Tag Archives: grandmothers

On Being a Mom Without a Mom on Mother’s Day

Red knitwork, horizontal

“Yes, Mom, what do you want?” I said quietly into the phone. “My boss is sitting right here, I can’t talk now.”

My Mom had been calling me every day at the office for six months. She had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the spring of my 3rd year of law school.

As a newly-minted lawyer at a government agency in downtown DC, my first job, with a boss and my own office (albeit very small and without a window), I was learning to deal with her daily calls.

No, I can’t tell you that,” I told her.

She persisted.

Please, just tell me what your bra size is,” she asked again.

Mom, c’mon, I’m at work, I’m in my office,” I pleaded. “My boss, he’s a man, he is in my office, too.”

She pleaded right back.

I’m at the yarn store in Westport. I’m knitting you a sweater. Just give me the number.”

I gave up.

36B,” I whispered into the phone, as my boss rolled his eyes upward, squelching a laugh.

Exactly one year later my Mom died of cancer. (well, actually she died because of malpractice related to her cancer but that is a tale for another time.) She was 54 years old, I was 28.

I still have the beautiful red, V-neck cotton sweater with the just-below-the-elbow length sleeves she made me, although it no longer fits. It was as stylish then as it is now. She was a woman of both good taste and great kindness.

Some women complain that their elderly moms call them too often.

Every night, can you believe it, she calls me every single night, and then she worries if I am not home by 9 p.m. She tells me to eat my vegetables, have I gotten an eye check up lately, she bugs me about the kids or my job or my husband. When are we going to visit her? Who’s going to drive her to her doctor appointments? Or run to the store to get her a new light bulb or better reading glasses. I’m tired of hearing her complaints about who did or who didn’t sit with her at dinner. Honestly, my mom is driving me crazy. Doesn’t she know what a busy life I have?

I bet she does know you have a life. Hers is shrinking in scope, yours isn’t and she wants to be a part of it.

My Mom called me at the office for over a year when she was ill. Then one day she stopped calling. Three weeks later, on a sunny spring afternoon in May as my Dad and I sat by her bed, holding her hand, in the ICU of a cancer hospital in New York City, hearing the beeps from the machines that had kept her alive ebb away, she died. It was mid-afternoon, on the Tuesday after Mother’s Day. Thoughtful as ever, she chose, I felt, to wait and not ruin the holiday for us.

I would give anything for one more phone call, nagging, annoying, insistent, critical, I’d take it.

And you know what, Mom, I’d say? You have two wonderful granddaughters and two terrific grandsons that you never got to meet. And in 2013 you became a great-grandparent, too.

What else would I tell her? Oh yes, my bra size has changed in the past 34 years. I don’t like the color red as much as I once did. But the sweater remains in my closet and it always will.

Miss you forever, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under 1st Grandchild, 1st Job, Adult Kids, Aging, Aging Parents, Baby Boomers, daughters, Family, Female Friends, Holidays, Lawyers, Moms, Women, Working Women

“Nina” – not “Nana” – and I’m Fine With That

FullSizeRender (5)

 

The most eventful thing that happened to me last week didn’t happen to me. It happened to our daughter and our son-in-law. She had a baby – which for those of you who are counting know is her second child. Which means I am a grandmother 2x.

How did this happen?

Well, I know how it happened technically  – and that intimate part is thankfully between our daughter and her husband. But exactly how did time pass to this point – where I am supposed to be able to somehow casually admit, oh yes, I’m a grandmother, that part I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around.

While I adore the two little guys, I stumble over the word “grandmother” – and all it implies as an image to others.

Earlier today I had to fill in a form that called for you to check off your occupation. I hesitated. No, I’m not a “Lawyer” anymore (but wait, once a lawyer, always a lawyer?). I couldn’t exactly check the box for “Homemaker” either – though my hard-working husband would be most happy if he arrived home at night to find me cooking his dinner more often than I do. The box for “Retired”, forget it. I’m adamant in thinking of myself as semi-retired.  And the form did not contain a box for “semi-retired.”

Neither did the form have an occupation box called “grandmother.” If it had, I probably could not have brought myself to check that one either.

Why am I so afraid of the labels that imply aging when they are factually correct?

I think back to my own grandmothers, both of whom I was lucky enough to know, and up come images of printed dresses,  papery, wrinkled cheeks to kiss and being enveloped wafts of strong perfume. My sister and I would visit them in their respective apartments, filled with figurines, memorabilia and the latest TV Guide magazines. We took them out to dinner on Sunday nights for Chinese food, then considered a rare treat.  The more stylish (fresh lipstick always) of our grandmothers had six grandchildren; the more comfy of the two had twelve.

