Bye love. . .
As our July 4th week comes to a close, we at JWA close the circle on our Celebrate Fiercely Independent Jewish Women call for submissions, which began last week and continues today with an announcement and related blog piece. The announcement: We at JWA enjoyed reading your submissions, and we were particularly moved by the tribute written by Jennifer Steinberg in honor of her grandmother, LTG. We invited Jennifer to write an expanded piece on LTG, which you will find below. We encourage you to read Jennifer's original 150-200 word submission, along with the other fine tributes. Though our country's indepence day has passed, let's continue to keep the FIJW energy and inspiration alive. . .
When my grandmother died, she left behind a remarkable and quirky legacy that could not be contained in a six-line newspaper death notice. Cherished wife; devoted mother; loving grandmother—all true but not even scratching the surface of who she was to me.
I remember my grandparents’ big house on the hill in Lake Ronkonkoma on Long Island and the toys left over from when my dad and aunt were children on the top floor. I remember my grandmother giving me a bath in the big, claw-footed bathtub. I remember Passover Seders at a long table in the living room, the high point being not her brisket but her annual off-key rendition of “Dayenu. “
When my grandfather retired, he and my grandmother moved from the big house on the hill to a condominium with a golf course. Spending the night meant walks with her to every single playground in the complex and conversations on the patio, peppered with challenges like, “Jennifer, what would you like to talk about? The birds and the bees?” At the time, I found her just a bit scary; she didn’t speak to me or interact with me like the other adults in my life. I realize now that her constant questions came from a genuine curiosity about what I thought. She was not a typical “bubbe” but expressed her love through her interest in my life and ideas.
For my Sweet 16, she and Grandpa offered to take me to whatever Broadway show I wanted--which in 1995 meant The Who’s “Tommy.” I had never taken the LIRR, been in Manhattan, or eaten in a “fancy” restaurant without my parents. We had lunch at an Irish restaurant; Grandma ordered a Guinness and offered me a sip, something I certainly would not have done with my parents, the Lillian equivalent of “Oh, take another cookie.”
By the time my oldest daughter was born, Lillian had already battled breast cancer once. Holding her first great grandchild, she told me she wanted to be there when Dylan graduated from college. It would have been enough if she were there for her bat mitzvah. She lived to see the birth of two more great granddaughters and to watch the video of my oldest daughter “graduating” from preschool.
At her funeral, it took everything I had to get up and speak in front of the assembled, but I wanted to have my say, to tell everyone what I would miss. That list included things like answering machine messages like, “Hello Jennifer. Lillian Grackin calling. Speak to you soon. Bye love,” Wall Street Journal clippings, and her joyful “singing” of “Dayenu.”
When we reached the cemetery, the words to “Amazing Grace” were passed out so that we could all sing together as she requested, and so we sang for her, graveside, at Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, only a few hundred yards from the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. For everything she was and wasn’t, she was a cherished wife; devoted mother; loving grandmother, and if she wanted us singing a traditionally Christian hymn in the most of Jewish of settings, well that was the least we could do.