How Many of Us Were Fortunate Enough as Adults to Still Have Grandparents?

I recently posted a wedding photo of my paternal grandmother of blessed memory, Eva Nisson, known as Gram to all of her grandchildren.

Gram's wedding photo

It got me thinking that I was so fortunate to get some time with her when I was an adult as she lived into her mid 80’s, before the current trends of longevity made that seem youngish.

When I was a child, I certainly took Gram for granted, as all children do with their elders. She was the matriarch and balabusta of our famiily, (along with my Aunt Doris) and she lived only a block away, but I didn’t understand what a role model was and how she was one for me. (more on that later) Such wasted, valuable time for many of us as children and we didn’t realize it until too late, as in the case with my maternal grandparents.

Holiday meal
I am the baby in the high chair front center looking at my dad, and Gram was to his right, and to her right was Aunt Doris during a family holiday dinner.

After my childhood where I took many delicious recipes and meals from her for granted, I was a self-absorbed teenager. I was interested in boys, popularity, music, boys, clothes, dates, boys, and hanging out with my grandmother, or even my parents was not a priority to say the least. (Emphasis on boys!)

For my maternal grandparents and my paternal grandfather, that is where it all ended. They consecutively passed away when I was a teen too busy to really give them the time of day. Before I could really ask the burning questions about their histories, before I could tell them how much I appreciated them, they passed away with just snippets of stories left to know them.

I was fortunate that my Gram stayed around for much longer. As I turned into a young adult in my late teens and early twenties, I learned to enjoy being with my Gram. It was almost as if a maturity switch came on and I realized I should appreciate my elders. She moved to and lived in a high rise downtown which I thought was so cool. She was fun and wonderful to be with and I spent a lot of leisure time visiting with her, developing a strong bond that we had never shared before. This was precious to me.

me and gram

The above photo taken down the “Shore” together – a place that we both loved! (and I still do!)
She always had food for me – to her food was love. She reminisced, she shared old photos, some which she gave to me and I still have them today – as precious as gold to me now because now I was interested in her history and my own history. I have some of her recipes too – another great gift so I can keep her food traditions going within my own family. (With the exception of homemade Gelfilte fish – I draw the line at that – although she taught me a great doctoring recipe for the jarred stuff that I use to this day to great success)

Then in my mid twenties, I moved to Houston – far away from her home in Philly. That didn’t dampen our close relationship. She visited often and particularly after my son Brett was born. I visited her a lot too as my aunt and uncle had a summer home in my growing up beach town where I would camp out in for weeks as a time with my little Brett.  Gram and I talked on the phone probably more than normal back when long distance calls were expensive. If I needed information on child rearing, cooking, or anything else, she was my go-to source.

We became great friends, and she was such a source of comfort and support to me when I needed it most.

I began to emulate her – not consciously – but now when I look back on it, I realize that I was following the lead of my role model of great womanhood. She was a community leader, and this is something I took up as well when my children were growing up. In Houston I became the balabusta, cooking for all holidays and hosting friends and family, just as Gram used to do.

When she became ill, it was absolutely devastating for me, especially because I was so far away. I was pregnant with my daughter Elissa when she passed away.

There was no doubt in my mind that I would name my daughter after her. My daughter’s Hebrew name is Chava, the same as Gram’s was. Elissa’s first name Elissa is a lovely combination of Eva and Nisson (E, ISS, A) Elissa reminds me of my Gram in many ways too.

The point is, I feel so blessed and lucky to have had some adult years with my special Gram so I could develop a relationship that turned out to be one of the most important of my life. I know so many of us did not have the opportunity to get to this stage with either a special grandparent or even a parent, so I am feeling fortunate to have had this extra time. It was the same way for my only Aunt, who happens to be my favorite Aunt – my Aunt Doris. She picked up the matriarch ball when Gram passed away, and I became so very close to her too. Unfortunately she is gone now too, but has a namesake in my grandson’s Hebrew name.

So now tell me readers, how many can relate to this blog and wish they could go back and spend quality time with their departed loved ones that they were too young to appreciate when they had their untimely end? I know I wish that for my other grandparents. Let me hear from you!

6 comments

  • My wife and I chose to be called Bubbe and Zayde, to honor the memory of grandparents and recognize the Old World culture our grandchildren and future generations will not experience directly. Arlene, you are so right. It is important for us to pass forward all the stories we were privileged to learn so intimately from the lips of immigrant grandparents. Not only hard facts, like dates and places, but examples of character — faith, strength, humility and optimism.

    My maternal grandmother, Sprintze, passed away during my Mom’s pregnancy. My Hebrew name, Peretz, was threaded from three root letters of her Yiddish name. I was fortunate three of my four grandparents hugged me. I have vivid memories of each, especially my maternal grandfather, Reuben Mazer, my roommate growing up on Oakland Street. We were close as our twin beds.

    He passed away weeks after seeing me accompany Linda, now my wife of 52 years, to her senior prom at GWHS. My paternal grandmother, Anna, was the only grandparent to attend our wedding 4 years later.

    Yes, we wish we had asked more questions, when in our formative years. But, grandparents, even parents who lived through Depression and War, were not always able or anxious to relate those stories. We have come to appreciate more deeply how memories are blessings.

  • I definitely relate to this I am 75 and I was lucky enough to me of my great-grandmother on my mother’s side one passed away when I was 10 but I vividly remember going to Atlantic City to her boarding house and staying there most of the summer the other grandma was little older but I used to visit her all the time when we went to Philadelphia as I was 15 the move to Philadelphia my grandmother was my favorite person and so was my grandfather on my mom’s side. I was the first grandchild to give them a great-grandchild I have a picture of my grandfather with the biggest smile I ever saw looking at my son 55 years ago I am so happy they had the pleasure my grandma live till ninety five she taught me to sew crochet cook a really good person. She molded my life and when I was in trouble she was there for me my grandpa was The Silent One but he taught me how to make k e y s in his hardware store and to mix paint and how to treat a customer. When they asked who would you like to come back and see from h e a v e n it’s my grandparents. Now that I am a grandma of a 17 year old girl and almost 19 year old girl and a 21 year old boy I am the happiest woman on Earth Play give me more pleasure and I treat them just like my grandma did to me thank you for posting this incredible post I’m letting me Express how happy I was to read it

  • Oh Arlene you are always spot on!! I remember my maternal grandmother Molly. She lived just a few streets away and would call my mother daily which always irritated me because I would hear the phone ring and run to answer it hoping it was a boy. Then I would hear my grandmothers voice and I would be irritated and short with her. I was about 15 when she passed. I regret all that and miss her to this day. Thank you for sharing your warm sentiments

  • My grandparents are in Santiago Chile, never knew them physically but had a deep admiration for them ❤️ They were awesome in business and life !! Beautiful story as usual .

  • My Bubby stepped in to care for me when my Mom passed away when I was three years old. We always lived together in South Philly and then to Oxford Circle! She was very important to me that on Mother’s Day and her birthday always made it a point to get her gifts and visit her! We remained close even after I got married and had children who she loved unconditionally!! I was lucky to have her for 39 years of my life. She was the mother I never had!!

  • i’m lucky to be named after her!

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