Friday, June 30, 2017

In Memory Of My Grandmother

My grandmother lived until age 96 and passed away a few years ago. She was a strong-willed and ethical woman who was always loving to me. She taught me reading and counting when I was 3, and when I was in school in the former Soviet Union she was encouraging me to study and to learn all sorts of subjects.

She was born in 1917, the year of the Soviet Revolution. It was a horrible time in Russian history. Wars, famines, purges, you name it. You did not survive if you were not strong; and even among those who did not survive any number were strong enough. She sought to do things better than how they had been when she was raised. Like many others in her generation all around the world, she worked hard and raised her children with good values.

She got good at many different things. When she was young she did a lot of rugged travel in the countryside and achieved excellent physical form. She did PhD work, but did not get her degree because she was Jewish. She ended up working as a mathematics teacher and had involvement in politics. She also learned music, and I would often see her playing Chaupin's Polonez.

She chose for her husband a very gentle-hearted man. They both treated each other well, but she was the clear leader of the household. She and my mother did not get along. She was a Soviet Communist, and my mother wanted to immigrate to America. And when there are two strong-minded women who have mutually incompatible beliefs, the result typically is constant struggle between them.

Now many people have a very negative view of Communists, and in many cases their attitude is merited. My grandmother however was nowhere close to being evil. She was ethical, hard-working and family-oriented: The same virtues as are claimed by Western conservatives, especially ones who have been part of the World War II generation.

To the best of my knowledge, she never believed in God. That did not however keep her from acting in principled manner. She was dedicated to her work, and she was dedicated to her family. Her strong personality and intelligence made her respected both in Soviet Union and in America. During the time that I knew her she was both tough and kind; and that is a great combination.

In mid-1980s she went into a clinical depression and hypochondria, and by the time she came with my uncle to America in 1992 she was in an almost catatonic state. Americans however found her the right medication, and she perked up and lived in a high-functioning state for near two decades. When I visited her with my girlfriend in late 1990s, my girlfriend told me that she still had very noticeable traces of beauty.

My mother told me a little bit about her behavior when she was a parent. Apparently she had been authoritarian, but she was also nurturing and responsible. She had value for education and hard work and encouraged her children in both. Both of her children became professionally and personally successful. One of her grandsons became a doctor in America; another is a nanotechnology PhD working for Google; and one is married to a very successful and knowledgeable man who loves her. I was her favorite grandson, and I have done all sorts of interesting things with my life that have provided fuel for all sorts of poetry and insight.

She died at age 96. Shortly before that I visited her with my daughter, who was maybe 4 at the time. My grandmother was blind by then, but she hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. She probably knew that that was the last time that she would meet me in person. I have no idea if any part of her survived death. But her memory has survived death and lives through her children and her grandchildren. Бабушка, я тебя люблю. Grandmother, I love you.


Post a Comment

<< Home