Treasuring & Remembering Grandparents

“That has always been my claim to fame. I made my bubbie a bubbie.”

The above quote and all the quotes to follow are a part of the eulogy I gave when my grandmother passed away in December of 2004. It was the toughest thing I’ve ever written and presented and I never thought I’d post any of this. But here I am and I’d love to tell you about the most incredible person that’s ever been a part of my life.

By now, most of you have shared and enjoyed Hannah’s (my other grandmother) cherry snowballs, brownies and applesauce cookies with me. It’s been wonderful connecting with my dad’s mother again through her recipes and I’ve felt a re-connection with her through the process. With that said, it dawned on me that perhaps I was giving the impression that I only had one grandmother growing up. In fact, I was lucky enough to have all four grandparents in my life until I was in my early twenties.

I’d like to tell you about my mom’s mom or bubbie which is grandmother in Yiddish or as I called her, my bubs. She was an amazing woman who will always define what  goodness is to me. She never quite cracked five feet tall, but her personality and energy made up for her lack of height and then some. My bubbie was a Holocaust survivor who lost her entire family in a concentration camp and yet, the horrors around her could not extinguish her spirit.

“When you think of a bubbie, you think of her. They are short, European, crazy about food and only want the best for their family.”

Unfortunately, my bubbie didn’t leave us a book of recipes. She was a great cook, but recipes were not meant to be written down, they were kept by memory or by whatever was available in the pantry on a given day. As immigrants to Canada after World War II, food was nourishment, there was little need to write it down. It was good, wholesome food, but it didn’t need to be celebrated in book form. Aside from a handful of recipes, my bubbie left us only with the memories in our hearts.

I love the wall-paper as much as the family love in this picture. My mom kissing me, my bubbie holding me and my zaide (grandfather) trying to peek through.

“I realized early on that my bubbie was all about food and how much of it she could feed us. The more I ate, the happier she was. I always looked forward to spending the night because I knew I would never go to bed hungry. Even before bedtime, it was never too late for a bowl of chicken soup or a piece of her homemade gefilte fish. Even waking up, I knew I was in store for a big treat, because she has always had her special scrambled eggs all prepared for me.”

(Gefilte fish is a Yiddish word for poached fish patties or balls made from a mixture of ground fish (minus the bones), usually carp or pike).

Maybe it was because she endured such terrible atrocities growing up or maybe it’s just a grandparent thing or maybe it’s both, but she took such delight in hearing about the school accomplishments of her grandchildren.

“I couldn’t hand in a paper or write an exam without her wishing me good luck or as she put it, GL. I lived for her gl’s. They meant the world to me, each time she said it, she put her entire being into those words. She would put her thumbs between her index and middle finger, shake her fist, look up to the sky, close her eyes and just repeat gl, gl, gl.”

It’s wonderful growing up with both sets of grandparents and I was lucky to do so. So much love and finally a use for all those wallet-size pictures you receive after picture day! But there is also a point in time when the tables get turned and it’s your time to take care of them.

“I believe things happen for a reason and I am convinced I ended up in Montreal for school to be with her. I would like to think that after so many years of taking care of me, I was finally able to return the favor. But how do you help out a woman who is so independent and stubborn? Before coming over to visit, I would ask if she needed anything, but the answer was always no. I quickly learned she was never going to admit to needing anything. So much to her I just started showing up with things. If bubbie’s are allowed to spoil their grandchildren, I figured it could go both ways. So in addition to groceries, including shmaltz herring, we would happily munch on BBQ ruffled chips and Drumstick ice cream cones.”

(Shmaltz is Yiddish for fat and a herring is a fatty oily fish. Together, shmaltz herring are preserved in brine and brown sugar and then rendered in fat).

As always, the best moments in life cost nothing. As much as I look back and smile at the thought of me as a young kid eating her amazingly yellow scrambled eggs or later on sharing a bag of chips, I’m happiest when I think of these moments we shared together.

