I hummed and hawed about posting this. On one hand, many people heard it. On the other hand, not everyone did. I realized tonight that I was keeping it for a reason. I hadn’t tossed the final version in the trash of my computer. So, I am going to share it.
What you should know: My grandmother’s name was Esther, but everyone called her Ettie.
With that in mind…
I am Sara, one of Ettie’s granddaughters. My sister, Katie and I are the ones who grew up in Miami. I wanted to have this chance to speak to everyone today about the woman few others got to see. I was lucky enough to spend more time with her in the last 15 years than most people.
My earliest memories of my Nana start with the years my parents lived in Hull. I don’t remember much, but I remember her on the beach. I have better memories of holidays. The living room in Newton full with people talking and eating. I have memories of baked chicken and baked apples. I have memories of ice cream sundaes on Friday nights. I have memories of their trips to Miami for vacations, birthdays, and bat mitzvahs. I remember drives up from Miami. I remember jokes about her getting shorter as we all got taller. These are all a child’s memories of a grandmother. This was the idealized version of a woman who was always able to take care of everyone. I think these are memories many of us share.
As an adult I learned more about the person she really was. Ettie was a woman who lived her life the way she wanted. She joined the navy during World War 2 when it was uncommon for women to join, let alone Jewish women. Even after she married and had children, she worked part-time for various small businesses as a book-keeper. She traveled around the world. She was also a woman of her generation. She married and had children. She was involved in B’nai Brith and the schul. She survived cancer.
When I decided to move to Boston for graduate school, she supported every decision I made. Most people hear what I want from life and respond in one of two ways. Either I am told I will change my mind as I get older or people try to convince me to do something else. My Nana never did. She never tried to convince me to change my mind or was dismissive of my choices. She and my grandfather made sure I had anything I needed. They took my out for dinner and took me shopping. They let me stay with them when I needed. When I learned to knit, Nana gave her all her supplies so they would be used. When she was at her best, she never let anyone do without. She did until she couldn’t go anymore.
I saw her decline first hand over the past 12 years. As roles changed, I found myself taking care of her more than she took care of me. I helped move her into the nursing home where she spent the last few years of her life. I often went and saw her at the home. I watched as she forgot the people she loved. I often wondered how much time she had and was grateful for every additional year she was with us.
Personally, I am going to remember all the time I spent with her. Our shared love of knitting will always be my best memory. Even in the end she enjoyed what I knit for her. I am going to remember her sense of humor, something she held onto in the end. I am going to remember her independent spirit that made her never question the decisions others made with their lives. In the end I am so glad I got to spend so many years with her as an adult.
Final note, thank you to everyone who has shared comments of sympathy on Facebook and Twitter over the past week. I did get my chance to say good bye to her and I think that made it much easier for me to deal with her death. We are all doing well and moving forward to make sure my grandfather’s needs are being taken care of.
Also, I scored her last, hidden, and unfinished knitting project. I am trying to decide what to do with it because it has some issues, but I love it. Going through their house is like going on a treasure hunt. You never know what you are going to uncover.