It has been nearly four years since my grandmother fell due to a stroke that has caused her to live under supervised care around the clock since then. Despite having difficulties in communicating and sometimes wondering if she fully understanding what I am saying, I could hear in her voice the happiness she felt as I wished her a happy ninety-fifth birthday. It brought back a delightful flood of memories for me.
Capturing the Past
When I was younger, I used to make plans to interview my grandmother. When I first got a tape recorder one of the first things that I did was to start to make plans to interview my grandmother. I wanted to ask her all sorts of questions about her childhood and growing up in Romania and what it was like when it suddenly became a Communist country – that sort of thing.
I have found that one of my biggest problems I have in life is an inability to follow through with plans that I make. I think if you were to make a list of all of the things I have done in my life, and a second list of all of the things I have planned to do in my life, the second list would be about twenty times as long as the first list. I have been told that this is the case for many people and that I am surely exaggerating but I really am not. A few years ago I was having problems when I was in yeshiva in Monsey and my mother and woman I was dating at the time told me the same thing – I was indecisive. They said this because I listed so many things that I wanted to do. I knew the truth, and I think my grandmother knew it as well – it wasn’t that I was indecisive, it was that there were so many things that I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to choose between them – I wanted to do them all.
Unfortunately, my plan to interview my grandmother, like so many of the other plans that I have made, did not pan out in the end because my grandmother had a stroke before I could have the opportunity to actually conduct the interviews. All I have now are the memories of stories she has told me over the years, and what little I have preserved in writing and from my mother’s videos – though those were mostly from when I was a young child. I also have a brief bit of super8 footage that I shot one summer of my grandmother walking into the house while waving a small American flag. I also have a few short video clips I have recorded since the stroke.
The truth of the matter is that my grandmother was one of the most patriotic people I knew – and I have met quite a lot of extremely patriotic people (counting before 2001, even!). I think this is the case of people who have had to endure the hardships of a harsh communist government as she and most of my family did. I remember both of my grandmothers telling my brother and I that one of their greatest pleasures since they started living in this country was that they could step into a booth and pull a lever and have a choice in who the leaders of the country would be. They told me they were thrilled that they could parade up and down the streets shouting “Down with Clinton!” and they would not be put in jail as they would have been, living in Romania in their day. It didn’t matter that they both would have rather Bush had won in 1992 – the fact that they could openly complain about Clinton’s victory made them very happy.
True Love Lessons from Soap Operas
My grandmother, when first living in this country, wanted to know how to get to be more fluent in the English language. I’m not sure who it was but the advice that was given to her was to watch soap operas – pick a couple and get into the story. She started watching Days of our Lives and General Hospital in 1975 and still watches them to some extent, though not as well as she used to. Now and then I am drawn to investigate whatever happened to actors who were on Santa Barbara, definitely one of her favorites when it was on the air.
I have many happy memories of coming home from school (or from wherever I was during the summer – usually the pool) and finding my grandmother in the middle of another exciting episode of Santa Barbara or Days of Our Lives. Besides the fact that it had helped my grandmother with her english, it also gave us something we could talk about. As she knew a lot about the characters and I didn’t, I was able to connect with her in another way by asking her about plot changes and why certain characters behaved the way they did. As I mentioned in the article about the stroke itself, she often referred to the soap operas when she wanted to give me romantic advice.
Now, of course, I find myself watching my own soap operas – though I find them to be a bit more enjoyable than the ones that are on American television today. I speak of course of English soap operas – I started by just watching Coronation Street on CBC but once I made an important online discovery I suddenly found myself getting the latest episodes of EastEnders, not too long after they aired in England. Now I find myself in possesion of practically all of the March episodes of Emmerdale, though I haven’t watched it at all yet, and about a month worth of the soap Hollyoaks. Of course, discussing my relatively new interest in soaps is an article unto itself – this month’s article was to be about that very subject until I realized that my grandmother’s 95th birthday was this year – thus prompting the sudden change in topic.
As the saying goes, my grandmother should live to be one hundred and twenty (this age is referred to because it was the age that it was recorded at which Moses – yeah, that guy that smashed the tablets – passed away) and she should only see happiness in her days. I learned so much from her as a child / young adult that I would never be able to properly for all she has done for me. So happy birthday, Granny.