Even at 90 years of age, my grandmother Lotus loved nothing more than leaving her mid-town Manhattan studio apartment in the middle of the day to make the trek downtown to do her meat, fish and vegetable shopping for the week. She found the best prices at the small shops located throughout Chinatown. She also found joy in hopping onto a crowded New York City bus, watching people out the window as the bus navigated its way through city traffic jams, and then weaving her way through throngs of pedestrians on the bustling sidewalks.
Now that she is 97 years old, Lotus prides herself more than anything else on being fiercely independent. She emigrated by herself from Germany to the U.S. when she was still a teenager. With few resources and even fewer connections, she was able to secure various jobs before establishing a career in the pattern business. She got married (and divorced) in New Orleans, gave birth to my Mom in 1943, and ultimately moved to New York City in the late 1960s to be closer to my parents. For 45 years, Lotus lived and thrived by herself in her cozy mid-town studio apartment, and drew energy from all of the chaos, crowding and vitality the city had to offer.
My grandmother was not ready to give up her independence when it was time for her to move into an assisted living facility in early 2012. Though her health was generally good, it was no longer safe for her to live alone. Still, she didn’t want to leave her home or her city. It was no surprise then that she dealt with feelings of anger, depression, anxiety and fear after making the move to her new home in a NYC suburb.
I’m incredibly grateful for the fact that I’m still able to visit and spend time with my grandmother. These visits mean everything to her, and to me. We share meals together, recall great family memories, talk about what’s going on in the news, and discuss baseball. While she’s grown more comfortable in her environment over the past 2 ½ years, she still struggles.
These visits are made all the more special now that I have two daughters, ages 2 and 1, who join us for every visit. For all that my grandmother has done for me and taught me over the years, it’s heartwarming to give to her the gift of time and memories with her beloved great-granddaughters.
It’s impossible to explain the impact these little girls have had on her – and on some of the other elderly people living in the community. My grandmother simply lights up when she sees my daughters, and her spirits are lifted when my girls run, jump, crawl and sing their way around her apartment and the community dining room. These experiences are priceless and we enjoy every single moment together.
On this Grandparents Day, I’m so proud to be able to give my grandmother the gift of family and the fulfillment that comes with the love of her great grandchildren.
Cory Stern is currently HR Director for the North America Customer & Logistics Services (CLS) organization which is part of the enterprise Supply Chain function. He has a wife and two children.