Eighteen years ago last week, I met her. Bruce insisted that we visit Chicago on our honeymoon so I could meet Grandpa Hy and Grandma Babs Mizruchy, his honorary Jewish grandparents. Bruce became “part of the family” when he worked with Grandpa Hy and Grandma Babs’ daughter, Marlene. She invited him home for Thanksgiving and Bruce was welcomed into this very Jewish family. Can you be “very” Jewish? I would like to ask Grandma Babs that.


I instantly fell in love with both of them, but especially Grandma Babs. We were what you call kindred spirits. She seemed to be amazed by me, and I certainly was amazed by her. And, Gpa Hy had a way of asking penetrating, thought-provoking questions that reminded me so much of Grandpa McKnight. I actually remember thinking, this feels very much like being at Grandma and Grandpa McKnight’s house. (They were my “very” Baptist grandparents.) It was love at first sight.


For the first four years of our marriage our trips home always led through Nebraska so we could see Grandma Jones. But, then in October of 2009 both Grandma Jones and Grandpa Hy died. Both the same week.


So, we decided that we would switch our route so that either coming, or going, we would travel through Chicago. We could stay with our friend-like-a-sister Rita, and visit Grandma Babs. I believe we’ve seen her every year since then, at least once. (Except during Covid.)  During the years after Daddy’s stroke, it was sometimes more often.


Now, Grandma Babs wasn’t young. On her last birthday, she was 104. Yes, 104. And with the help of live-in caregivers, she was still in her own home, still answering our phone calls. Last November we stopped by, just for a couple of minutes to give her a hug and some applesauce cake. She always wanted Bruce’s applesauce cake, and it would not do to think of leaving out the raisins or nuts. “I want all of it, all that I can get,” she would say.


Over the years, Grandma Babs shared stories of her ancestors. They came from Russia during some of the pograms. Her parents came as young people. Some of her mother’s family went to Canada, some to Mexico, and some to Chicago. It just depended on which country would let them in. She told of her mother writing letters for people to send home to Russia, because they couldn’t write. She told of her parent’s lives, her life as a child, her life with Grandpa Hy (over 70 years), and her thoughts on the world today.


I learned so much about overcoming the ups and downs of jobs, married life, tragedies, and life in general. I learned how to host a simple snack when company comes. I learned the importance of always showing interest in the lives of others. I learned how to treat those you are paying to care for you. And, I learned how to answer the question, “How are you doing?” Grandma Babs would say, “Accordingly. I am (states her age) after all.” She said she got that from her mother. I have adopted the answer. It fits no matter the situation.


In May we got word that Grandma Babs had passed. We are broken hearted. Grandma Babs was a lady. People would say she was “quite the lady,” but that doesn’t cover it. Grandma Babs was simply wonderful.


I recently picked up a middle-grade novel at the public library. It is titled A Sky Full of Song by Susan Lynn Meyer. The story is about a Jewish family that immigrates to North Dakota from Russia during the pograms to escape the persecution. It is mentioned in the book about those who settled in Chicago. My mind went right back to Grandma Babs’ stories. As I read the book I wished I could tell Grandma Babs about it. But, I can’t so I’m telling you. Read it.


I have been blessed in my life with many, many great examples of humor, human kindness, acceptance, love, grace, courage, and hard work. I am thankful that Grandma Babs was one of them. I will never, ever forget her.

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