They were the classic grandmother types. I’m not in that mold, I like to think.

I catch myself consciously practicing to be the “young” grandmother type.  Our older grandson calls me “Nina.” A variant on my first name, Nancy and the word “Nana”. He picked the name on his own – and to my ears, “Nina” sounds youthful and hip. It goes along with my getting down on the floor to build Lego towers, stretching play dough into colorful ropes and taking walks to the playground to go on the slide.

Were my grandmothers ever the “Nina” type?

In my memories they sat on couches or in heavily upholstered chairs; they never crouched on wood floors to stack blocks or line up trucks in a row.  Did they read to us when we were little or mostly pinch our cheeks and then make soup? They certainly didn’t drape themselves in blankets and create pretend forts.

So therefore I cannot really be a grandmother because I don’t act or look like the grandmothers I once knew.

I am a “Nina” instead. And I’m not alone in this – wanting to be perceived as the youthful g-ma type. A friend of mine who has two grandchildren likes to be called “Mimi” and another has her three grandchildren call her “Gigi”.

Likely we fool no one with these young-ish sounding names. But somehow they make us feel better that we haven’t morphed into our parents’ parents generation.

The photos we post on Facebook (with permission of our adult children, of course) show us being active grandparents. Look at us, how energetic and playful we are. Hardly grandmotherly at all, we say to the world.

At a meeting last night, a friend came up to me to offer congratulations (although as noted above, I had nothing to do with it) on our daughter’s new baby. The friend hugged me, then pulled away to look at me –  assessing my appearance.  Non-Mom jeans, a dark cardigan sweater, stylish (I think) short black boots.

“You look pretty good for a grandmother,” she said.

“Thanks.”

I guess it was meant as a compliment.  Maybe my friend is also recollecting her own black and white photos of an apron-wearing grandmother at the stove.

25 years from now will my two grandsons look at old photos of me (assuming they make it into print and aren’t forever trapped inside an iPhone) –  and think how stodgy and old-fashioned their “Nina” looked way back then? And yet we called her “Nina” – wasn’t she fun, I hope they will say.

How she loved being with us, singing silly songs and playing on the floor. Just like “Ninas” are supposed to be.

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under 1st Grandchild, Adult Kids, Aging, Baby Boomers, daughters, Empty Nest, Family, Female Friends, Parenting, Retirement, Semi-Retired, Women

Top Five Reasons I Dislike Being a Grandmother

social media and tablet 3dCaught your attention with that headline? Did it grab your interest and make you want to read on? Good! – That was my goal.

Because I plan to tell the students in the Blogging 101 workshop I am leading that writing posts styled as “Lists” or offering “Controversial Opinions” promise to “drive huge traffic” to your blog.

I learned that critical nugget of social media wisdom while researching How to Grow Your Blog Audience – one of the workshop’s topics.

I won’t share with the class, however, that I hate being told what to write to gain the most readers.  Lists? Not my thing. Controversial Opinions? Fine, but only if that is what flows naturally.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading about the craft of writing. I accept (constructive) writing criticism gladly. But advice about content marketing such as:  “Top 10 Tips for Search Engine Optimization” and “Six Proven Ways to Attract Readers To Your Blog”. Titles like that make me gag.

Content does rule. It must be excellent. Better yet, compelling. And as I said in last week’s workshop, your writing voice should sound like your speaking voice. Relatable. Authentic. The Real You.

Tomorrow – assuming the snow plows locate our post-blizzard neighborhood – I will suggest to the students that they certainly can write lists if they are motivated to do so. But if their writing is beach sand dry, no one will read past list item #1. Offer a controversial opinion, yup, you will draw attention – but you may not like the attention you get – particularly if your opinion is irrational or irrelevant.

But – perhaps the social media experts DO know best?

So I will try a little experiment here in this post. Our two-year-old grandson recently stayed with us for several brief nights and very long days. Thus, I fully qualify as an expert, if not on social media, then on grandmother-hood.

I hereby test the social media waters to see if they will shower me with attention based upon the following:

 

Top Five Reasons I Dislike Being a Grandmother”

 

1. Stepping on stray Legos. In bare feet. As painful as it was in my Young Mom days.

 2. Listening to Raffi. “Baby Beluga” may be a fine song the first 5o times you hear it. Less so on number 51 and beyond.
3. Diapers.  Now made with splashier designs and fancier tape mechanisms, but their content remains odiferous. Why hasn’t some brilliant millennial entrepreneur created a scent-absorbing diaper?
4.Being Asked to Spend $$$ to stock up on Organic Everything.  Organic milk, o.k. maybe that makes sense but organic macaroni and cheese, really?
5. Having to tiptoe quietly, please, around our own house lest we wake the Visiting Napping Toddler. He sets all of the rules even though he is the youngest. Is that fair?

