Let me rephrase that question: who was the most important person in my life? That would be two people.
My Grandmother. She was always there for us and me growing up but especially for me near the end of her life. For some strange reason, we were no longer having the family Shabbos dinners at her house on Friday but I started coming there on Friday night alone and would spend the weekend. She was supportive and loving when my parents were critical and cruel. She gave me extra money knowing I would need it just for day-to-day activities and that my father would “forget” my allowance frequently. I was in college full-time and could not work and keep my grades up at the same time. It seemed I spent a number of hours doing homework each day besides going to school each day. I would go there Friday night, we would eat Shabbos Dinner together then I would go out with some “friends” I made in a 12 Step Program then come back to spend the rest of the weekend with her. The friends were soon gone, of course.
I would usually drive her to Synagogue on Saturday then she would let me use the car until I would pick her up. After that, we would come home for a sabbath nap then go up to my Great Aunt and Uncle’s home for a sabbath afternoon treat, usually pastry and tea. Then, when it grew dark we would either scramble something up to eat at home or go out to eat which was rare since she would not eat meat out and there were few choices in those days for meatless meals out. She would eat fish, however, and we could go to a cafeteria and she would always get fish, a cornmeal roll, and salad. I always got way more than that.
On Sunday, we would usually go out and do some kind of shopping at a mall or merely do errands. She was always buying me clothes even though I did not ask her for them. She saw I was literally in rags, being little more than an unofficial stepchild in my home. Sunday night I would go home to get ready for another school week but I always looked forward to Friday and getting away from my parents to get me through the week.
My Grandmother was an emigre from Russia only a few years before the Revolution. She came in Steerage with the rest of her family after the family farm burnt down. She spent hours after school learning English and never had an accent. Even my older Great Uncles accents were faint. She married late, a man 10 years older than herself. They had to struggle through the Depression. Even she went to work. They had to move home with my Great Grandmother. Later, when times were better, my Grandfather joined the Masons, which could be why I’m targetted. They were relatively prosperous in the post War years having a large home and a maid. Later, they moved out to be with our family to a much smaller house. I still pass by the house from time to time. After she was widowed, she moved into an apartment and that is when I stayed with her. I would sleep in the den on a sofa bed. I wish I could get those times back.
My Aunt. When I first went to stay the night at her house across town at age 8 I was fascinated at her old home in the not so nice side of town. It was full of clutter from times gone by. She did not own a washer and drier nor a car. She could barely walk due to a “tumor” that was removed in the 1950s. She as kind, very intelligent, and wise. I really loved her. I always went to stay with her when it get really hot at home. My grandmother would not let me stay long term as she was in an apartment and it could have jeopardized her lease. I had my own room at the front of the house while her room was in the back. She had an old fashioned kitchen with cupboards to the ceiling and a tub on feet.
She would tell stories of happier times gone by when all the brothers and sisters were at home and they would go out together on hikes. Her life was tough. As the eldest child, she had the lions share of housework growing up. She was pretty but never talked about any boyfriends she had. She had gone off to college way back in the 1930s but came back after a year. What happened was never explained but I think she ran into some not so nice people and her life was never the same after that. She came home and went to work to support her widowed mother who really put her to task in the home. She never married. She spent lots of money on her many nieces and nephews to make up for it even though her small government pension from the civil service did not cover much. She would take my family to fancy meals out. It was hard for her to get in and out of the car, especially after she needed a wheelchair, but she loved to go. She did not flinch, when at age 10 I ordered Steak Tartare and Cappuccino for dessert. I did not eat at that restaurant again until I went to a wedding reception (one of the few weddings I’ve attended) in the 1990s. It is one of the fanciest restaurants in town.
She put me up after I came back from running away from the hospital and put me up again after another run when I ATTEMPTED to go back to school for the last time before dropping out of HS. As younger kids, my sister and I would stay there together. I loved summers there with the porch swing and the grapes that grew by the side of the house. The house was cool despite the heat. Winters were fun there, too. Heat came out of weird vents in the floor. My cousins my sister and I were there during a family gathering once. We decided to go into my Uncles temporary bedroom to hang out and found a VERY INTERESTING book there. It was the Kama Sutra!!!! LOL It got very quiet as we looked at the VERY INTERESTING pictures. My aunt knew something was up. “What are you doing in there?” she asked. We fessed up. She just knew. The next time I came back, the book was gone.
My Grandmother and Aunt are long gone as is any semblance of a normal happy life for me. I think they both tried to make up for what my parents would not do for me.
P.S. God is person, so God is now the most important person in my life.