pushing20

maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets. -arthur miller

3.09.2005

Sometimes, we forget to remember.

Today was the fourth anniversary of my grandmother's death.

I didn't remember until I listened to a message from my mother about an hour ago, and the felt pretty guilty for not picking up the call earlier, when I just hadn't really felt like talking to my mom.

"I just wanted to tell you it was today, if you hadn't remembered. Not that you have to remember the exact day. But it would be nice if you took a few minutes to think about Roo, and how much she'll always love you."

I felt terrible for not remembering, and then just terribly sad. Roo (my brother couldn't say "Grandma Ruth" when he was little, so "Roo" it has been ever since) was great. She was far ahead of her time. She earned a BA from Smith and then two MA's (from Northwestern, I think), all in a time that told women to get an MRS. She was halfway through law school when she dropped out to get married and raise three daughters. She went back to teaching a few years later, and continued to teach and tutor until she got sick.

She was great. Even though she was all the way in Chicago, Roo was the one I would call frantically from the library whenever I had papers to write and no idea what to write about. She delighted in getting copies of my school papers and projects in the mail, and later over e-mail.

She was bullheaded, constantly getting in heated debates with my father over his Judaism, with my uncle over his politics, with my mother and her sisters over everything. She was an intellectual snob of the worst kind.

Roo got diagnosed with breast cancer when I was about twelve. She fought it for almost three years, and up until the last few days was every inch herself. I think she knew when the time was running out. I saw her for the last time the first weekend in Feburary that year. My brother, father, and mother went out a week later. My mom stuck around in Chicago for as long as she could, but a few days after she got back to New York it was over. Roo had waited long enough to see us all one more time. On that last visit with my mother she sat at a table with all three of her daughters and they talked for hours with a tape recorder taking it all in. The tapes are still in a box, untouched. I don't know if any of us are ready to listen to her stories again, in her own words, as much as we miss her. On my last day with her, we sat and did puzzles in her living room. I can't remember what we talked about.

For lots of reasons both mundane and emotional, the headstone didn't go up for about two years after she died. So in March of my senior year of high school, the whole clan stood in a circle around a shiny new headstone and passed around a bottle of champagne and talked about her. Talked to her. I cried because I wished that she would be able to see me graduate from high school.

"She would have gotten a real kick out of seeing me in a cap and gown, is all. Out of yelling at me about where to go to college. The whole thing. "

Everyone agreed. Roo would have liked to see all four of her grandchildren earn as many diplomas as they could carry. She'd be watching, they told me.

Now I'm sitting here, crying again. Because I'm afraid I don't remember much at all.

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