Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color

Other Genes

Granny and Dad

Granny and Grandpa lived in the U.K., whereas we lived in Switzerland, and then Israel. We saw each other rarely, every few years. I chrished the little time I spent with Granny–she radiated so much warmth and love.

I can’t say the same about grandpa. He radiated no warmth and I felt no kinship with him.I want to believe he loved me, in his own way, but it was hard to tell.

Granny wasn’t happy in her marriage. Even as a young child I sensed it. Her behavior when Grandpa was there was so very different from when he was not. It was as if she felt free to be herself when he wasn’t around.

Granny was a story teller and her stories mesmerized me. A few years ago, Dad gave me one of her notebooks, where she wrote about her adventures. Were her genes responsible for the writer in me?

When I was a teenager, Dad marveled at how much I looked like her. I was thrilled. I knew how much he loved her. Mum believed that our resemblance was one of the reasons Dad and I were so close.

A few days after my second surgery, Dad sent me a poem he wrote about her. It breathed love, for Granny and for me.

“Your grandmother was 30 when I was conceived.
By the time I was born she was married and Jewish
(Moses Gaster was a wise and learned Rabbi).
How did it happen? While ‘motoring’ in the country?
(She loved the country, he liked to drive.)

She always jumped from one life to the next
And told us her stories when we were just kids.
A teenager in Cornwall, her first, unrequited love,
Running away to play at being a French teacher,
Surviving on porridge at Liverpool Training College.

She taught ballroom dancing at Elsa Wells’ school,.
Your grandfather was one of her pupils.
In the States she found some real independence,
Then lost it when grandpa met us at Euston.
Found friends once more, with theatre and horses.

Her warmth and compassion made her good friends,
She loved to read and knew to write letters.
(So little is left in her strong, spiky script,
So few of her books survive on Mike’s shelves.)
You two seem so similar, in so many ways.”