My grandparents on my father’s side of my family were Jewish and Holocaust survivors. (That’s them, pictured above, on the day of their wedding.) My grandfather was originally from Germany – my grandmother was from Romania. And as traumatic as their individual experiences were during WWII (particularly for my grandma – who had been imprisoned in Auschwitz), the reality is that I wouldn’t exist if history had played out any other way.
You see, they went to separate concentration camps; and it wasn’t until they were finally liberated and sent to the same hospital in Sweden, that they were able to meet and fall in love. I’m thankful that they were strong enough to survive the war and find one another, despite the cost of whom they lost along their journey.
My mother’s parents were a contrast, culturally. For one thing, they weren’t Jewish. And they had been born and raised in America, versus growing up as Eastern Europeans and immigrating to the US. I had a really special connection with my American grandmother, whom I called “Grandma Ohio” or “Grandma ‘Hio”. (The nickname originated, when I was little. It started with some song she’d always serenade me with, that had “Ohio, Ohio!” in the lyrics.)
My Grandma ‘Hio showed me the value of world-history, as she was insanely interested in things like Egyptology and England’s royal family-tree. A gifted fine-artist, she passed her creativity down to me like the passing of the Olympic torch. And finally, she taught me that traveling the world is one of life’s most exhilarating experiences.
It was after Grandma ‘Hio passed away, in the Spring of 2006 – that I learned she never truly had the opportunity to travel. She went to London, sometime in the 1970’s; and that was the only time she went anywhere, in her entire lifetime. Perhaps she was so grateful for the blessings in her life, that it masked her life’s regrets? (I’ll never know.)
Below is an item that she’d bought from “Dickens Old Curiosity Shop”, through her only voyage across the Atlantic. It’s one of my most cherished keepsakes – and it serves an important reminder:
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.