My grandma Ruth (aka G.G. Ruth - "Great Grandma Ruth" to my children and my brother's children) is not doing very well.
This is not shocking since she is 92, but at the same time it is very hard to accept.
She is my only living grandparent and, although throughout my lifetime she has lived in New York, she has always been a significant part of my life.
My mom's mom has always been a unique combination of intelligence, strength, grace and determination, especially for a woman of her generation.
She has a history degree from NYU and, until this past year when her short term memory began to quickly deteriorate, she could debate American and international politics with anyone. She loved watching sports like baseball and golf and she was an avid reader of literature and the New York Times.
Ruth also loves film, theatre, music, travel and fine food, and she enjoyed these things in abundance with my grandfather, Joe, before his death in 1989. Joe was the love of her life, and even though she was in perfect health after he died, she never had any interest in ever finding another partner.
Ruth is a woman who was always ahead of her time. She was wearing clothes from the GAP and Swatch Watches in the 80's long before the kids of my generation had any idea what they were. While other Jewish grandmother's pushed blintzes and chopped liver on loved ones, Ruth warned us of the dangers of sugar, fat and salt in our diets. Even as long as 25 years ago, I remember her kitchen filled with fat-free yogurt and cottage cheese, oatmeal, bran flakes and salt-free pretzels (blech!).
She had a wide circle of devoted friends, many of whom began to pass away over the last couple of decades. Ruth was greatly saddened by their passing and had fewer and fewer companions for her daily walks through the streets of Manhattan and visits to the museums.
She has been a wonderful, devoted grandmother to my brother and I, and great grandmother to my children and my brother's children. Her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were clearly her greatest joy. It was heartbreaking to realize a few months ago that she could not remember the names or ages of my children or of my brother's children.
It has also been heartbreaking for me that for at least the last year, she has not been aware of what I am doing in my life. I know she would have been very proud of me for becoming a miscarriage/infertility therapist.
When I had my miscarriage before I had the girls, it was her admission to me that she too had had one before having my mother and uncle, that gave me strength and hope that I too would one day have a family. I was touched and honoured that she disclosed this information to me, after keeping it a secret until that moment, my grandfather having been the only other person to know up to that point.
I do not know what lies ahead for Ruth. Aside from some congestive heart failure for which she is being treated, she has no other physical ailments, however, her mind has deteriorated significantly. She has been confused and agitated and in the hospital for over a week. Worst of all, she is refusing to eat - which is not a good sign for anyone, but particularly someone in my family! My mom flew to NYC yesterday to be by her side and I fear that the rest of us will have to follow soon.
Fortunately, whenever the end comes, I know that there will be a lot of people who love her, who will be there, with me, to celebrate her remarkable life.
To G.G. Ruth!