“Over the last few months of her life, our visits always consisted of me giving her a back massage. After the first rub of the shoulders, she would always let out a big Ahhhhh. Initially, she would thank me after it was done, but near the end, when I would stop she would just keep on talking without even saying thank you. I would like to think she knew she didn’t have to thank me for it because it was me who should have been thanking her for everything she had ever done for me.”

As I was writing the eulogy, I knew I wanted the last paragraph to be me talking directly to her. It just so happened there was a room full of people to overhear our final conversation, but it didn’t matter. As I got closer to the paragraph, I could feel myself begin to tear up but I looked straight ahead and did my best to make her proud.

“Bubbie, thank you for being my bubs. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life. I cannot tell you how much I loved being with you the last few years. A Friday will never pass without me wishing you a good shabbas. I vow to keep every promise I ever made to you. But it is now for you to look after yourself. I hope you have a great shloof (sleep).”

And I have no idea how I got the final words out, they were more like a whimper.

“Love you bubs.”



Filed under Bubbie, Bubbierocks, Grandparents

53 responses to “Treasuring & Remembering Grandparents

  1. This is a very beautiful and heartfelt post and it must have been very hard to write. I can really relate to your relationship with your grandmother. My grandmother lived with my family since I was a baby and taught me how to cook. Before she passed away in 2008, she told me to change careers and do something that makes me happy and that’s what inspired me to go to culinary school and become a chef. This post is just a little reminder of how lucky we were to have these wonderful women in our lives.

  2. So gorgeous! My mom is Jewish, but I never knew her mother who was a Catholic and converted. My Jamaican grandma was like your bubbie. I miss her everyday and she lived a rich love filled with an abundance of delicious food and love. Her greatest blessing was her grandchildren and my mom who was absolutely more a daughter than a daughter-in-law. We are very lucky! Love the graduation shot!

  3. This is such a touching post E. She was adorable. Your love for each other just shines through in the photos. Maybe you can post her scrambled eggs one day? A sweet tribute to a special lady:)

  4. so sweet and well written I bet you miss her terribly I have all my Grandparents still living and am dreading the day I have to say goodbye

    hugs Rebecca

  5. So much of what you have written I could have almost said word for word. The sweetest woman in my life, ever, my Grandma. She died right after I had my first child and I’m sad my kids never got to know her because she would have shown them the same love. And you’ve done a great job of showing yours today. Beautiful story, thank you so much for sharing this part of you with us Ethan.

  6. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Such a sweet and heartwarming story, Ethan. You were and continue to be truly blessed. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    It’s stories like these that made me wish I had the same with my grandparents growing up. I have a few memories but it’s getting more vague as the years pass, unfortunately.

  8. I really believe grandparents have a much larger impact on their grandchildren than they ever know. What a wonderful post, thanks for sharing.

  9. You got me teary eyed. I’m so sorry for your loss. She sounds like she was a wonderful lady! Makes me smile that you had such a nice relationship with her.

  10. Amy

    Dammit, Ethan *sob*

  11. Can I tell you I’m sitting at my desk at work (yes at 11:30pm on a friday) reading this right now and crying. This is an amazing tribute to a beautiful woman. She’s obviously stronger than I could ever imagine to be. This is beautiful and I’m glad you decided to post it.

  12. Thank you for sharing these wonderful memories of your Bubbie and the ever so tender parts of your eulogy for her with us. She has left you with a priceless legacy with her memories and you do her and them such honour.
    I barely knew any of my grandparents and vowed that if I was blessed with grandchildren, that they would know me and that I would be an active presence in their lives.
    Should one of my grandchildren ever eulogize me, just one tenth of the way you did your beloved Bubbie, then I shall rest easy knowing that they knew that I loved them with all of my being.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      I have a good feeling that your eventual grandchildren will have a pretty rockin’ grandma!

  13. very sweet. her memory will be with you forever!

