I’ve been swimming at the same pool for about 4 years now. You get to know the regulars over time and there is a Russian woman who reminds me of my grandmother. She has one lane that she likes best so if I’m swimming in her lane, I usually offer to switch lanes with her. She always thanks me profusely and tells me that I am a good boy, or something along those lines. Once when I wished her a Happy Mother’s Day, she thanked me and told me I had good parents. Today, after we switched lanes, she said, “You are good person. You are your parents. You are your grandparents.” I think that what she was saying is that the people we are is greatly influenced by our lineage. She proceeded to tell me that when she visits her kids who all live in different countries, they go to the market together and she’ll say to them, “Why are you buying this? This is the same thing your grandmother always bought. You are your grandmother.” And then she told me again that I was my grandparents.
What struck me about the conversation was that my grandmother had been on my mind all morning. Just last night, I was called on stage to share an impromptu story and I talked about my Grandma Sue, who played Scrabble with me and knitted clothes for my favorite stuffed animal Chim-Chim and was sometimes known to tie a scarf around her head, hold out her hand and mourn, “Alms for the poor?”. In general, I was not one of those cute kids that adults took a shine to, but my Grandma always treated me like I was funny and interesting and smart, even though I was probably none of those things. I talked about how I was 19 when she passed away and I wished that I’d had the opportunity to spend more time with her. A few years ago, one of my cousins told me a story about a time when she and Grandma worked breakfast and lunch together at another cousin’s cafe. After their shifts were over, they’d go across the street to the dive bar and drink tomato juice and beer cocktails for the rest of the afternoon. When Vicki told me this, I realized what I feel like I missed by her dying when she did: we didn’t get to become friends, drinking buddies. My Grandma loved happy hour as much I love happy hour, apparently.
So this loss was on my mind this morning, when my swim buddy told me that I WAS the person she reminds me of, the person who’d been in my thoughts for those 72 laps. There are ways that I am like my Grandma Sue. When I go to Claro’s Italian market, I know I buy the same pepperoni and olives and provolone that she used to buy, the same items my parents buy. Food and family were always at the center of her life and I feel that I am the same way. My meatballs are a variation of my mother’s meatballs which are a variation of her mother’s meatballs that I can only assume goes back much further. It is a lineage.
So this morning, I felt like I received a gift. Not only the reminder that my Grandma Sue is still with me, but also, in a funny way, I am her.