She used to cook for me and of course, that’s the way to my heart! As a hungry high school or college kid, I’d run into her house, eat and leave. This became a bad habit of mine until one day my grandmother made (and enforced) the half-hour rule. If I eat at her place, we had to spend a half hour together after the last bite was consumed.
At first, this was a chore. I had no desire to hang out and watch Murder She Wrote or the news. She would pry into my “love interests,” as she referred to them, and tell me I should be focused in math (because she knew I hated it). On some days she’d convince me to stay longer and play my violin for her or show her some of my art.
It became a safe haven to complain about how my parents don’t get me (they became so much smarter when I graduated college). Grandma even started lending me her car for my random guitar, bass, and violin lessons. She also taught me how to drive. She was the only one in the family that did not scream when I made a mistake. She joked “I have lived a full life, if it’s my time, it’s my time” as she referred to my driving skills.
As my grandma got older she was diagnosed with leukemia. Many times I’d end up driving her to the very same hospital I was born in for her blood transfusions. I hate needles, so I’d stay outside the room for the initial “poking” and then sit next to her and talk for hours until she was allowed to go. We’d drive home and I would sneak her Taco Bell. It’s what she wanted for junk food. Who was I to tell her “No?”
As her illness progressed, her diabetes also got the best of her. She lost her eyesight. She slowed down; she needed a full-time nurse to tend to her. However, she hadn’t lost her spunk and enthusiasm to see me achieve. I am her only grandchild, so she said she had to make sure the one she had was the best.
The last time I saw my grandma was a few days before she passed. I came into her hot house (she was always cold and had very little body fat) and stood in her room. She yelled at me, “Take off your sweater! It’s summer for goodness sake!” The woman was blind! I asked how she knew. She said, “When you love someone, you know them. I know my grandkid.”
It’s been six years this summer and I would do anything to eat some of her food and have a mandatory half-hour conversation or curl up and watch some television with her. I have no grandparents left, but I have memories and stories that I will hold onto for much longer than my grandma’s mandatory half an hour.
Rachel Schiff is an English teacher who graduated from Cal State Fullerton. She was president of Hillel, a representative of World Union of Jewish Students and a YLD intern. Currently, she is a master’s degree student in American Studies with emphasis on Jews in America.