Remembering grandma, her plea and her stubbornness

The most tense exchange I had with my grandmother was when I was deciding where to apply to college. She wanted me to go to art school.

“You’re good,” she insisted. “You should go to school and hone your skills.”

“I’m not going,” I replied. “Art will always be there for me. I want to do something else.”

What else was it? I didn’t know yet.

It was an ongoing nasty argument between us over the year leading up to college decisions. But that’s what being a teenager is, isn’t it? Affirming your independence and sometimes clashing with people I love and respect in order to fully develop myself. I haven’t lost sight of the fact that the situation is usually reversed – the young stubbornly insisting on getting an arts degree, the adults around them pushing for something more pragmatic.

My grandmother was stubborn, however. She kept me with her sight even when I was clear on mine.

She stubbornly lived into her 90s until late last week when she passed away peacefully in her sleep. For her, it was – death – a relief she had been talking about for years. I mean years. The fact that she continued in life for so long was a simple testament to her will; not to live but perhaps more to stay the course. She made our business her business, in the best possible way; aware of what his family was doing and how we were doing.

I called her on the phone, she told me that “getting old is for the birds”, and told me that she loved my laugh. Then she would catch me up on all the cousins ​​and their whereabouts/activities. She often knew the family news long before I did.

I knew Grandma as a world traveler. The house she shared with my grandfather was rich in relics from where they had traveled. He had a map with glowing red-tipped pins scrambling the world, indicating where they had ventured together.

Their journey was a generation and resources away from my version. They were able to do many guided tours. They entered, as the saying goes, into “comfort” until at some point their ability to travel had much diminished and instead they settled into their house, full of trinkets and of art that were coveted on various levels by me and my cousins.

(This wooden dish. The stuffed giraffe. The urban landscape).

But their curiosity, openness, and fearless commitment to seeing the world exposed me early on to the idea that there was a place to explore beyond where I grew up in Massachusetts.

When I decided to go to school in New York and major in urban studies, my grandmother finally dropped the art school argument. She seemed sad about it, like something she was reluctantly giving up. Not that she abandoned me, but a dream she had for me.

I went to New York for a few years and eventually moved to Alaska.

“Alaska!” She was breathing. “I don’t understand wanting to live there, but I’ll never forget the Anchorage flowers. There were so many! They were magnificent.

Whenever we talked about life in Alaska, she would kvell — Yiddish for mooned over — on the “flowahs,” the east coast for flowers. I first noticed them thanks to her.

They are indeed beautiful.

She, like other members of my family, noted my outdoor exploits and lovingly teased me that they didn’t know where I was from.

When I was trying out the van life with my husband last year, I called her from the road. “You like this ? !” she asked, not even trying to hide her disbelief. “Living in a van? »

“Yes,” I said weakly, not knowing what else to say. It was like trying to translate my experience and my love of something into a different language, but into English. I haven’t found a way.

I tried, “Wes and I love it. We want to enter a phase in our lives where we have more freedom, and this might allow us to do that. We are having fun. »

She gave me a trademark, “Well,” in response. That was it, just a “Well,” with a hint of question at the end, but mostly resignation paired with a reluctant benefit of the doubt that my weird tastes could actually make me happy.

“You are good children,” she said, of my generation of our family. “You are guardians. A little strange, but we love you.

Grandma’s message on the side of the Mobile Art Studio I picked up earlier this year, a bold life move to enable this freer lifestyle my husband and I are imagining for ourselves, simply read, ” Drive safely. Love, Grandma.

In the end, when it comes to my life, she won and I won. I pursue art seriously, just taking a different path than she wanted. I may have inherited some of that stubbornness too.

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