Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Celebrity Profile: Grandma Sonia

Me, my mom, and Grandma Sonia in July 2010
My grandma Sonia is very sick.  She is in hospice care, and they seem to think that she won't live more than a month at this point. I went to see her yesterday and she no longer even looks like herself.  I've never lost anyone close to me, I've been so fortunate, and now that it is looming, I feel unprepared.  Anytime someone has passed away, I never saw them sick- either their death was sudden or my relationship was distant enough that I didn't see them when they were ill.

Sonia has been declining for a year or so now, and in some ways I feel as though I have already lost her.  The parts of her personality that made her Sonia have been gone for a while.  Maybe I've been in denial, that they would somehow come back.  In my mind, I think I will always remember my grandma the way she was most of my life- talkative, vibrant, funny, and bright.

Here are the things I love about her, and that made her special to me.

She was the warmest person I have ever known.  I always said she was a storybook illustration of a grandma- white hair, glasses, slightly round and cuddly.  She had no sharp edges.  Just like with my mom, I don't remember a time where I didn't know she loved me.  When I was little, and we visited my grandparents' house in Cambridge, I would wake up extra early just so I could climb into her bed with her with a stack of books she would then read to me.  She called me pussycat.  When I was fat, she would tell me that I looked like I'd lost weight every time we saw each other.  I wanted to write, and she was always encouraging of that desire.  I would send her my stories and she would read them all.

I was always welcome at their house.  We visited a lot when I was little, and then when I was 11, Sonia and David took me to Paris for 5 months so I could learn French.  I regret that while I was there, I stubbornly refused to speak French, despite the fact that I understood it perfectly and had a perfectly good accent.  I still feel like I disappointed them.  While I was there, I got my period for the first time- I'm sure it was more than Grandma had bargained for, but she handled it well (I wish I could say the same for myself).  They took me to Turkey and Grandma and I played spit and gin rummy for an entire day.  They took me to Jerusalem and we ate blintzes in the hotel lobby.  While I was in college, I would call them anytime I felt homesick and get on a bus to Boston.  I remember them changing their dinner reservations on a Saturday night to include me- without hesitation. At 23, I went to live at their house in Cambridge- they were 78 and 79 years old and didn't make a single complaint about my being there. I remember crawling into bed with Grandma even then and watching Lifetime movies.  Eric and I had our first kiss on the couch in their living room.

She loved books, reading, and teaching.  Her study was filled with picture books and children's books- her specialty.  Peter Rabbit, Charlotte's Web, Ferdinand the Bull.  She knew where to look in every picture, every detail and nuance in plot of what would seem to be a simple story.

She had the WORST sense of direction.  She didn't know her left from her right.  There is a famous story about the time she told my uncle Ed to make a right, and when he did, she yelled at him, "No! I said RIGHT!"  One time she took my sister, cousin, and me to see a play of Charlotte's Web.  She didn't know where she was going, so she started following a minivan full of children.  Eventually, when she figured out that we were heading out of town, she pulled them over!  She asked them if they were going to the play, and they weren't.  We laughed so hard at her, just assuming that any child in the city of Boston MUST be going to Charlotte's Web.

Together we loved to laugh.  I can't tell you now what we laughed about, but when we were together we had a tendency to get just a little hysterical.  We laughed at ourselves, at other people, at books and movies.  When I was living with her in Paris, it began to rain suddenly one afternoon, and she didn't want to get her beauty parlor styled hair wet- after a search in her glove compartment she found a pair of underwear (how they got there I never learned)- and went out in the rain, in Paris, with underwear on her head.

She was everyone's best friend.  She had a way of just drawing people to her, and drawing them out.  She knew how to get people to talk to her without them feeling forced.  She loved to talk- the phone was always ringing off the hook at their house.  She had a couch next to the phone in their breakfast room, and after breakfast she would settle in there and begin her calls.

Grandma was absent-minded. as are my mom and I.  She would lose things, or forget things.  I can't tell you how many times the doorbell would ring around dinner time and she would say, "Shit! Did I invite someone to dinner?" Fortunately for her, everyone loved her so much that they forgave these oversights and were happy just to be in her company.

It's impossible to explain what she was like, and the things I'll miss.  She made up words in crosswords and then didn't know why the puzzle wouldn't work.  She loved to gossip- not in a mean way- but just to hear everyone's news and spread the word.  She loved her family, and most of all my Grandpa David.  She always had something funny to say- even if it was unintentional.  She had a special perspective on life and the world.

I'll miss her so much- I already do.

1 comment:

  1. Rebecca, I am so sorry! It is a tremendous loss of what sounds like a remarkable woman. My grandmother passed away after a very short fight with cancer in October and I still miss her so much. I'm thinking of you and your family.