Today’s my grandma Ronnie’s 85th birthday. And though she doesn’t have a computer, my grandfather gets my blog on his Kindle; so hopefully he’ll read this to her tomorrow morning when she wakes up.
For most of my life, my grandmother has been a major presence. Legend goes that just as I started speaking, she sang “You Are My Sunshine” to me from the front seat of her car and from the back seat I started singing back. We spent a lot of time together, when I was growing up. Her second husband (she’s been widowed twice), my grandpa Joe, owned a pickle factory on Long Island called Stern’s Pickles and when I was very young I’d go with her to the Roosevelt Field Flea Market where she sold them. She was quite industrious with her pickle stand; eventually, after he died, she started selling splatter art t-shirts. I remember being in her yellow wallpapered kitchen on East Lexington, in Oceanside (where I’d ride my bike almost every day), and she’d offer me a diet chocolate soda with some milk in it and we’d lay white t-shirts on the table and decorate them with puffy paint and little mirrors. She was always keeping busy.
In that house, she’d often boil vegetables and sprinkle them with Mrs. Dash. They tasted pretty great to me. In the guest room upstairs, she kept bags of Hershey’s samplers (maybe leftover from Halloween?) and I could have all the Krackel I wanted.
Eventually, she married my Grandpa Roy (the one with the Kindle) and we all moved to Florida where she and I would frequent The Olive Garden, Bagelworks, and another bagel shop called Bagels With next to Ross Dress For Less, where I’d go with her after my onion bagel with whitefish salad and raw red onions. Those raw red onions were a prominent part of my childhood; my mother and grandmother would always ask for them with their egg white omelets. We all had terrible breath, but who cared when we were mostly talking to each other?
Grandma had no qualms about taking me to slightly inappropriate movies. With her, I saw Single White Female and Legal Eagles and whenever there was a sex scene, she’d give me quarters to go play video games in the lobby. When Grandpa Joe died of a brain tumor, I took her to a movie to cheer her up. My pick? Beaches, the least cheerful movie you could possibly pick in that situation. But she was a trooper and I secretly loved it.
Grandma Ronnie (who gave herself that name because she didn’t like “Rebecca” or its derivative “Becky”) is a force of nature. If the world is a battleground, she’s General Patton. And she’s charged through her life with so much fortitude and verve, it’s easy to forget what a good heart she has underneath all that armor. When she and grandpa went to see Craig’s movie, she said: “Tell Craig I think he’s a genius. You’re very lucky to have him and he’s very lucky to have you.”
And we’re even more lucky to have you, grandma. Happy 85th to one of the greatest people I know.