April 18 was the Yahrzeit of my grandmother. For you non-Jews, April 18 is the anniversary of my grandmother’s death.. She was 93 when she passed. I miss her every day. I know I am lucky that I had her in my life for as long as I did. But it does not stop the tears from flowing or the ache in my heart.
She was one of the most amazing women I have ever met. She did the New York Times Crossword daily, worked out on a regular basis and had an active social life. I loved chatting with her about her life. Not only did I learn something new about her but I almost always got a good life lesson. The following is one of those amazing conversations. If you know me personally, you may have already heard this one.
One day I decided to ask her about how she got engaged. I knew the story of how my grandparents had met in Minneapolis at a party right after my grandfather had left the airforce. They told the same story.
My grandfather had seen my grandmother from across the room, walked immediately up to her and said, “You look tired, you should go home.”
Yep, you read that right. He insulted her and he married her soon after. I have always wondered how they went from that exchange to getting engaged. The story my Grandmother told me not only gave me a massive laugh but came with three life lessons that I am still trying to live by.
“Well, I was dating this fella,” my grandmother started the story.
“Not grandpa?” I asked.
“No, not grandpa. Anyway, I was dating this fella and no one liked him. So my family sent me to my Aunt and Uncle in Upstate New York where I met another fella and I got engaged.”
“Not grandpa?” I asked again. This is the first time I have heard about any other fella, let alone two or another engagement.
“NO, NOT GRANDPA! Keep up with me Mara, you asked for this story. Anyway, I came back to Minneapolis to pack up myself and get ready to move to New York and get married. And while I was home, you know I went to that party and met your grandfather,” she responds.
“So then you broke up with the guy from New York,” I said.
“No, I went out on my first date with your grandfather,” she said. I think my jaw dropped. This was the Forties. I had always assumed folks were more conservative back in the day.
“Were you wearing a ring?” I ask, still trying to understand.
“Yes,” she responded. As I sat dumbfounded by the fact that my grandmother was a bit of a floozy and obviously a badass even when she was young. She continued her story.
“On our first date, your grandfather laid it out for me. He told me all about what he was going to do for a living, he showed me where he wanted to live. He told me how many children he wanted. When and where he wanted to retire,” she stated.
“Wow. Wasn’t that a bit heavy for a first date?” I ask. Although I was still having an issue wrapping my head around her dating my grandfather while promised to someone else, I was also surprised my grandfather said so much and on a FIRST date.
“Yes, it was but here is the problem with your generation,” she responded.
And right about now she starts spouting her worldly wisdom.
“You all don’t see potential. You think about right now. You need to be thinking about the future and where you want to be,” she said.
Now, you may think this is strange that she would say this during a story about her engagement. But this is NOT the first time she has shared this bit of wisdom. She had said this to me about dating on numerous occasions. She was not wrong. Think about the guys you “LIKED” in high school. Would you date them now? Nope, me neither.
“Ok, so THEN you broke up with the fella from New York and started dating grandpa?” I asked.
“No, then I went out with your grandfather for a couple of weeks. And when the fella from New York came to pick me up, I told your grandfather to skedaddle,” she replied.
And for the second time during this story, she blew my mind. My grandfather was a fighter pilot, a real estate developer and the first entrepreneur I had ever met. He was also one of the most intimidating men ever created. The kind you never ever want to upset. He was the definition of an alpha male. I just didn’t see him skedaddling for anyone. Apparently, for her he skedaddled.
“Well, after the fella was here for a few days I realized I liked your grandfather more so I told him to skedaddle and I called your grandfather,” she continued.
“Ok, so then you dated for like a year? And then got engaged?” I asked.
“No. You sound like your grandfather now. That is what he said. That we would date for a year. Then get engaged. Then married. And I told him, we would be married in the next 6 months or I would find myself another fella,” she stated.
“Grams, you were not even 19 years old, why were you in such an all-fire hurry to get married?” I asked.
And here is the second piece of wisdom. Get ready for it.
“Well, I’ll tell you. By that time, I had tried working. Realized it wasn’t for me. And made alternative plans,” she replied.
Yep, she had tried working and realized it wasn’t for her. It might be one of my favorite things I have ever heard anyone say. And really, wouldn’t we all like to make that statement?
I did ask what she had done for living that made her feel that way. She had worked for the phone company. She would have told you they were the best employers. And she had worked for Dayton Hudson, a retailer in Minneapolis. She had said they were very good as well. She just realized that it was not for her. She did not want to work for anyone else.
That’s not to say my grandmother did not work. She raised a family. Three successful kids and had a marriage that lasted almost 50 years and only ended with my grandfather’s death. All of that takes work.
After she finished telling me this story I asked her if she ever wanted to get married again after my grandfather’s death. He died a little over 20 years ago. She was emphatic in her answer as she was about most things in her life.
“No! Why would I? I was raised in a house of five women. We never needed a man, even if others thought we did. I loved your grandfather but I am just fine without another man. And I already took care of one sick man, at this age that would be what I am dealing with,” she answered.
Can’t say that I blame her logic. I didn’t like the idea that she was alone. Then again she rarely was with all the family and friends who were around her. And she always seemed happy which is more than most folks can ask.
And per usual talking to my grandmother taught me three life lessons:
1. Potential. Look for the possibilities, not just what is in front of you.
2. If it’s not for you, DON’T DO IT! Find what is for you and then go for it.
3. Stick to what makes you happy, not what others think you should do.
One last thing, as I get older I realize how absolutely blessed I was to have had my grandmother as long as I did. That I was able to ask the questions and receive answers. We spend so much time these days finding our answers through Google, Wikipedia and our phones that we forget to connect to the people around us. To the people we know and love. So I guess there is one last lesson – turn off the tech and turn to the person next to you. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.