Today an era ended—Grandma Edie passed away. She was my step grandmother, but having married my grandfather in the 1970s, she was my grandma my whole life. Grandma Edie was strong—physically: she loved to dance, she took Martha Graham dance classes and actually received a masters from Teachers College in physical education in the 1930s. And mentally she was strong as well—determined and strong-willed.
When I was a kid and my grandparents came to visit from Maryland, my Grandma Edie (appalled that my mother gave us bread without butter) would give me a delicious snack of our Freihofer’s whole wheat bread with butter spread on top. The food itself was yummy, but the format in which she presented it was the part that really delighted me. She would craft the bread pieces into various shapes and tell me the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, the whole thing with the troll hiding under bridge, etc. It was magical. A classic childhood memory that my mind would always return to when I would think about Grandma Edie’s visits.
At my bat mitzvah, people marveled at Grandma Edie’s dance moves—her arms flowed above her head as she gyrated her hips. She was at that point an octagenarian, but she sure didn’t move like one! In her speech to me at my bat mitzvah, Grandma Edie spoke poetically about the meaning of my Hebrew name (Faiga Gila, nickname: Faigela) and ended with, “little bird, “fly high always.” Her voice was rich, her words poetic and deeply heartfelt.
When I was older I visited my Grandma Edie and we walked together to the Butterfly Garden at which she daily volunteered. She was volunteering there into her 90s, as well as walking the 1+ mile to get there. It wasn’t until her mid-90s or so that she stopped walking far distances. Her love of dance and her love of nature and the beauty of life kept her youthful. She didn’t belong to a gym (to the best of my knowledge) yet she remained fit into her old age with long walks, staying active in her community (e.g. volunteering, attending adult classes), as well as going to folk dance classes in the evening—which was where she met my grandfather in the 1970s. At the age of 84, she quite literally danced into the new millennium and kept going, until her knee gave out in her mid-to-late 90s.
My grandmother never believed in fad diets. I remember her telling me how one day they say coffee is bad, and then years later they argue it’s good! She noticed how the research would end up evolving over time and she had no time for fad diets or food preoccupations. She ate simply and lived simply. She had common sense—loads of it, actually!
I remember calling Grandma Edie in my young professional single years and feeling warmth in my heart to receive her love and support, as well as her optimism and energy. I still have the voice message she left me in which she describes the glory of springtime which had recently sprung, naming each and every flower in her backyard garden, truly reveling in it—I could see the colors and smell the aromas just by hearing her elation with her garden. She loved gardening; she saw the majesty in nature.
In the summer of 2012, my friends and I took a trip to a farm in Maryland one weekend and visited my Grandma Edie that Saturday night. I stayed in the guest room and Grandma Edie insisted that my two friends take her bed and she would sleep on the couch!
Isaac and I went to visit Grandma Edie on Martin Luther King Day in 2016, two months after our wedding, which she couldn’t attend, since the long car ride was too much. I was excited for her to meet Isaac. And I still have the voice message she left after that trip, saying she was sure that I was sleeping—tired from the travel—but wanted me to know how wonderful a visit it was and that Isaac was a great guy.
With related excitement, we traveled to Grandma Edie in March 2018 to introduce her to our daughter Rosie. This was a momentous occasion, one in which I took many photos and videos. My 102-year-old grandmother meeting my daughter. The following year we visited again. This time Rosie wasn’t an adorable, chubby 3-month-old, but a vivacious and active 16-month-old. Grandma Edie loved watching her as she explored her living room.
A few months ago, Isaac and I were discussing when we thought we’d be able to go visit Grandma Edie again; have her see Rosie in her new stage of life. We never set an exact date, but I figured we would visit by the end of the summer. That discussion was put on hold with Covid-19.
Grandma Edie passed away today, but still my heart yearns to visit her again and share my life and my family with her.
It’s going to take a bit of time for my heart to catch up to this reality.
Grandma Edie symbolized life, resilience, determination, and strength. She was confident. She was smart, as well as wise. She was supportive and kind. She was creative. She stayed active physically and mentally into her ripe old age. She was and forever will be an inspiration.