cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

Today marks 10 years since my grandmother passed away. I had always told her I expected her to live to be 100, and she came darn close at 98, so I will round it up, and call it achieved. I spent a chunk of time rifling through what photos I had of her, honestly not too many.

On 1 1994 visit home to Baltimore, I had sat her down in front of a cassette recorder, doing what I enjoyed, asking her to tell me stories of her life. She was the sixth of seven children growing up pretty poor in Newark New Jersey.

Recording Grandma's stories, July 1994

Recording Grandma’s stories, July 1994

Perhaps my favorite photo was done with film in 1986, when I was taking a black and white photography class at the University of Delaware, catching her in mid sentence… she always had a point to make (probably much to my mother’s chagrin).

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

She was rather energetic for a grandmother, speeding around in her red Rambler. Look, she wore me out! I think this photo was from a birthday trip to Williamsburg PA, mid 1970s.


I never knew her husband, my grandfather, for whom I am named after– Abraham Levine died before I was born. Sometime when I was living in Arizona, in one of her many letters, she sent a picture of her and my grandfather (the date on the back says 1942) and she had attached a then recent picture of her


On the back she wrote “this year, New Year’s Eve”. It says something how we do not think much of our future documentation issues, as I can only guess what year this was (guessing late 1980s).

Here she is in the home I was born into but do not remember since we moved when I was two, this photo is stamped 1955


I love the old school TV, and in the back I think that is my Dad looking for an album to put on the old time record player on the right. That chair she is sitting in was in our basement of the family house I grew up in, and I ended up taking them to my first post college apartment (and later destroying).


This 1988 photo with Dad and Grandma would be at my sister’s house, my first trip home after moving to Arizona. She must have been talking about him ;-)

A year later, and here she is with my nieces, who are now in their late 20s. She may have wanted a hug.


In 1992, I must have mailed her a stuffed pet as a holiday gift (she always asked after my dogs…)


A much later photo, she is physically frail, but I can tell from her expression she is about to share an opinion!

grandma-late 1990s

I knew she played piano, and now that I think about it, I do not think I ever heard her play- this photo would have been at her apartment in the common area. I do recall her telling me how excited it was for her to find she could still play songs from memory


She was definitely not happy when the family made that decision to put her into a care facility. She was so damned proud of her independence


I have more in my memory, though fragmented, that are not in photos. Her apartment in Warren Park, the trips with her to see a Colts game at Memorial Stadium, her funny bathing caps she wore in the ocean, how she would swim way out in the surf with me and showed me how to jump waves, eating steamed crabs, her split pea soup I loved (and how she mailed me her recipe and her old soup pot when I moved to Arizona), the stories of her travels in the 1950s and 1960s, how she drove fast never wanted anyone to be stuck behind her complaining about a slow driving old lady.

But I find more gaps then memories. I guess what I can feel is her never ending demonstrations of interest in me and love and how she just made me feel like the most important person in the world. I wonder if that kind of grandmother has gone out of fashion, I hope not.

I’ll save one more from another visit back to Baltimore, guessing from my hair, the first time I grew it out, this might be 1996. She loved attention, and I loved giving it to her. This is when I would tease her about how she had to live to be 100, and I would call her “Granny” so she could say, “I’m not old”


I still have a lot of that audio I recorded with her in 1994. I sat down tonight, thinking I would pick up another chapter, spending 2 hours doing a video edit– and then realizing I had already done this segment when I did the first video 4 years ago. Instead, I took that old video and put it on YouTube to make it easier to play. I did this 4 years ago, and still have doing the rest on my todo list.

These were the stories I loved, what live was like for her in the first decade of the 20th century, how they never were sure what her birthday was, and the ones about her father, the chess champion.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

As soon as I hear her sing song voice, more comes rushing back. Here’s to you Granny, your spirit lives with me.

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Thank you, Alan for sharing your grandmother’s stories and your stories. These sharing of the moments in your life make me want to respond to your post with my words, memories held up before me saying, “No! No! No! Such loving grandparents are NOT gone!” I read about them from friends we share, and better, watching my own Dad dance with his teenaged granddaughter. Because she is his world.

    Alan, I value the way living, telling, reliving and retelling our stories helps us all come to understand the beauty, connectedness and resonance of storying. As Thomas King writes, stories matter.

    Thank, thank you.

  2. Great memories! I remember her as being very opinionated and strong willed. I never really understood the difficulties between her and our parents but I will always remember how good she was to me. I visited her weekly for 5 years when she was in the nursing home and she was still sharp even in her last days. I prefer to remember her delicious cooking, vicious Scrabble playing and zest for life. She and aunt Florence were such a hoot together. I know you keep an eye on the family calendar and I appreciate the reminders. I didn’t know it was the 10 year anniversary of her death but I had such a vivid dream about her last night. Isn’t that strange and wonderful?!

  3. Great memories of our grandmother, Alan! I too thought of her as I lot the memorial candle last night. She love going to the Orioles games with us. I know she smiles whenever a home run is hit! She loved listening to games on the radio. I would take her shopping once a week and later take my children to visit her every Sunday in the nursing home. She loved going out. I can’ see an apple pie without thinking of her. She would be so proud that her great granddaughters make great pie crusts! I’ll never forget Harriet and I traveling to Florida in the winter to visit her and aunt Florence. Those two played a mean game of scrabble! Sure miss debating the issues of the day with her!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *