Happy Birthday, Grandma Rose!

Grandma Rose portrait

It is Grandma Rose’s 85th birthday! And so I thought I’d take a moment to thank my mom for some of the big lessons I have learned from her.

Those of us who are parents know that our kids don’t learn near as much from what we say as what we do, how we act. As a “grown kid,” I’m no exception. I am quite sure Grandma Rose doesn’t even realize she has taught me some of the bigger things on the list.

And so here are my top 3 things I’ve learned from my mom, Grandma Rose. (You might as well go get some tissues now, Mom.)

Old Dogs and New Tricks
Every day I learn from my mom that learning happens for as long as we let it. And I’m not just talking about Grandma learning about Twitter!

When Rose graduated high school in 1939, she did what was expected – she became a secretary to help support the family, then married my dad, then had kids. But all that time, she longed to go to college.

It wasn’t until age 70 that Rose finally enrolled in our local community college, graduating at age 72.

From there, Rose has kept on learning, attending classes almost every day at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Arizona.

But the bigger thing is that she started teaching. First she tutored ESL students in conversational English. Then she taught blind people to knit. From there, she started not only attending classes at OLLI – she began teaching there as well.

And for the past few years, Rose has been helping to teach diagnosis and bedside manner to medical students, through a role-playing program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

Rose and the Ageless Hero Award

My mom didn’t do any of this when we were growing up. She was a wife and mother. She helped my dad out in his store, and was home by the time my brother and I got home from school.

My mom’s burning desire to learn and most importantly to teach all began after the age of 70. It’s why she won the 2006 Ageless Heroes Award for her “love of learning” (note in the photo – she had just won and was 100% deer-in-the-headlights shocked!)

Every time I wonder where my “just dive in and do it” comes from, I realize it is one of the lessons my mom has taught me – it is never too late to learn something entirely new (and yes, that includes Twitter!) or to start entirely over.

When my mom and dad were first married, they had a daughter, Susie. One June evening after dinner, my mom took Susie outside to play in the warm evening air. Susie ran into the street and…

After Susie’s death, my parents kept trying to have another baby. It wasn’t until they moved out of the Bronx and were preoccupied with fixing up their new house in the suburbs that I came along, followed by my brother.

It took until I was a mom myself to understand the full impact of something that had been just one of those unspoken things in our house.

First, I couldn’t imagine having the courage to keep living, to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Then I couldn’t imagine having the courage to have another baby – to take a chance on giving your heart to another child. And I couldn’t imagine having the courage to ever ever ever let us cross the street alone (still not easy for her, and I’m 51 years old!).

Every time I matter-of-factly and enthusiastically encourage my own daughter as she leaps into some new abyss (she’s 23, after all – the age for ongoing abyss-leaping!), I thank my mom for teaching me courage.

Rules? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rules!

Rose and Potholder (don't ask!)

Our house never operated from the same rule book as most other middle-American homes. We could discuss anything. We never presumed that any group of people was better than anyone else (except, of course, the Rubinsteins – my dad’s mom’s side of the family, who know as simple fact that they are the smartest people who have ever been alive – seriously). We laughed all the time. Fowl language was not shocking – ok, it was the norm (I didn’t know my mom’s mother well, but my dad’s mom swore like a 4’8″ Russian Jewish sailor to the day she died at age 93.)

I had no idea I had learned all that – that it wasn’t just how things are. But it was indeed “learned.” I learned to be open-minded, and to find life’s funny bone. I learned that family should be about joy. I learned that if there is a God, he or she also enjoys a good laugh (don’t even ask about the potholders at holiday time!).

So Happy Birthday, Grandma Rose. I look forward to our learning together and from each other. And I look forward to lots more laughing.

Please send your wishes to Grandma Rose in the comments below!

And as you look at the strong men and women who made you the person you are, are there lessons you learned from them, that they probably don’t even know they taught you?

24 Responses to Happy Birthday, Grandma Rose!

  1. Hi Grandma Rose! Happy happy happy birthday! You look lovely as ever. Whatever you’re doing-keep it up!

  2. Happy Birthday Grandma Rose! You give new meaning to being a life long learner. May the coming year bring you great joy and many new interests to pursue.

  3. Grandma Rose – Happy Happy Day and Many Many Days to come. A Tissue – I needed many – as I read Hildy’s “story” it brought back so many memories of my parents THANK YOU – I tweeted you – but still learning – hey can you “teach me how to tweet” – hope your day was wonderful and amazing and that you continue to learn something new every day.

    Happy Birthday and thank you so much for all you do – every minute helps to create a change or an idea, a change or an idea helps the community – and a community for all ages is what we hope to benefit from. Kristine

  4. Grandma Rose, Im guessing I know a good bit about you already… simply by virtue of my knowing Hildy. Have a great day, maybe even get away from Twitter for a few minutes:)

  5. Happy, Happy Birthday Rose! You are part of our lives and we are honored to share in your adventures. Thank you especially for my partner and your unwaivering encouragement and support while we change the world!

