In fact, I got the only goodbye. How could it be? How could Grandma have left the party without saying goodbye!?

But maybe, just mabye, it isn't so. Maybe Grandma is standing up there in heaven heaping blessings upon us, telling us how much she loves us, refusing to let us say goodbye.

Just as unforgettable as she was in her lifetime, may she belligerently stay alive in our minds and hearts, in all the mitzvos we do on her behalf.

And may her memory be for a blessing.

More about oranges

Some of you may have missed an important comment from my cousin Haya on a previous post.

Here's the relevant quote:

"Wonderful thoughts cousin Michoel...
"I wanted to share a tag to your memory of the orange story. I think she said they were imported from south america, and so very expensive. She would take the orange that her father gave her, and go out into the neighborhood to meet her friends, who would gather around her in a circle to view this special delicacy.

"Grandma said that her friends would watch and wait in excited anticipation as she peeled her orange, and then she would give each friend one slice and they would savor it. She said that even though she wanted to eat the whole orange for herself, the one slice tasted sweeter for sharing the whole. They each ate their one slice slowly and appreciated it!" (click here to read her entire comment)

My comment:

Thanks Haya for sharing that. I don't recall that version, but I do rememer Grandma saying that food tastes better when we share it with others.