 

There, I did it, you read it here first. In a single post I offer both a Top Five List and a Controversial Opinion. That should drive the search engines wild! My blog traffic will likely go through the roof. People from all over the country will be tweeting asking me to visit their city to teach a blogging course. Soon I will be earning zillions with My Top Ten Tips On How To Grow Your Blog Audience.

Or else I will go back to writing exactly what I want to write. I think I will tell my students in Blogging 101 to do just that.

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under 1st Grandchild, Adult Kids, Baby Boomers, Blogging, Communications, daughters, Empty Nest, Parenting, Second Careers, Social Media, Women, Writing

Gift Giving and Gift Getting: “I’m not hard to buy a gift for, really I’m not.”

FullSizeRender [636456] Kitchen Tyler

 

I spotted a bright blue bag semi-hidden on a chair in our dining room earlier this morning.  Frothy bits of tissue paper erupted from its’ top. It must be another Hanukkah gift! How fun, I thought, my husband, JP, is going to surprise me tonight – on the 8th and last night of the holiday with an unexpected extra gift.

Hanukkah is a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar. We light candles, say the blessings, sing songs and celebrate with friends and family. As adults, we exchange small gifts only on the first night.

So what could this extra surprise gift be? I told myself I should wait until he gets home from work. But curiosity often (always?) gets the best of me and I walked over to the bright blue bag. I’m not proud to admit this, but I rumbled through the tissue paper to get a peek.

And what did I find inside the bag?

A kit of prescription preparation supplies for JP’s colonoscopy scheduled for later this week.

Another gift search foiled, serves me right.

I could go all treacly here and say how wonderful it is that my husband remembers (after numerous post-it note prodding by yours truly) to have regular health check-ups and that the real gift will be his news that the colonoscopy went well. All clear, I hope the doctor tells him later this week, no more unpleasant details needed, please.

But instead the dashed expectations of the bright blue bag made me think of my own less than satisfactory history as a gift recipient. Which puzzles me because, all modesty aside, I am both easy to buy for and a truly great gift giver.

Known among family and friends as a “good picker”, I have an eye for that special gift. Like the customized cross-word puzzle I gave my Dad with personalized clues based on his own life history. The perfect vintage poodle print for my friend Liz. The hand-created framed collage I made for JP, then my boyfriend, featuring creative images from the early days of our courtship.

That was also the year that my future-husband-to-be reciprocated by giving me a set of metal nail clippers in a red leatherette case. A few seasons later his Hanukkah gift was a heavy flannel nightgown sporting delicate white eyelet ruffles at its’ high neck. There was also the time he gave me huge, hideously dangling, bright orange fan-shaped earrings.

And when I turned sixty, my closest friends hosted a small dinner for me after which I eagerly opened their gifts. Skin cream. Hand cream. A gift certificate for a facial. More moisturizer. Another hand cream.

So this is how I am perceived: As someone who needs help cutting her nails, likes to dress in the image of an American pioneer woman while sleeping, enjoys wearing large flashy earrings and has very, very, very, very dry skin.

All untrue! Shouldn’t my husband and friends know me better?

You can attribute nice motives to each gift giver, of course.  The nail clipper set proved useful. The nightgown was intended to keep me warm. The earrings were handmade, purchased at a favorite crafts fair.  And while my skin is well-kept, thank you, I do have a known weakness for creams and lotions that smell of lavender. So points there.

Perhaps the real point of the bright blue bag colonoscopy supplies episode is that reality intrudes even during the happiest of gift-giving seasons.

This year it was our two-year old grandson who received from us – in my humble opinion – the most thoughtful Hanukkah gift of all. A relatively inexpensive toy kitchen which we quickly discovered was reasonably priced because it had been falsely labeled as “easy to assemble”. The 75 lb. box was delivered to our door by a brawny UPS guy last week.

Inside the box we found a 16 page booklet of visual-only instructions, 42 separately numbered particle-board and plastic pieces and 104 (I counted) small screws and bolts encased in individual plastic bags.