  6. Rose
    Your daughter and granddaughter are two extraordinary people. My wife and I have loved every moment we have spent with them. They could not be such wonderful women without excellent mothering and grandmothering. Best wishes on your birthday.

  7. Happy Birthday, Grandma Rose!

    Even without Hildy’s list of your wonderful accomplishments in learning and teaching, I would have known you were great given what your daughter is like.

    My Mom also became a secretary when she wanted to go to university, and I really wish she had resumed studies after surviving raising my brother and I. She was a whiz at theoretical math.

  8. “Ready or not, here comes Rose!” (Ethel Merman in “Gypsy” singing “Mama’s Turn”)

    Happy Birthday, Rose: Thanks to Hildy, everyone on the “Tapiocagang” listserv knows you and admires you.

    My husband, who turned 70 a few weeks ago, is also a lifelong learner. He earned his community college degree late in life and began teaching at the local Institute for Learning in Retirement this year (he teaches journaling). He adores teaching – and learning – from his students, most of whom are over the age of 80.

    Enjoy your day!

  9. Happy Birthday, Rose. I’m so grateful that I get Hildy and Lizzy — and now you — in my life! Many, many more years of health, joy, learning, family and life!

  10. Happy birthday, Grandma Rose!

    Reading this made me think of my grandmother, who passed away just a few years ago. She was born and raised in the Bronx, one of NINE children to a good immigrant Italian Catholic family. She began working in a garment factory at age 13 to help support her family. She never graduated school — despite the truant officer’s efforts — but she knew how to work and take care of her own family of two children. She worked well into her 70s and was a role model to me — you can’t get ahead in life without working hard. She was 90 when she passed away; she’d outlived all of her siblings.

    I miss her very much.

    I’m sure you mean as much to Hildy as my grandmother meant to me. Happy Birthday and many more!

  11. Happy Birthday, Grandma Rose. All of us who know Hildy feel like we know you, too! Enjoy your special day and best wishes in the coming years.

  12. (Where’s my tissues?)

    Grandma Rose, a very happy birthday to you. Will you be my Grandma too?

    By the way Rose, how about sharing a few really good stories about your daughter. You know, the good stuff! We are all ears! 🙂

  13. Holy Cow. Do we know each other that long? I sent a card. Isn’t that enough? Do I have to use my arthritic fingers to say’ “HAPPY BIRTHDAY ROSE” again? May we celebrate in another 15 years! Love, P and K

  14. Happy birthday Grandma Rose! I look forward to celebrating with you when you become Great Grandma Rose!

    Love Jeri

  15. Happy Happy Birthday Grandma Rose! I’m honored to know you, and count you among the inspiring women that I look up to in my life. I hope you had an absolutely wonderful birthday, and I can’t wait to hear about your next adventure!

    Miss you very much!

  16. Like most lifelong learners I’ve known (and I’ve known a lot of them), Rose is a teacher. She taught me sign language.

    When she arrives at the walking track where my partner Bob and I see her two or three times a week if we’re lucky, he’s often behind me somewhere chatting with friends as I continue on alone with my compulsive speed-walking (4 miles/day in 55-60 minutes).

    When I see Rose from a distance, she gestures with her hands and furrows her brow. Translation: “Where’s Bob?”

    I make a hand signal like a quacking duck; then thumb backwards. “He’s back there talking with friends who walk slowly.”

    Rose signals with a shrug, a sigh, and roll of the eyes: “Same-old, same-old.”

    I shrug, turn both hands outward, and shrug: “So whadda you gonna do?” (This is my favorite Rose expression!)

    Then we both giggle.

    After she puts her water bottle on the ledge, fires up her tape machine with a recorded book to listen to, and begins her own, fairly fast pace around the track, I slow down for a few laps to talk with her about her family (fabulous), her medical students (“One just asked me today if I was on birth control. Can you believe it?”), politics (“They’re all crooks, but isn’t Obama wonderful?”), and life in general (“So, whadda you gonna do?”).

    Then Bob joins us, and before long I speed off leaving them to solve the problems of the world.

  17. Rose,

    All I can say is that you are the Mother of my very best friend and you created one of the most loving, giving, creative, and positive individuals I have ever known. And that makes you a rather amazing woman. Happy Birthday Rose!

    Love Nanette (and Steve and Millie)

  18. To say that I was overwhelmed reading Hildy’s blog celebrating my 85th birthday is putting it mildly. And what a gift it was having people I have never had the privilege of meeting, sending me such warm wishes too.

    My heartfelt “Thank You” to every one of you. I hope we can all celebrate my birthday again next year.