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Sharing a bedroom with a grandmother wasn't always my worst nightmare. When I was 9 and Grandma Ida moved into our small home after Grandpa Mike died, I hugged Mom when she asked me, "How would you like to share your room with Grandma Ida?"

When you're 9, grandparents are your best friends. They give you things. They warm your heart. You tell them your secrets. They share theirs with you.

In the confines of our room, Grandma Ida taught me Yiddish slang for the human anatomy and handy off-color but colorful Yiddish phrases.

In exchange, I taught her and we laughed about a "dirty" word or two and my favorite songs of the day. She especially enjoyed "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Remembering her sing-songy old-world accent still makes me smile. Imagine:

Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier …


… weeoh aweem away … weeoh aweem away …

In the jungle, the mighty jungle

The lion sleeps tonight …

Many nights in our darkness, she loved sharing gossipy tales about her teachers, classmates and sweethearts. She told tales about her seven brothers and sisters — who was the trickster, the smartest, prettiest, most rebellious and bravest; how the girls shared one bedroom and the boys slept in the barn under hay; how at 15, only she wanted to leave home, and did; how she never heard from her brothers and sisters, mother and father, relatives, teachers, friends … "after the Nazis came." I think most of all, she enjoyed describing (many times over) and in marvelous detail how she and "your zeyde Mike" met and fell in love on the ship from Liverpool to America.

Every night in our bedroom, this was her ritual: First, a memory or two; then, with G.G., our golden retriever, curled up on the throw rug next to her bed (never mine), she'd pat her head and whisper, "Gut nakhit, zis medyl" (good night, sweet girl). Finally, before she switched off her tiny lamp, she'd kiss a small framed photo of her and Grandpa Mike. This was a lovely way for a young boy to fall asleep.

Until I turned 13, when overnight it seemed, everything changed.

How resentful I became that my Madras shirts, dress-up clothes, clamdiggers and baseball uniform hung next to her fancy dresses, flowery old-fogey dusters, shawls and bathrobe. That my pajama and underwear drawer hovered too closely above hers filled with frumpy nightgowns and unmentionables.

How on top that dresser my Brylcreem, English Leather and pHisoHex mingled with her medicines, perfume atomizer, hair spray, rouge, hairnets and grandma-looking baubles.

How cutouts of my sports heroes and heartthrobs were Scotch-taped on one narrow wall behind my bed; yet, Grandma Ida's walls remained boring blank, because like Mom said, "That's her choice. It's her room, too."

I complained — a lot. But that stopped when Mom had enough. With tears and a shaky voice (one I'll never forget), she let me have it.

"You're here because of her. Be thankful for that."

At one Thanksgiving dinner, my 13th and Grandma Ida's last, I'm sitting across the table from her. She looks prim, proper and miniature-like in her purple holiday dress and paisley shawl. Mom interrupts our meal and announces a new family tradition; that beginning tonight each of us will name one thing we're thankful for. A few of us youngsters roll our eyes, but we contribute anyway with a predictable thank-you-fors. You know the ones.

Then it's Grandma Ida's turn.

"Dank tsuy got Ikh gelebt."

Mom looks straight at me and translates:

"Thanks to God I lived."

The following spring, my parents had to move Grandma Ida into a "home for the aged," as we called it back then.

I had the bedroom to myself now. But it wasn't as liberating as I thought it would be. At bedtime I missed her stories, her "Gut nakht zis medyl" to G.G. and how she'd kiss the photograph of her and Grandpa Mike just before turning off her tiny lamp.

I was 13. But I wanted my Grandma Ida back.

When she passed away, Mom gifted me her steamer trunk and that framed photograph of her and Grandpa Mike. I look at it off and on but always at Thanksgiving — to remind me that thanks to Grandma Ida, I am here.

Dick Schwartz lives in Minneapolis.