On July 5th I received a call from my mom — my 96-year-old Grandma Elsie had taken a turn for the worse. It was just a matter of time before she would be gone. I was so thankful that I was with my friend Megan when I received that call. Having someone around made receiving the news a little easier.
That next day, while on the subway, I decided that when the time did come I wanted to speak at my grandma’s funeral. My grandma and I had a very special relationship. I knew it was my job to tell people how much she meant to me, especially after attending a family friend’s funeral earlier that week and hearing my childhood friend speak so lovingly about his grandmother.
Shockingly — yet no surprise to anyone who knew my grandma — she held on for seven more days. Grandma Elsie was a strong-willed woman, and passed last Thursday morning. I was so relieved to be working from home that day so I could cry and grieve, then put myself together and start making plans to fly to Florida for the funeral.
Until I arrived at my parents’ house on Friday morning, I planned on speaking during the service. However, when I began to read my mom’s eulogy, couldn’t make it more than a sentence in without crying, I knew there was no way I would be able to speak in a few hours in front of friends and family. Of course I was right; I hardly kept it together. Instead of speaking, I’m putting my words on “paper” so everyone can know how much I love my Grandma Elsie and just how much I will miss her.
My grandma and I had a special relationship that started when I was a newborn. You see, if you didn’t already know, she called me “my baby.” Even well into my 30’s she STILL called me her baby. She loved to tell people how she brought me home from the hospital at only a few days old. Of course my parents actually brought me home from the hospital, but in her eyes, she brought me home. I was, after all, the first granddaughter….well, after the dog. She’d tell this to anyone who would listen that I was her baby. In fact, in 2010 she broke her hip and was in a rehab facility for a while after surgery. I was in Florida for Rosh Hashanah and my parents and I would visit grandma. Nurses and staff would walk into the room and she would stop them and say “Have you met my baby, Stefanie?” As I said, I was in my 30’s at this point already. Gotta love grandmas, right?
I would always spend time with just my Grandma Elsie either when my grandparents would visit us in New York, or we were down visiting Florida. When I was 13, we moved to Florida and we became even closer. We would talk on the phone more, and occasionally go out to lunch. Once I obtained my drivers licence, I would spend time with my grandma — and my grandpa too, just because. When my grandpa passed, my grandma was in a rehab facility due to a back injury. I sat with her all day while my parents took care of the funeral arrangements. I will never forget the sadness on her face that day; my grandparents had just celebrated their 60th anniversary a few months prior.
My grandma was a good cook, but she was an amazing baker. My mom and I got our love of baking from Grandma Elsie. When I was younger and away at camp she would send me coffee tins full of her famous chocolate chip cookies. When camp stopped allowing food packages, my bunkmates were devastated they get to snack on these treats. Everyone who had the privilege to try these cookies knows how delicious they were. You always knew they were made with love. Now mom and I make them on a regular basis. For most of my friends, and especially my cousin Allison and my uncle, they are my go-to for birthday presents or study supplements like when Allison was studying for the bar exam.
As a little girl I remember always helping grandma roll the dough for her apple pie crust for Rosh Hashanah. However, I’ll always regret not learning from her how to make her amazing rugelach. Seriously, you will never taste rugelach as wonderful as the rugelach my Grandma Elsie made.
She would always ask how my friends were, even if she had only met them once or just heard me talk about them. She loved meeting her grandchildren’s friends, and usually feeding them as well.
The last time I spent time with Grandma Elsie she took me by the hand and said — out of the blue, “You know, I’ve decided something. It’s ok if you marry Derek Jeter.” This of course, shocked my parents and myself into hysterical laughter. You see, she always acknowledged my affinity for the Yankees’ shortstop and captain, but told me I couldn’t marry him because he wasn’t Jewish. (I also think she just wanted me to finally get married, even if the guy wasn’t Jewish.) Well, Grandma…I hope you’re happy with how the rest of my life is turning out, and don’t worry, mom is really good at giving me guilt about still being single.
Over the past few years dementia set in and it became tough to see her. After seeing my grandfathers soon before they passed, I knew that the lasting memory I wanted to have of my Grandma Elsie was a happy one where she remembered her family. So in reality she has been gone from us for a while. I, and the rest of my family, already miss her terribly. Whenever I bake — especially her famous chocolate chip cookies — I will think of my grandma, the love she had for her friends and family, and I will smile.