The Greatest Generation was filled with some of the greatest people that I grew up with and respected, Walter Cronkite, Joe DiMaggio, Charles Shultz, but they all pale to my grandmother.
She was a speech pathologist and brought me into some of the greatest stories in my life:
Making me stand in front of a room filled with college co-eds at 7 and watching girls flirt and make me blush as I wrote letters with my left and right hands.
Introducing me to a Hollywood star.
Made split pea soup in one of the first microwaves.
and many more…
She had been in poor health dealing with a aortic aneurysm. I went and saw her when she went into the hospital and it was like thirty years ago when she first was sick. Grandma Horowitz was a teacher at Adelphi University and a speech and hearing center that she built from the ground up. After some trouble she was given some drugs and I was going up to see her. My grandma was tall and strong. She knew nothing she couldn’t debate, or argue or reason out. She was strength in not only my eyes, but my soul.
“Don’t be frightened Sean, for your Grandma looks a little different. Just remember why you love her,” my mom said as we walked into the house that she lived in with my Grandfather for over 40 years.
Gone was the tall, upright woman who knew now pain, knew no struggle that she couldn’t defeat. The medicine to fix her eyes, had stolen her bone density as a side effect and a once tall woman did not stand. A woman I could hardly recognize was in her place. A woman who struggled to stand, who once stood tall.
I had promised my mother that no matter what, I wouldn’t cry.
“All the kids know your strength Sean, they will follow your lead. If you don’t cry, they won’t. You have to be strong for your grandmother,” she said with a strong arm on my young shoulder.
While the other kids ran to her. I fell back. Mom told me later that I stood strong and tall.
For a couple of minutes.
Then it started.
First, the bottom of my lip started to quiver.
Then a tear fell.
And I was done.
I was strong, when I needed to. I ran to Grandfathers study and my stern Grandfather was there.
And I cried, I cried like the fawcets were all unleashed.
My Grandfather looked at me and his stern face fell.
“She’s still your Grandmother Sean, give her a kiss and tell her how much you love her,” he said as he handed me his handkerchief. “I’ll go make some snacks. I’m so glad to see you (Grandfather’s nickname for me I’d put it here but then I’d never hear the end of it, and ONLY he could call me that).”
I went over and hugged my Grandmother, and she told me that she was ok.
But I have that same fear.
And I’m going to be strong.
I’m thinking about the day when in my eyes, my Grandmother changed forever.
But though sick she continued learning and teaching.
And the lesson I wish to share with you is this.
Don’t forsake your children. Don’t forsake your grandchildren. Forget the past, the mistakes, the disappointments. Just remember the times when your brother slurped down the world’s worst split pea soup because the recipe grandma used for soup wasn’t tailored for the microwave. Don’t remember the times when you disappointed her by leaving college for a job in radio. But remember the day when she glowed because she was able to listen to you and the pride that she felt for you. Don’t remember the times when she was sick , nay, remember the times that she was better. Don’t remember the fights over which grandchild she loved more, but remember that she loved you. Don’t remember the bad times, for those times will eat you alive. the fights over where she lived, just remember the Ranger games you watched together. She told me once that she knew that the Rangers would win a pennant before she died. And once again she was right.
I can’t cry. I am numb and the pain I feel is incredible. I’ve lost all my grandparents now. My greatest generation is gone.
I miss her.
Leola Schaper Horowitz was 89.