Updated: Sep 19, 2021
When we first came to this country from Russia in the mid-80s, my grandmother was a 60-something, spry widow open to romance. She was a balabusta, of course, but also full of energy and still attractive. My grandfather had died shortly after returning home from WWII and though my grandmother had a number of relationships in Russia, none of them stuck. So my grandmother decided to try her luck at love again in America. Much to my then pre-pubescent surprise, she had many suitors.
There was one gentleman my entire family liked the most. Mr. Rappaport was kind and generous and also a widower. Despite the language difficulties, Mr. Rappaport seemed completely enamored with my grandmother and proposed they marry. He had two things going against him; he was in his 80’s and very wealthy. After a lifetime of struggling financially, my grandmother was comfortable living a modest, unencumbered life. Mr. Rappaport had a large family and his children did not look kindly at him marrying at such an advanced age. They didn’t seem to appreciate the need for companionship that their father still had. Many children feel entitled to their parents’ attention and wealth. Maybe it’s because I don’t stand to inherit anything from my parents, but this entitlement has always felt strange to me.
My grandmother was not interested in Mr. Rappaport's money or the sure-to-follow family strife to safeguard it against her. In the end though, when I asked her why she didn’t marry Mr. Rappaport, she looked away and thought for a minute and said that she didn’t want to have to wash someone else’s socks. A lifetime of loneliness and hardship was no match to the burden of having to take care of someone else.