What were your grandparents like?

My father’s parents were married for 64 years. I often though I was oddly lucky to be related to them. They in so many ways were different from my mother’s side of the family.

My grandparents lived in Queens, not quite 1/2 hour from my own home in Huntington, Long Island. She baked cookies with me and I would run back and forth between my grandma’s apartment and her friend, also named Molly. The other Molly, whose husband was also named Nat like grandpa, was a ball of fun like my own grandma.

My grandma was already my best friend. I wasn’t yet 5 years old.

I was 9 years old when my grandparents moved to Delray Beach, Florida. I missed them terribly. We would call once a week but the calls were rushed as long distance calls were expensive. We wrote letters. I wrote them weekly until my grandmother died. I was 30 years old. I wrote her from summer camp, high school, college and more. We made the long drive that first year to Delray Beach by car and later I flew down to visit. Every year I went until my grandma died.

I remember being worried that because they were so far away from my family in Long Island, that if something happened, we couldn’t help them. We used to make audio cassettes with my dad and mail them to my grandparents. I remember playing an awful song on my violin and my mother made a mean comment about how bad my playing was (it was terrible) and I started to cry, my father tried to calm me down and my mother got mad at him and all this was recorded on the cassette recorder and sent to Florida. I was worried about how it would sound when my grandparents would receive it. I never heard anything about it. When my grandmother was dying, I found the tapes and, still worried about the tapes 21 years later, I asked if I could take the tapes and of course my grandma said yes.

It was as bad as I remembered it but now as an adult, I was able to also see the humor in it all.

My grandfather was a grumpy man but for me he was a lovable grandpa. He was always grumbling under his breath but there was also the occasions when he had you sit on his lap while he peeled an apple with pairing knife all in one piece. Then he would cut off pieces of apple for me to eat.

Later, he would take me putting with him on the golf course. There he would talk to me about life and love and how things were so different in the world then when he was my age.

I remember the night my brother was born and what seemed like the middle of the night, my grandparents showed up in our apartment to watch me while my parents were at the hospital. I was so excited to see them that while they tried to sleep in my parents’ bed, I kept getting up and going into my parents’ room until finally, my grandma scooted me back to my bed and stayed with me the rest of the night. I was still so excited that my grandma broke down as the sun was coming up and gave me a pixie doll she had bought just for me. She always had a present for me. I kept that doll until I was in my 30s. Later that day, my grandma gave me my first watch. It was a Timex and I m not even sure I could tell time back then.

But I’m 57 years old and I still have the watch.

Ironically, in the last days of her life, I had a dream that she was dying and gave me a watch.

After her funeral, my aunt told me a story about how in her final days in hospice, she asked my aunt to take the watch off her wrist and give it to me. A wonderful reminder that time marches on.

My grandfather was never ok after my grandma died. It was as if he didn’t know how to be in this world without her. After my grandma was gone, my aunt and uncle took my grandfather in but he needed more direction and support than they could provide. He died a few years later in I think an assisted living facility.

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