With my minor assistance, JP completed the kitchen in four plus hours which included much cursing and “whose idea was this” grumbles. But so worth it when our grandson’s eyes lit up when he saw his very own faux stainless steel refrigerator, oven, stove and dishwasher ensemble – including a non-working kitchen faucet and painted-on subway-tile backsplash.

This week while our grandson is busy stirring painted wood food inside tiny pots and pans on his new-four-burner stove, my husband will be busy shall we say, modifying his diet (again, no unpleasant details needed) in “anticipation” of his upcoming colonoscopy.

Celebrations, holidays, spending time with family always coincide with reality. Getting gifts we may not like. Giving gifts we hope our recipients love. And waiting on the news of the one gift always high on our getting older wish list, one you cannot assemble, construct or purchase –  good health.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Comments

Filed under 1st Grandchild, Aging, Baby Boomers, Family, Female Friends, friendship, Holidays, Husbands, Jewish, Marriage, Men vs Women, Midlife, Women

My Grandma, the Firecracker – July 4th, 1976

daisy1My Grandma Daisy was a real firecracker.

Tart of tongue, explosive, caught you off guard, sometimes delightfully so, sometimes scarily so.

It was not surprising that she died on July 4th, 1976.

About a month before she died, I had moved to Washington DC, where I was working as a summer intern for my U.S. congressman on Capitol Hill before starting law school in the fall.

(and yes, everything you’ve heard about the wild life of interns is absolutely true. or so I was told by other interns in my office who apparently went to better parties that I did.)

July 4th, 1976 of that bicentennial summer was a Sunday.

I probably had plans to go to see the fireworks on the Mall with friends and then attend a cook-out.

It was an exciting time to be in DC, working on the Hill, feeling connected in a rather tiny way to our nation’s history during the 200th year since its’ founding.

But my participation in anything July 4th related was not to be.

That Sunday morning, as was our family’s tradition, I called my Mom and Dad at home in Connecticut at precisely 11:00 a.m.

No one answered.

Highly unusual and not a good sign.

An hour later I learned that  my grandmother had died. She was 80 or 82. No one knew.

Back then women of certain age did not disclose theirs.

My Dad, her eldest son, had gotten in the habit of visiting her in her apartment daily after her emphysema had grown worse. He was the one who found her. He thought she had died in her sleep.

My plan to see the fireworks on the Mall was  quickly replaced by parental instructions to take the next plane from DC to LaGuardia airport in New York City and from there to take the van service to our home in Connecticut to prepare for the funeral.

I was secretly pretty excited to get to fly on a plane.

I’d flown before, of course, but not often and plane travel was still a pleasurable experience.

Our shuttle flight, midday on July 4th, 1976 had very few passengers.

As we began the descent towards La Guardia, the captain of the plane announced.

“Look out your window, folks, there are the Tall Ships in the New York harbor.”

On that bicentennial July 4th holiday, hundreds of Tall Ships from around the world had converged on New York harbor.  It was a huge parade of ships, a historic event.

Breathtaking to view it from the air.

I leaned over to take a look. Then felt very guilty.

Was it o.k. for me to take part in this celebration?

The other passengers were enjoying the spectacle.

“Hey”, I wanted to say, “I’m not supposed to have a good time today. I’m on this plane to go to my grandmother’s funeral.”

But of course, I didn’t say anything.

And soon enough we were landing.

My grandmother’s funeral had its memorable moments.

The rabbi described her as a sweet person, like her namesake flower.

Daisy.

My father turned to me, whispering, “The rabbi clearly did not know my mother.”

It’s true, she wasn’t sweet. A rather sharp wit, not the least bit warm or fuzzy (that was the role of my maternal grandmother.)

My Grandma Daisy didn’t cook as much as she assembled food. She likely did not own an apron.

Her preference was to go out for Chinese food on Sunday nights rather than host a family dinner.

She was always stylishly dressed and I recall the smell of her (strong) perfume that wafted in front of you before she entered the room.

There were not many mourners back at the house after the funeral. One of my grandmother’s friends described her, somewhat lovingly, with a word that began with a “b”.

We all told stories about her snappy personality, her expertise as a bridge player (a grand master I was told) and her fondness for the good things in life.

When I think back to that July 4th, 1976, I remember the Tall Ships seen from the window of the plane as it dipped into New York harbor.

My grandmother had a long full life. Mine, at age 24, seemed on the cusp of beginning.

I didn’t get to see the fireworks or celebrate our nation’s birthday on July 4th, 1976.

But was it a coincidence, that my Grandma Daisy, a real firecracker, died on July 4th?

Probably not. She would have wanted to go out with a bang.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

7 Comments

Filed under General