My grandmother, who should live to be one hundred and twenty, was admitted to the hospital for the first time in the over 91 years she has been alive. She had suffered a stroke. The last few days have been full of reflection, with special thought being paid to the subject of last month’s column.

Some Background
My grandmother, Irina Davidescu, was born on March 25, 1911. The world was a radically different place. The film industry was in its infancy. Going to the theater was fairly commonplace, and it would fortunately be a good number of years before the world would have to see the likes of anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Nor were people eagerly lining up at TKTS with hopes of getting a cheap ticket to Rent. Although text-based communication had advanced well past the Pony Express, AOL had not yet enchanted the world with instant text-based messaging. People played sports, even professionally, but none were paid millions of dollars to endorse men’s underwear – particularly women.

It wouldn’t be another sixty-six years until I would come to be, by which point my grandmother had seen the second World War, the early demise of her husband, and the rise of communism in Romania, amongst other things. As my parents were both working (both parents working was a bit less common then) my grandmothers stayed with us and took care of my brother and me.

Many of my memories from childhood involve my grandmother. She told me many stories about her own childhood and experiences living in Romania. She also came up with a few interesting theories on life, such as when she mentioned that she had observed from her youth that the children who would play in the dirt and put just about anything in their mouth from the street got sick less often than the children who were raised in more sterile environments. I recently read an article which brought up the same point – a bit more scientifically reasoned, of course, but I thought it was interesting how something that would seem intuitive to my grandmother took so much research. I think that I can safely say that if I have any good manners whatsoever, it is greatly a result of my grandmother’s good influence. It could have even been because she played the violin that I decided to try out the instrument when I was growing up, and it was certainly because of that influence that I presently am slowly picking it up again.

Grandmother of The House
After my grandmother on my mother’s side passed away nearly ten years ago (I hope to write on that subject next year, around this time of year) my grandmother had to do all that much more – cooking, cleaning around the house, and still having enough time to watch soap operas in the afternoon. As well as she could speak English beforehand from learning it, she could speak considerably better after a few seasons of Days of Our Lives and General Hospital. She was also ready to give relationship advice when it was needed. "You see how quickly they jump from one relationship to another?" she pointed out one day when I was upset that someone had left me for another man. "It’s pretty common."

One of the most incredible things about my grandmother is her good health. As mentioned before, this is her first stay in a hospital. Granted, I think she has a good knowledge of the inner workings of a hospital – or at the very least what Laura and Luke were doing inside of it. I have often wondered how it is that she has been so healthy throughout her life. There aren’t too many 91 year old women who regularly exercise, including Tai Chi, as she does. Whenever my grandmother would steam vegetables, she would drink the water that would be left over afterwards – full of vitamins from the vegetables. "Pure health" my brother would call it. She took to having a tablespoon of plain yogurt in the evening. Just one tablespoon – not more, not less. She regularly reads books and magazines which are complicated, perhaps not something that seems like that big of a deal but one must consider that many 91 year old people can’t get through a comic strip without forgetting what the first panel is about by the third panel. When visiting my grandmother in physical therapy I saw a lot of women who were a decade or two younger than her but who looked centuries older.

Quality Time and Not Taking Things For Granted pt. 2
I have unfortunately not seen so much of my grandmother since she moved in with a friend of hers. As I was in Israel for about three months, I could not see her and since then I have not had insurance for my car so this week, after the stroke, was the first time seeing her since last year. I had been hoping to videotape my grandmother talking about her life, experiences in Romania, and other such things. I would be incredibly happy if I could ultimately go through with it. That would certainly be something to show my children.

The recovery has been going amazingly well, which fits in with her long history of good health. All of her tests have, beyond coming back with good results, surprised the doctors with how quickly she has recovered. In a week’s time she has gone from not being able to move at all or speak a word to being able to get up with some help and talking with some difficulty. (I suspect that this could be related to her not using her dentures at the time – but speech seems like it will surely return). My grandmother, an incredibly strong woman, will surely rise from this and be quite possibly an even stronger individual than she was before. She is just the type of person that this sort of thing would be possible for.

This experience has reminded me of something which should serve as a good reminder to those of us with parents and grandparents: Though they have been around for a lot longer than we have been, they will not always be there. There will come a time when they will depart from this plane of being, and so it is incumbent on us to not take them for granted or to hold petty grudges against them for matters which are inconsequential in the short or even the relatively long run. A person’s mother may not think that the person they are dating is the best person in the world for them, but that does not mean that they don’t love them anymore. A person in one’s family will always be family, regardless of what silly things a person might do. We should always remember to show our family, particularly if they are older, the respect they are due. It is, after all, our family which bring about the foundation for who we are as individuals. Even after they pass on, their memory will still live on through our words and deeds.