Memories are like ancient cities that always seem to have yet another buried existence.
I ended up buying my grandmother's house when it was determined that someone should be around for safety's sake. Personally, I thought she would live forever preserved by hard work in the garden, eating raw horse radish and garlic, powdered donuts and half cooked bacon. The only food of hers that I could tolerate was home bread and pizza. I was always puzzled how someone who could make such tasty bread would sometimes make a sandwich without bread-believe me that is not a pretty sight. It's the conversations we had sitting in the living room while she would make rag rugs by hand without looking or seeming to concentrate on the task that I remember the most. She would complain about being in her eighties and having out lived all her friends and that soon it would be her time to die. I said, "Ma, if you were going to die you would have died years ago. After all, most people live to 75 or 80, but you've passed that age a long time ago so I don't really think you are going to die. Now Ma had no sense of humor, but she was devoted to her family- even grandchildren that she suspected had fallen down and hit their heads when they were little. That look and shake of the head, full of compassion for her not-right grandson was back once again. We also had odd theological discussions. We would talk about God and I said God was unknowable. Again the sad shake of the head for her Jewish grandson. I was Jewish because in Poland they only had Jews and Catholics and since I was not Catholic I had to be Jewish-plus I wore a hat if any more proof was needed. Anyway, she opened up her incredibly large Polish Bible filled with illustrations. Polish Bibles also have recipes for galumpkis(stuffed cabbage) and kruskies(a kind of a cookie). She turned to an illustrated portrait of God majestic in his white robes and flowing white hair. I must say He looked good for his age and bore a striking resemblance to country singer Kenny Rogers. Once again, faced with irrefutable evidence, I had to admit that God was not unknowable. Buying her a Xmas gift was close to impossible. What do you get someone who has nothing, and doesn't want or need anything? I bought for her a small statue of a lady that could have passed for Mary, the mother of Jesus. In the days after the holiday I could tell she was perturbed and puzzled by something. Finally she came into the living room one evening carrying my Xmas gift with a serous look on her face. "Ronnie, why you give me a statue of some guy named "Art" for Xmas?" I was really confused. She turned the statue upside down and sure enough written on the base was the word "Art". By the way, my grandmother didn't live forever. I am comforted by the fact that she is in heaven with Kenny Rogers and she is telling everyone what a great singer God is. God is a great singer. His songs are the lullabies of grandmothers softly singing their grandchildren to sleep.