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Thursday, January 15, 2009


Inheritance is an interesting word. To some it means the money or items you receive when someone passes away. I guess this might even be the technical definition of the word. For me it's more than that. Inheritance to me, is the things I have in me, because of them, the ones who are gone. The people who touched my life, helped shape me into the woman I am today. The people I loved, who are no longer here.

In the last five years, I have lost all four of my grandparents. I know I'm blessed to have known them at all, to have had them in my life. I have been told this many times and I know it to be true. It doesn't help the sadness in losing someone, but it is a correct statement.

My grandpa (dad's dad) has been gone the longest. He passed away the day before Halloween, five years ago. From him I inherited the ability to distinguish a liar from a truth teller. It's all in the eyes he'd tell me. People look away when they are lying. They look you in the eye when they are telling the truth and it's not hurtful. When they are telling you the truth and it's hurtful to you, they look at your nose or their own hands. This is why he was such a good poker player, he could figure out someones tell, in seconds. Always look people in the eyes, he told me; then they know you care about what they are saying.

He used to take me on dates. Just me and him. Sometimes we went to the movies, sometimes out to dinner, occasionally to places like the zoo; but just us. He did it with my brothers (and later, my cousins) as well, but always as a one on one thing. This is something I do with my kids. Not all the time, but often enough. It always made me feel special and I can tell my girls feel that way too.

From him, I also am the biggest food and wine snob. I know what I like and how I like it and I'm not afraid to tell anyone. Good food is something I am willing to spend my money on.

My grandma (dad's mom) died almost three years ago. My daughter Bailey (Bailey is not her real name) is named after her. As a Jew, she held the belief that one should not be named after someone who is living. I did it anyway. I told her, this is my daughter and I'm naming her after you. She's as stubborn as you are and I am not religious and you really aren't either. Besides, you're dying anyway, so it's not going to take away from your longevity. Might seem callous to some people, but she laughed and laughed.

Bucking the system, that was her and it's what I got from her as well. She was born in Russia and her family came to America when she was a baby. One of the reasons they came here, was my grandma had a bad heart; she wasn't supposed to live to see her first birthday. In Russia in the 1930's, as a Jew, they were not going to get the best medical care for her. They had the money, but you know: Jew. So, they came to America in hopes of saving their daughter. When they got here, the doctors told her parents, she won't live to see two. Then it was five, then ten, then twenty. They don't know why she was still alive. Her heart was defected, it should have stopped by then. It wasn't fixable. At twenty, when she was still alive, the UCLA medical center studied her. She is actually in some of their training videos that students still see to this day. When she married my grandpa, they told her not to ever get pregnant, she'd not live to see the baby born. She had four kids, in a seven year time span.

She was a fighter. She did what everyone told her not to do. She was a nurse and later worked for the draft board in LA; in a time where few women worked. She divorced my grandpa when she found out he wasn't faithful, when my dad was ten years old; in a time when divorce was not at all common. She made it to seventy-five years old. Like, I said, she was a fighter.

My other grandparents, my moms parents, have both passed in the last four months. They died thirteen weeks, to the day, apart. I have just begun to realize how big of a loss this is. I tried to call her the other day. Harrison rolled over, like all the way over (and over) for the first time and I wanted to call and tell her. I let it ring once, before I remembered that she wasn't there to pick up the line. I can't make myself take the number out of my phone yet. Soon, but not yet.

Grandpa was a hard worker, he had the attitude that when you do something, you should do it right the first time, so you don't have to re-do things. You should always be willing to work. Laziness was not a word that was in his vocabulary. That and he always was doing something. Always working on some new project, something to challenge himself. He was career Air Force and then when he retired, he went into his own business. Created a second business for himself. This is where my feeling of un-settledness comes from. Because I have those same qualities in me. And they are great qualities, I just need to figure out what to do with them right now.

He was a helpful, kind person: he'd help anyone in need. I get this from him too. Sometimes, well often, I wish I could do more. In time, I will.

I also inherited his insomnia. This is one quality, I wish I could return to sender.

For my grandma, no one was more important than her family. She took care of everyone. No one who walked in her door was unwelcome, nor went unfed.

She taught us all at a very young age to play games. Card games, board games, puzzles. Might have been her way to not have to entertain us, but there isn't a grandchild of hers, who doesn't enjoy playing games.

My grandma was a funny woman. She was raised as an only child and went on and had six children. She was a prude; which I'm not. But it did always make me laugh. She was the woman who handed my mother (the fifth girl, by the way) the pamphlet from a tampon box at eleven years old. Read this, she said and tell me when you need them. That was it, the big talk. Once when my brother got up to pee at dinner, she chastised him for not going to a bathroom farther away from the table. He was seven years old. But bodily functions don't exist. At least that was her theory.

She was a little stuck in her ways; which I try so hard not too be, but I know in some ways, I completely am. She was good with money, which I did get from her. Luckily too, because some of her children really didn't. She was very organized with her way of thinking, although you couldn't always tell it by the way she was. I am this way too. You couldn't tell it by my house, or my life, but I am an organized person. I know what appointments are next week, or next month. I know my kids shot schedule and the days off of school for the remainder of the year. I remember all of my many cousins birthdays and middle names. I always know exactly what I need to get at the grocery store. But I don't have any of this written down. It's all in my head.

I had all four of them around me in different ways, for my entire life. They helped me become a decent person. The gifts they left me, are ones I will cherish always. Hopefully I can pass them onto my children. Gifts that are more important than money in the bank or stuff in my house. My real inheritance.


Jaden Paige said...

This was a great tribute. It's wonderful to look back and remember all of the things you have been given by those you love :)

Becky said...

i could not agree more.

debra said...

Beautiful post, Issa! I was lucky enough to have all my grandparents around for the majority of my life too (Dad's dad is still kicking!) and they are precious, precious gifts.

MarvelousMOM said...

This was truly a beautiful post. And it makes me think about my grandparents and great grandparents that have passed. You definitely learned a lot and inherited a lot of great qualities. So wonderful.

PsychMamma said...

What a beautiful post and what a wonderful way to honor their memories. Thanks for sharing. I still have 3 of my grandparents, and I'm so glad for any time I get with them.

iMommy said...

It was so nice to read about your grandparents.

My mother says that she still picks up the phone to call her mother every day... and she passed away two and a half years ago. Sometimes, those habits and needs die hard. My heart goes out to you - when you realize that they aren't there to pick up the line, sometimes it can be a punch in the gut.

Jaden Paige was right - this was a beautiful tribute to them.

Kim @ said...

It's your real inheritance and it's the best freaking kind from where I stand.