The spring he turned 11, my husband’s parents asked his grandmother to watch him when they left for a sunny Florida vacation.
That first afternoon-as he did every day-Ron played ball in his Brooklyn schoolyard with a dozen other preadolescent boys. Suddenly, Gram appeared behind the chain-link fence and, to his horror, presented him with hot chocolate.
Humiliation swept over him. Hiding behind an air of nonchalance, he turned his back and dribbled the ball to the farthest end of the yard and shot two successive hoops.
Undeterred, Gram proceeded to call over to him, using the Eastern European form of nicknaming the children: “Ronchkinyoo, what vegetable do you want for dinner on Thursday?”
The dinner menu for four days hence was the last thing on Ron’s mind, as remote as his chance of ever kissing Ellen Goldberg.
But while Ronchkinyoo was ready to swear to his snickering friends that he had never met this crazed woman who pretended to know him, 40 years later Gram’s memory brings a smile to his lips. His eyes moisten with pleasure when he reminisces about that special woman who nurtured him with boundless devotion.
That question “Ronchkinyoo, what vegetable do you want for dinner on Thursday?” had, in time, distilled into a legacy, for Ron became a cross between being a grandma hen and the manager who plans ahead.
“We’ll need to get Jonathan a new winter coat,” Ron says when our son’s school breaks for the summer. “Do you want a window seat or an aisle when we go to the Bahamas?” he asks when he calls me at my office five months before the trip.
The last-minute person in me often lets out a deep sigh of exasperation at this foresightedness. But on a snow-filled Sunday, when I’m ready to say “no more” to long-term planning, Gram’s nurturing shadow reappears.
I have risen early. Six hours later I am still punching the keyboard when Ron shows up with a lunch plate of mixed green salad and blue cheese dressing, the way I like it. “You should eat something,” he says and kisses the top of my head.
I raise my eyes from the blaring screen, my heart overflowing at the tenderness of his nurturing. And I think of his Gram, who taught him all those years ago about loving and giving.
Talia Carner is the award-winning author of suspense novels Puppet Child and China Doll and the upcoming historical novel Jerusalem Maiden, which are inspired by social issues.
To see Talia Carner’s speech “New World Women,” delivered at the International Business and Professional Women gala dinner on the anniversary of 9/11, click here.