Truth by Jennie Rosenbaum
Today is my Granny’s Birthday.
Granny and I were always very very close. I credit my love of art and my abilities to her. she started me on the basics of drawing what I actually see- not what I want to see. on looking at works and seeing more, and on creating art and wanting more from the works that I do. she pushed me to excel. she critiqued my child’s hand, not as a grandmother to her grandchild but as a genuine art critique. and she did it in such a way as to make me want to improve with every piece. The day she finally complimented a painting and told me it was brilliant was one of the happiest moments of my life.
Granny and I would spend weeks together in her studio sculpting and drawing. she was a bronze sculptor- originally of horses. but later branched out into painting and abstract sculpture. I’m lucky enough to own one of her bronzes.
Granny is impossible to describe. she was one of the most vital, energetic, creative, spontaneous people I have ever known. ever since I was tiny I knew I wanted to grow up to be just like her. she and I once had an hour long conversation on the use of the word ‘shat’ as past tense for the word ‘shit’. she taught me French as a baby like she taught her dogs. she schooled me so that my first words were ‘hippopotamus’, ‘rhinoceros’ and ‘sha na na’. Granny would argue for hours on any topic- she would just pick a side of a debate and go for it. the end result never mattered, just the joy of the debate itself. she cheated at cards when there was chocolate on the line. She was an artist to her bones.
Unfortunately the woman I know as my Granny is no longer here. Altzheimers is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. for someone as brilliant, as alive as she was to slowly lose herself over years is beyond cruel. My mother has recommended that I not see her, so that my memories will remain intact. sometimes I wonder if that is so that at least one of us will have strong uncorrupted memories of the wonderful woman that was. I wrote to her for a while, I sent her pictures of my works. while she still remembered me she was immensely proud of my career.
I love you Granny. Happy Birthday. you may not remember me anymore but I will always remember you and everything you taught me.
2 thoughts on “Remembering what is and was”
Jennie, I lost my own granny to Alzheimer’s much as you’re losing yours now. It’s a cruel, terrible disease indeed. It’s devastating to see someone you once knew as a bright, smart, creative person (my grandmother was a teacher, and sometime artist) slowly replaced with someone who seems quite the opposite. You want to believe that person is still there, buried beneath the forgetfulness that Alzheimer’s wreaks, but the evidence just becomes more and more persuasive that she’s not coming back. It’s a terrible pain for a family to go through; it was very hard on mine and it’s clearly no better for yours. My heart goes out to you.
I try to look on the good side: I shared 30+ years and lots of memories with my grandmother before she finally turned the corner, and my parents have fully embraced my stepdaughter as a grandchild – I hope they’ll have many fun years together, too.
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