Tonight is Shira's seventh yahrzeit. You can read more about her here and here. I don't have anything to say about her yahrtzeit at the moment. If I think of something, I will post it when I do. Suffice it to say that I remember her and wish she were here with me.
This is also my first Chanukah without the presence of my maternal grandmother, a"h. Since my grandfather, a"h, passed away in February 2004, my aunt, sister, and I have taken turns lighting Chanukah candles with my grandmother, via phone.
It's been an important part of my Chanukah over the past three years. I have had many Jewish roommates over the years, but we don't have the same schedules or light together, so most nights, I light alone, in my room, whenever I get home (late), and I struggle to stay awake until they burn down, to minimize the fire hazard. I think it's safe to say that I miss celebrating Chanukah with my family. I'm sure that my grandmother loved lighting with us via phone, but I also loved it, since it gave me someone to light with. My aunt divvied up the nights. Because of my late schedule, I could sometimes arrange to be lighting at the same time as my grandmother, three time zones West. Other times, I would light earlier and just repeat the brachot, HaNeirot Halalu, and Maoz Tzur with my grandmother later. Once, I "lit" with my grandmother in the lobby of an apartment building, on my way to a Chanukah party. I never did it from the street, because the background noise of a Manhattan street would make it impossible. So, I am sad. This year, I will be lighting alone, without my grandmother.
Something else recently reminded me of my grandmother. I saw someone pushing an elderly man down the sidewalk in a wheelchair. Based on their age difference and their mannerism, they seemed to be a grandson and grandfather. I realized, with a pang, that I would never push my grandmother in her wheelchair again. There is something so...gratifying, I guess, about doing something for someone who has done so much for you. Someone who took care of you when you were small, who cooked for you and pushed you in a baby carriage. At some point, they need you to do those things for them. And you do them willingly, happily, and with gratitude that you can finally repay some of their kindness in some small way. Also, there was something nice about the challenge of trying to minimize bumps and push the wheelchair straight even when the road was slanted. (I pushed her to and/or from seders a few times, and we usually went in the bike lane, since it was a lot less bumpy than the sidewalk. And it was late at night, on a weeknight, in a suburb. The streets were empty.)
I went to the doctor today, and, in the waiting room, I observed an elderly gentleman, who I overheard was a year younger than my grandfather would have been, had he not died in 2004. He was wearing jeans and a fleece jacket. Something about the way they loosely hung on him reminded me of my grandfather's overalls. He also had a sort of Midwestern twang. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather in December 2003, when he was sick and knew he was dying. I brought him beeswax candles, because he had once told me that he liked the smell, but cancer had already robbed him of his sense of smell by then.
My maternal grandparents used to come visit us twice a year: December vacation and Pesach. December vacation started on December 26 at my Jewish day school, and it sometimes overlapped with Chanukah. These visits continued until my grandmother, who had MS, could no longer make the cross-country flight. I never stopped associating my grandparents with Chanukah, snow, and buying Christmas chocolates and cookies on sale on December 26. In college, I used to visit my grandparents in California over my winter break, which also sometimes coincided with Chanukah. I would come with my own battered tin chanukiah, and set up shop in front of their kitchen window. The candles reflected in the plate glass (which once broke because it got too hot from the candles), and beyond them, I could see their neighbors' window. The Satos. I learned to ride a bike in their driveway and my grandparents' driveway, which abutted each other.
Sigh... Happy Chanukah!