This is what I read today at my 100 year old grandmother’s funeral. These are the photos I took of her apartment the second to last time we visited. The first is from the couch I reference in the eulogy.
It would be futile to try and encapsulate the life of a one hundred year old woman let alone the rich life of this one. And furthermore it would be futile to attempt to condense my 45 year long relationship to my grandmother in the short span of a funeral eulogy. So I’m left with my impressions.
I guess my first is not unlike one of my mother’s, which is that it feels a bit like a seismic shift since she left. Such a sharp, bright, cogent, obstinate sometimes, stalwart force at the very center of the micro universe of our family. I think this really struck me a couple of weeks ago, when Grandma was napping, and I walked from room to room, sinking and swaying into the deep well worn shag of her plush, warmly hued home of so many years, and finally settled into that old couch in the den, where as a kid I’d I’d spend the evenings watching tv with Grandpa before he’d nod off, and where I myself would spend the night as a boy. Just looking around that room, brimming with memorabilia and photos of so many of us here she cherished so deeply, it was impossible not to be struck by the vast expanse of family that sprung from Charlie and Sarah like arteries from a great big heart.
Her resonance transcended, extended beyond our family.
Grandma was a time capsule, a walking talking history book. In fact I quite literally utilized her as a primary source for a history paper I was writing on Los Angeles during my lone year at college. Whether she was meeting Mickey Rooney, getting hit on by Zaggy cat calling her from his car, standing behind the counter of Nate n’ Al, nee Goldberg’s Deli in 1944, or taking the Red car from Boyle Heights to the beach, she would take you along with her. Accordingly I’d fairly compulsively document my fiery redheaded then snow white haired grandmother. She was a muse of mine of sorts, a model, an interview subject. It’s ironic I suppose but this 100 year old woman had a pretty decent social media following, between my various accounts and her #GrandmaSarahGoldberg hashtag. The responses to the photographs I’d take of her, the recordings I made, the anecdotes I’d relate were always effusive, and brought to the fore the goodness that lurks somewhere in the internet. She was a conduit through which I would try and tap into my history, the history of my city, and I think probably the concept of age itself and aging which in Grandma’s case did little to provide any kind of normal frame of reference. I suppose this is why today seems so surreal. She seemed indefatigable…immortal.
And as such, it was easy for me to take her long life for granted. Even as I was aware of this during her life, it was inevitable that I would come to take as a matter of course her yearly birthday checks I’m not sure I ever bothered to deposit, her holiday cards, her harping on me about making a wrong turn or how to properly shut her blinds, my snapping back at her, her seeming obsession with talking about some delicious other dinner at another restaurant, while we were enjoying a perfectly fine one where we were, the heart and closets she opened for my girlfriends over the years and finally and most warmly and openly to my wife Roxanne, the texts and emails from this tech savvy centenarian, her frequent voicemails which sent love to me, Roxanne, Bud, after which she’d sign off with “This is Grandma, over and out…..”
…And the somewhat persistent guilt I’d increasingly feel that we could only visit so often with our new son and share him with her.
I, like so many of us here, have lived many lives since I’ve known grandmother it was easy to compartmentalize them. Perhaps I’d unpack one every so often, but not nearly enough. There was a consistency and repetition to the visits we’d have with Grandma that perhaps made it difficult to fully connect to the real life events to which we’d so often reference—for them to be more than memories of memories.
I don’t think it was until too recently, that day in den on the old couch really, that I began to fully comprehend just what this woman and her husband meant to me, to my father of course, to my mother with whom she so easily could have loss contact but with whom she maintained a very special relationship. She was so progressive in this regard. She was ahead of her time — and yet of her time. She left behind dreams she’d imply of becoming an ingenue to settle down with the love of her life, but only to pick them right back up again in her 80s, joining an acting class at which I once spoke and played with her and her classmates — unable to turn back time perhaps, but certainly able to defy it.
But she took care of me. She took care of so many of us here. Right? That’s the thing I think I really packed away, took for granted, as I got older and we talked and sparred and took photos. There’s a whole life I had with my grandparents after my parents divorce which was so easy to relegate to the back pages of something like an old photo album, But now, finally a father whose parents are now grandparents and a husband with in-laws who are also grandparents, that long ago life of mine with them seems so special to me now, so generous of them, so necessary really. And for that, if not above all else, then at least finally, I want to thank you Grandma.