  14. I am glad you shared the story of your bubbie with us. She seems like the epitome of a grandmother. You are a lucky one, having her in your life. In fact, growing up with all four of your grandparents is an amazing experience.
    My grandfather was shot by Germans in WWII, and I never had a chance to meet him. But I am grateful for the time I spent with my other grandparents. My parents live in Serbia, but my girls spend summers there – my decision to move away should not deprive them of their Baba and Deda.
    Thanks for giving me a chance to meet your bubs, even vicariously:)

  15. What a beautiful tribute to your bubbie, it’s so wonderful to read about the close connection you had. I think that the time I spent with my grandparents growing up are some of my most cherished memories, there is just such a special bond there.

  16. Sweetie, I think we may have had the same bubbie. You wrote beautifully what I felt about my bubs. She was my best friend. Just a beautiful post.

  17. Ok. Now I gotta go find the tissues. So sweet, Ethan 🙂

  18. Grandparents are often invaluable. I didn’t have the luck to have them beside me when I could appreciate their knowledge or simple life style, all I can remember is me and my sister roaming their house when we were little babies. Goes without saying that we drove them crazy eheh
    Still they live through the words of my mom and her memories, the memories I always envy her.

    Thanks for sharing these moments with us Ethan.

  19. What an amazing and moving post! The love for your grandmother is palpable and jumps off the page. I definitely needed a tissue by the end of it. So touching. Thanks for sharing.

  20. This is the sweetest tribute to your spitfire Bubbie.
    My favorite line is your claim to fame….sums up the whole bubbie experience.
    Winnie, please pass the tissues….my pajama sleeve is soaked.

  21. just lovely, truly heartwarming. thanks for sharing.

  22. I loved this post. It captures the warmth and best aspects of Jewish culture as well as your special relationship with your grandma. My mom is 90 and part of the same generation as your grandma. I miss her so much as she lives back in South africa and tim is short when they are that age. Thank you for this lovely tribute to a special woman.

  23. Oh Ethan, this made me cry. I only know you through stumble, though I saw yesterday that you’ll be at Big Summer Potluck, and I cannot wait to meet you. My entire blog is an homage to my grandmother, Nanny. She made me the cook that I am, and I would not be passionate about food if it weren’t for her. Thank you for sharing your Bubs with the rest of us.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      I’ve now stumbled onto your blog, can’t wait to check it out and meet you this summer in PA:)

  24. Such a sweet post, Ethan. She was obviously a huge inspiration to you.

  25. I lost my Grammy Jan. 2009, so reading this made me cry. I can definitely relate. I posted about her passing on my blog shortly after, but I’d never be able to write something this beautiful to show my love and appreciation for her. Beautiful post!

  26. You had me in tears by the end of this, Ethan. I, too, was lucky to grow up with all four grandparents and remember fondly the moments I spent with each of them. Only one grandparent is still with us, but the lessons and love of all of them will be a part of me forever. Thank you for making me focus on those relationships today.

  27. You make your bubbie proud. And all of us too to call ourselves your friend 🙂

  28. I love stories about Bubbies. I cherish the the SECOND HELPINGS PLEASE that my bubbie gave me when I got married. She also did not leave any hand written recipes either however the memories are ever lasting.

  29. How wonderful, thanks for sharing that special part of your life with us. I never got to know my grandparents, but Bubbie sounds lovely. 🙂

  30. Just beautiful, Ethan, and a fitting tribute to your bubbie. I know this wasn’t easy for you to write, but we are all the richer for your having shared. Thank you.

  31. Oh Ethan. That was beautiful. I’m in tears, seeing the love you two shared. Grandparents are such a valuable thing, filled with so many lessons and memories. I’m grateful to have my grandma left – even if she is a 4 hour plane ride away. With the other 3, I miss them all the time, but even more – I miss getting to know them (you’re so lucky that you got just that!). Even if it is more the stories that I remember than the people themselves, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am without them. Thank you for sharing your Bubbie with us, Ethan.

