I moved to Los Angeles six months ago from New York City, the place where I was born and raised. Being away from my family can be difficult sometimes, and even though I love them, incredibly liberating at others. However, it has been hard being so far away from my Grandma, whose health has rapidly deteriorated over the last year and a half. She turned eighty-eight in May. I know that she is not going to be here forever, and I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to go back and forth to be with her. She has had quite a life—some of it good, some of it bad, and some of it very ugly. In the coming weeks, I will be telling you more about her and the lessons I have taken away from the life she has lived.
“You’re beautiful!” She says softly as I walk in the door to her house. She is sitting in her living room, in a chair that she can’t get out of on her own, breathing through an oxygen tank. “You’re beautiful Grandma,” I say, and I mean it. “I look like my Bubby,” she says, and I try hard not to laugh because actually, no, she looks like mine. She is in such a soulful place that you can practically see the light around her.
LESSON 1: Don’t isolate yourself. Isolation causes one to be completely alone with one’s thoughts, which if you’re in a sad place can wreak havoc on your soul. Get out of the house.
“You have to love yourself more than anyone else,” she says, as we sit on her porch under an umbrella. This is one she keeps repeating, and will be a running theme in these posts. She is in a wheelchair wearing a giant hat and huge black sunglasses. My mom and I are wearing the same, and laughingly pretend were all movie stars in the 1950’s “drying out.” For most of her life, my Grandma did look like a movie star. She was impossibly beautiful, elegant, and glamorous. “Go upstairs. There is a sequined mini-skirt I want you to wear to the Oscars.” I am not going to the Oscars, and I don’t think I could pull off a sequined mini-skirt, but she insists. I am upstairs in her closet, and as I look around, I see that everything that she owns is still in its original box or shrink-wrapped in plastic. I’m talking Chanel, Hermes, Guy Laroche, Halston, Manolo Blahnik— all in perfect condition. My Grandma painstakingly takes care of her things, which is an admirable quality I do not possess. I am looking at her shoes. She’s a seven and a half. A delicate size that I called my own for six months in third grade.
LESSON 2: Buy good stuff and take great care of it. It will last forever, and you can pass it down to your grandchildren (if they don’t have giant, man feet).
“They used to wear short, I used to wear shorter,” she flirts with my boyfriend as I am still upstairs looking for the skirt. (Grandma! Get it Girl!) I can’t find the skirt, so I come back down. “When I feel better, I will go up and find it. Don’t worry.” My heart breaks for a moment, and then, “Always check your pockets for earrings. And, don’t eat cucumbers anymore because they have Salmonella in Europe.”
LESSON 3: Improbable as it may seem, if someone feels hopeful about something, feel it with them.
I am back in LA now, and the truth is, I do worry. I worry that the last time I was home might be the last time I ever see her. But I am trying to stay positive. She had a rough week, but when I spoke to her on the phone today, she seemed to be doing much better. I asked, “What’s the best advice you ever got?” She said, “The best advice I ever got? ‘Stay strong,’ and I gave it to myself.”