Becoming our grandparents isn’t for chickens; and we need the eggs l Off Kilter

By Michael Gold | May 08, 2019

Michael Gold, a self-described “gadfly” who lived on the East Coast before moving to Mill Creek, then the Picnic Point area, is a serial entrepreneur who combines his East Coast/Left Coast perspectives to offer an “Off-Kilter” look at our world.

Grandparents: Hopefully, most of those reading this can recall their grandparents. The other day I was reflecting on one of Woody Allen’s constant themes. It is present in every one of his movies. Basically, that life is short (I think he is terrified of death – which he elaborates on fully in his greatest film “Annie Hall.”) and that it is also totally messy without the happy endings that most of us would wish for.

Now that we are grandparents, I got to thinking back on my own. My father’s parents died when I was quite young – so, unfortunately, I have few memories of them. However, my mother’s mother lived to 95, and my mother’s father lived to about 75, so I do recall quite a bit about them. I have no bad memories about either of them.

They had, between their children (including my mother) just on my grandmother’s side, six grandchildren including me. I know little of my paternal grandfather’s family – as many of them didn’t survive WWII. But if you wanted to see joie de vivre (that’s French for the joy of living – for those heathens who don’t speak any French – which you should) my grandmother was the personification of it.

Let me start with cooking. I’ll bet every one of you would claim that your grandmother was the “best cook on the planet.” Well, sorry folks, but my grandmother was the best. No room for discussion here. Her specialty was Hungarian cooking (she was born in Hungary – came to the U.S. about 1896 at about 6 years of age).

Whenever I think of my grandmother’s journey and the country she left behind, I think of a segment of a Seinfeld show. Jerry Seinfeld reflecting on his grandmother's pony. He wonders why that generation would come here if they all had ponies in the old country – good question. As far as I can recall, her mother came over here with her – along with her mother’s sister – at least one of them.

But wow, could she cook. Every time I arrived at her home, you could smell kapusta-hungarian-stuffed-cabbage, Apple Strudel, and something (in Hungarian) called Foorgoshfonk (that’s a phonetic spelling), which was just deep-fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar and “white cookies.” Those had a hint of anise – which made that cookie. The apple strudel was amazing. It took her three days to make the wafer thin crust. If you arrived mid-cooking cycle, the crust would be spread all over the house on every horizontal surface. To this day, my wife cannot spend the time to reproduce grandma’s techniques.

Next, sharing. Grandma would share whatever she had with all the grandchildren. If she had 30 cents, we would each get 10 cents or so. If she had 3 cookies, we each got half a cookie. It was not done with precision, just with caring.

Driving: Grandma didn’t drive. But Grandpa did. All of us cousins still laugh at his driving antics. Everyone else on the road was either a moron or blind. And he would scream out loud at them. Of course, with closed car windows, no one but us kids could hear him. I can’t repeat the exact language he used, but he used expressions that, today, are not politically correct. Mostly about the heritage of any other driver.

Grandpa lost part of one lower leg to diabetes. Yet he still managed, somehow, to drive for another year or so – on a stick-shift car. That car, a 1948 Plymouth, stayed in the family for another 20 years, and is the car I learned to drive a stick shift on.

Grandparents today: I can’t recall either of my grandparents ever attending any of my many school events. Yet my wife and I manage to attend every school play, many athletic events (swimming, I was there when they learned to ride a two wheeler sans training wheels, dancing and choir recitals, on and on.)

My grandma did attend my undergraduate and one of my graduate degree ceremonies. She was so proud. Our generation was the first to actually go to college (all my cousins and me).

Every time I write or think about this, I can hear the song from “Fiddler on the Roof” playing in my head: “Sunrise, Sunset.” As one of my cousins said at the Eulogy of the first of our generation to pass:

“We’re the next ones up to go.” But you know what? There is a certain amount of melancholy about growing older, but I wouldn’t swap any of the years. I love Woody Allen’s lines at the end of “Annie Hall.” He has just left having lunch with Annie and is reminiscing about life. He says, “My brother thinks he is a chicken.” A friend asks, “Why not turn him in?” He says, “I need the eggs.”

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