  32. Love this story, Ethan. Thanks so much for sharing.

  33. Ethan, what a beautiful post. You did a wonderful job on your eulogy and painting the picture for all of us of how amazing your Bubbie was. I am extremely close to my grandparents and treasure every moment that I have with them. My Papa is about to turn 82 and as of tomorrow my grandparents have been married for 53 years. And I thank you for reminding me to make sure and enjoy every second with them, as time goes so quickly. Thank you for sharing your story, it was an honor to read it!

  34. Love your post. So heartfelt, you have a beautiful Bubbie 🙂

  35. p.s. You made me cry…

  36. There are two things that really stand out in this post. Three if you count your excellent writing. The first is that after what she had been through, she did not let the horrible things she saw and survived stay in her heart and make her bitter or resentful. What a loving and devoted woman she must have been. Her love was so strong I can hear it clear as a bell when I read your words.

    The second is the love and care you gave back to her when she was needing a little help. I HATE it when I hear people complain about caring for family. Shouldn’t that be just what we *do*?? Take care of each other? The fact that you considered it such an honor shows what a caring heart you have.

    I know your Bubbie is proud of the man that you are. The love of all of your grandparents have helped make you into the man of integrity that you are today. Thank you for sharing.

  37. Ethan, you are one very special guy and i cannot tell you how much i appreciate this post – so full of love, so full of good memories – Bubbie would be so proud to see what you’re doing here on this blog. am so fortunate to know you!! (love the wallpaper too btw!)

  38. Beautiful, Ethan. She would be so proud of you.

  39. This is such a beautiful post… Thank you for sharing your memories with all of us. This brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of my own grandmother who passed away a few years ago.

  40. What a beautiful and touching tribute to your Bubbie. You never forget the impact that people you loved so much had on your life. I’m sure she’s smiling down on you every single day.

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  42. Ethan,
    This was such a touching post, and your love for your Bubbie shines through. I’ve been cooking on my own for almost 25 years and my Granny is about to turn 88, but I still call her from time to time and say, “How do you make…” She has been such a huge part of my cooking life and huge part of my life, so I totally understand your love for your Bubbie. I hope I will inspire the same devotion from my future grandchildren!
    Well done!

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  44. Cat

    This was a wonderful post. Your loss is deeply saddening, however the way that you are able to write and relate to your bubbie I’m sure would make her the proudest and happiest grandma.

    I appreciate that you are absolutely grateful for the family you have in your life. I think that far too often people take it for granted. Theres so many people in the world that just hope for a tiny piece of family to hold onto. I never had the opportunity to meet 3/4 of my grandparents. Often people are adopted, or worse live in foster care, sometimes being toted around from home to home not ever knowing any deep sense of connection or family at all.

    The only grandmother I met passed by the time I was seven. I hold onto every little memory as if my life depended on it. I often ask my father about his mother, I was not fortunate enough to meet her but I feel that by cooking foods she loved I somehow know her. I’m making up my own traditions and recipes to pass down. Food is something deeply sentimental to me, its a sincere connection to my family and mostly its an expression of love.

    I can only hope that some day my children or grandchildren appreciate these things as you’ve appreciated it yourself. This deeply sentimental post is very inspiring to continue to share the love. It was so comforting to read this post. Its was truly wonderful and heart warming. Thank you for sharing!

  45. What a beautiful post. I just came across this and it reminds me so much of my husband and his grandmother’s relationship. For the past 8 years, my mother and father-in-law lived with my family and the life-long experience my children have had cannot be fully expressed in words. Although it is so difficult when they leave us, the life lessons we are all left with are immeasurable.

  46. This was so incredibly sweet. I recently wrote a recipe post (one that involved nutella!) that made me think of my grandmother who passed away last fall. I also wrote my eulogy for her as a letter letting her and others know what an incredible blessing and influence she was and still is in my life.

    It sounds like your “bubbie” was the same for you. I love the photos – you can see how proud she is to be your grandma! I especially adore the one of her holding you as a baby.

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