RIP, Grandma Dorothy

Dear Owen,

Your great-grandmother Dorothy died today. We were there, you and me and your dad and your grandparents. You won’t remember it, which is good. But you won’t remember her either, and I wish you’d be able to.

When I had lunch with Grandma – we all called her Grandma – a year and a half ago and told her your dad and I were beginning our application to adopt a baby, she put down her fork. She told me, “I hope I live to meet this baby. And if I don’t, you make sure that baby knows he was wanted by me.” I put down my fork, too, and I took her hand.

And though she only got to know you during your first three months of life, I’m so very glad you met each other. She loved to hold you, and she delighted in every smile you gave.

The first family dinner I had with the Werkers that included Grandma was at your grandparents’ old house, around eleven years ago. It was a casual meal, and your dad talked about a dish he’d cooked a couple of days earlier. Grandma was intrigued. She wanted to taste it. Your dad wasn’t sure it would still be good. She said, “I’ll eat anything you cook, dahling. Even if I choke on it.” I wanted to laugh. No one laughed! So I ate faster to swallow my chuckles. And later, after Grandma went home, we laughed.

Over the years I got to know Grandma well enough that I’d laugh with her right then and there when she was funny. If she complained that I was making fun of her, I insisted she was a funny woman. Usually she’d laugh along with me and sometimes she’d feign modesty. She never told a joke, but it was a rare occasion when we’d spend time with her and not collect a Grandma story to entertain our friends with later.

I knew Grandma loved me one Rosh Hashanah when she split the cooking with your Grandma Janet. As she unpacked the food she’d prepared, Dorothy set aside a muffin tin of kugel. She’d prepared these six separate servings without raisins, because she knows I don’t like them. It was a silent gesture, and one I appreciated every year.

Don’t get me wrong. Your great-grandmother could play some crafty manipulative tricks, of the New-York-Jewish-grandmother-of-a-certain-era variety. I knew she truly accepted me one May when she played your grandmother and I off each other for some dramatic Mother’s Day shenanigans. Grandma Janet and I appeased her with chocolate and flowers, and all was well.

Oh, chocolate. Grandma loved chocolate. She loved junk food, really. She’d get a gleam in her eye on barbecue day, asking for two hot dogs on one bun, saying since it was only one bun it only counted as one hot dog. She liked to eat her hard pretzels dipped in margarine.

And she had an untouchable green thumb. Half the plants in our house were once Grandma Dorothy’s. That she entrusted me with them when it became more difficult for her to care for them is something I’ll always take seriously – even if my own thumb is not so vibrantly emerald but rather of a more sickly hue, and though I’ve kept these plants alive for a few years, there’s no comparing their health.

Grandma loved her family. Whenever we visited with her she would update us on the happenings with the far-flung clan, with whom she managed to keep close in touch after moving to Canada ten years ago. I’m sure she’s told everyone she knows about you. You made her so very, very happy.

I’m sad, baby Owen, that you won’t get to know this woman who for nine years was my tie to the New York way out here in Western Canada, and who welcomed me into her family as if I had always been a part of it. She would have made you laugh, and you would have made her laugh. When you’re old enough we’ll tell you all the Grandma stories, and hopefully they’ll make you feel as welcome and loved as she made us all feel.