Many of the posts I share in this blog relate directly to dance, healing, healthy sexuality, and transformational rituals. At the root of these is a great awe for life and a love for people. Nobody has inspired this awe and love more deeply in me than my grandma. She is one of the main reasons I spent 15 years in New York City and I want to share this with you, having just visited her at the age of 96 and not knowing if I’ll see her again. (Written during Yom Kipur, the time of year when the veil between the worlds of life and death thins.)
This afternoon as my plane ascended I got a glimpse of NYC from heaven…
While visiting midtown Manhattan with Grandma I was tickled by how much she LOVES people. She waved, her smile beaming, “Hello Mistah,” waving her whole hand from the wrist. Purple nails, red hair, blue rimmed sunglasses (over her reading glasses.) She tilts her head back, “I’m going incognito.” “Barely!” my aunt chuckles.
She can’t go three minutes without exclaiming, “Isn’t it beautiful here?!” We drive down Fifth Ave. The sidewalks are packed and bustling. “Look at all the people, nobody’s hurting each other, nobody’s hating each other. We don’t need policemen or soldiers…Isn’t it beautiful here?!”
We had come to say goodbye, bringing Grandma to the love of her life, Manhattan, the city that would never die, not even sleep. And she waived all day, but it wasn’t a goodbye… “Hello Mistah.”
Grandma is already in heaven right here on 42nd st and Fifth Ave. She’s innocent and mischievous. She seems both older and younger that everyone we pass. And she’s so delighted they are here.
She loves the buildings because people made them. She loves the traffic because so many people have come to this place everyone wants to be. “I’m so happy I could die right here on this block!” My aunt says, “at least wait til I part the car.” I can’t tell if Grandma knows this is her last visit to the city. We are her caravan of angels today taking her to visit one of her last living friends this morning, and now to lunch at the Bryant Park Grill.
“No, dying is too expensive in the city,” she says. “Yeah, let’s just go for lunch Grandma,” I say. “Oh look at the trees in Central Park. They’re older than me, they’re so tall,” she says. I ask if she wants us to bury her ashes in Central Park. “Or Bloommingdales,” my aunt chimes in from the driver’s seat. “Bergdorf Goodman!” Grandma names the big stores along Fifth Ave. Yes, we can sprinkle your ashes in all these places.
It feels like Grandma already owns the city. There’s nothing like a woman on her land who will soon be returning to it. Grandma belongs. She belongs in the ritzy stores. She belongs at the protests in the street. She belongs in the communist bookstores. She belongs in the 4th grade classrooms “teaching tolerance,” and she belongs at City College auditing political classes. Grandma taught me to belong to a world of abundance and a world of the working class. She belongs right here with us and she belongs in heaven with Seymore, her beloved husband. And this afternoon Grandma has made New York City and heaven become the same place.