Sunday, October 23, 2011

Interrogation of a Grandma

  The Jewish Torah has a saying in it: “Wish tamid tukad al ha-mizbei'ach, lo sichbeh.” A fire shall always be burning on the alter, it shall never go out! My own grandmother was a spark, full of energy, passion for her family, and full of songs and stories from a time long past. With those stories she conveyed the rich, cultural past, the Bronx community, and the family in which she was raised. Her generation was a continuation of the old Jewish community. My grandma outlived friends, two husbands, and four siblings. After each devastation, she was still our anchor, like the fire of the Mizbei'ach, she would not be extinguished so fast! Yet, at the age of 98, her passing that marked our connection with history was basically severed. I hope that families with rich traditions such as the Jews, continue to pass on their heritage—it's one thing that should not be lost.

 So here I am with a new family, and I remembered an old italian proverb that says "if nothing is going well, call your grandma." Grandma's seem to have wisdom and pride, they provide you in abundance with cookies that you can't get in your own house, they'll even give you the cherry off their top of their sundae.  You really do get your money's worth out of grandma's!  I loved my grandmother who passed on at the ripe old age of 98, and now in Botswana, my grandmother of origin has been replaced with my new grandmother who is also 98.  Not that my grandma is really replaceable, but when the Peace Corps gives you a new family, they mean it!  When I first met my new grandmother, she scared the living day lights out of me.  She looked so---well--- prehistoric, and would just sit there staring at me.  Sometimes she would wander outside and watch this white stranger doing strange moves in her back yard.  Was she thinking anything, or is the fact that she talks to herself a sign that she has lost it?  Nobody in the family seems to mind her chatter, so I just let it be. Yet I am constantly chasing this woman when she wanders and I'm the only one around.  She definitely is a blood pressure raiser!  What if I lose the old, scary woman!  Would the family mind--well, it would be one less mouth to feed don't ya think!

 A few weeks go by and I see in her eyes that there is still something there, so like a good Psychologist, it became my quest to find out what's inside her head, if anything.  Grandma is sitting in her chair one night, so I decided to ask my mom if grandma was up to talking.  She asked grandma, who rightfully said no, then gave me a penetrating stare!  BOO! Ok grandma, I am rightfully scared---but I'll persist, asking questions about the old days with mom translating, and still, she would shake her head stating she doesn't remember.  I don't believe it!  This lady is definitely stubborn, but I'm more stubborn and determined to get her to like me, so I start laughing, acting goofy with Kesego, and trying to charm her with questions when all of a sudden my goofiness must have paid off.  She gave me the biggest smile and started talking about her children and grandchildren.

The next night, the stare came back, she babbled something in Setswana, and mom said that grandma wanted me to "interrogate" her more.  Gladly Grandma, it's fun talking to someone other than yourself, isn't it?  For the next two weeks, every night, I asked all sorts of questions about the old days in Botswana, her family, her likes, dislikes, stories to be told---just like I used to ask my own grandma!  There's nothing in the world like listening to grandma's tell old tales.  It's like being glued to an old classic movie!  My quest is conquered, I formed that special bond with grandma, yet when I would come home from a long day at training, she would be sitting outside by the door, just waiting to stare at me!  God I hate that stare---especially since I know there's someone home now.

Over a week ago, grandma left to live with her other daughter for 2 months---it's 2 months here, and 2 months there.  I was devastated!  How could they do this me--take away my grandma?  What about our bonding sessions?  I was almost in tears, and when she left she just gave me that old knowing stare.  There was such a void here.  My astute mom saw how upset I was so she picked me up from training the other day to take me for a visit to grandma's. Off to grandma's, yay!  You should have seen her light up, as I did, when we saw each other.  She took my hand, held it, stared at me of course, and then we began to chat via translation---just like old times!  The day is ending, I tell her I will come again to visit, and she turns to me and says "if I'm not dead yet," just like my own grandma used to do.  This old woman then took my hand and told me that I am blessed!  I'm not sure why she said that, but I sure am glad I have a grandma to go to when I need someone to talk to!

On a side note, it's funny that we got our site placements today, and I was placed in Grandma's home village!  I guess the ties are stronger than I think!  Now I can interrogate the elders of my new village and ask about my grandma!  I can't wait!

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Lynne it looks like you are having a blast. What a change of lifestyle. Keep up with the posting and the pictures as I have my kids(your cousins) following your life in Africa.
    Love Mark, jodi jess and Amanda