In the newspaper business, it’s important to have thick skin. I’m pretty sure that’s a universally accepted truth. It’s a generally thankless career, and knowing how to stay motivated is integral to staying on top of the nonstop stream of Twitter updates, press releases and public meetings.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to value the opinions of others, especially in a career where the evaluation of your work takes place in such a public way. And while there are plenty of people throughout the north side who provide constant appraisals of Tucson Local Media, there’s been little feedback I’ve received thus far as valuable to me as that of my grandmother, Carole.
A lifelong reader with a passion for words, she was always more than willing to provide a bit of constructive criticism alongside the compliments it seems only a grandparent can bestow. Picking up a new copy of the paper every Wednesday has always excited me, but the true joy came from handing a copy off to my grandmother.
My own passion for writing stems from my younger days spent in her care while my parents were out working. I was originally resistant to reading, and it wasn’t until my grandmother read “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” to me that a spark ignited, and a lifelong journey through the world of fantasy began. When I stumbled through high school, she was the first in line to remind me that I had a passion for something, and to stick with it. In college, we found a common love of literature.
There was no one more proud than she was to see me start my journey here at the paper. Since my first edition as a staff member—July 29, 2015—she’s read every single one. That is, until last month.
In the May 8 edition we featured news on our recent successes at the Arizona Press Club Awards, biotechnology and aviation programs for local teenagers, a Marana teen who partook in a Major League Baseball training camp and plenty more.
It would be the last she ever read.
A few days after that paper hit the streets it became clear that after nearly three decades of battling a variety of cancers, her health was deteriorating, and the end would be coming to greet us before long. It was a difficult moment in a series of similarly difficult moments our family dealt with this year, and it was by no means the end of the pain.
We each said goodbye in our own ways over the following weeks, including friends and family from across the country, paying a last token of love and affection to a woman who gave so much of herself for more than 75 years.
Born Carole Lynn Wintner in the Bronx on Tuesday, May 25, 1943, the story goes that when my great grandmother was giving birth, the nurses tried to push the baby back in. They were on shift change and didn’t want to be bothered with a delivery just then and there.
“That’s my birth story, and I’m sticking to it,” my grandmother once told me.
However it happened, Louis and Gertrude Wintner took home their baby girl a few days later, the younger of two daughters, to live in New York City. Her mother was a well-known secretary and stenographer, and her father worked for Meyer “Brownie” Brownstein, Inc. in Manhattan, selling furniture. The two star-crossed lovers eloped after knowing one another for a year, and it was by all accounts a normal family life as they raised their two girls.
Weeks before she passed, my grandmother recalled her father’s beautiful tenor voice, and how he would often sing to his daughters about how much he loved their mother and tell them stories. One of his favorites, an almost daily occurrence, was a rendition of Al Jolson’s “The Anniversary Song.”
“Their story is a real love story,” she said.
Her father tragically passed away while she was still young, and the family all found themselves for one reason or another living in Tucson by the mid ’70s. A young professional with a degree in physical therapy from New York University, my grandmother had already cut her teeth over the previous decade as an ardent supporter and member of the civil rights movement and A Freedom Rider. That fire may have settled after she began a family, though she carried a strong sense of justice and equality throughout her life.
A young professional with a daughter and husband, my grandmother continued her career in the world of hospitals throughout most of my childhood before retiring when I was in middle school, all the while finding time to volunteer and remain politically engaged.
It wasn’t all work and politics, however, as she played an integral role in raising me. Both of my parents were young, and having a support system to help raise a young Logan and his brother was of great benefit. I spent plenty of time with my grandparents reading books, playing card games and trying to relate to them the complexities of various Pokémon. She was the person who nurtured my interest in our family’s Jewish roots, and was my greatest supporter as I took on the task of my bar mitzvah.
She even earned a nickname that would go so far as to replace her own given name for almost anyone who knew her: Softie.
In Hebrew, “Savta” means grandmother, though I was never able to pronounce the word, and so Softie was born.
Our relationship changed over the years, from maternal to true friendship as we debated the best comedies of all time (which we decided is “My Cousin Vinnie”) and the different roles government should play in society. To say we were best friends until the end would be a bit of an understatement, and the sarcasm we shared with one another was often the highlight of my day.
When I moved back home after college, I made the conscious decision to spend as much time as possible with my grandparents, and would often sit in their living room for hours as we talked about the world. It’s time I cherish more than any other, though it didn’t make the goodbyes any easier.
She was a fighter in every sense of the word, and went out on her own terms. Before she passed, she hoped to make it to May 25, the day both she and her mother were born, and that’s exactly what she did.
It’s difficult to accurately and fairly represent anyone who’s impact on your life could only be described as indelible, especially after they’ve only been gone for a few short weeks, but I know how I want Softie to be remembered. She was a person of great compassion, deep empathy and razor-sharp wit. She was always willing to listen to your concerns and find a way to ease your worries. She was always ready to offer aid in any way she could, her own needs be damned. She was a shoulder on which to cry, and a swift smack in the face when you lost your way and needed a firm hand.
She was my best friend. She was my hero.
By the time you’re reading this, my family will have said goodbye to Softie after several weeks of mourning and seeing relatives from afar, though we will never forget the impact she had on each of our lives—the little things and the major moments. It will be a sad ceremony, I’m sure, but one filled with the only emotion that could accurately describe who and what my grandmother was as a person: Love.
She loved me from the moment I was born to the moment she said goodbye to this world, and was more proud of everything I’ve accomplished thus far than anyone I know. Though she may have battled cancer most of her adult life, she left the Earth knowing we will all love and remember her until we too end our journeys.
Every time we got into an argument or grew exasperated with one another, she would tell me the same thing once we calmed down: “You know, Logan, you’re going to miss me when I’m gone.”
If only she knew how right she was.