Growing up, Barbara Handelsman often felt out of step with her family. But she has always had a special connection with her grandson Aaron.
When she was 80 years old, she and Aaron came to StoryCorps to talk about their relationship.
Barbara passed away after this interview was recorded.
Music Info: "Angelic wolf" by Ears from the album Sea Legs.
Click here for the transcript.
Aaron Handelsman (AH): I've never heard you talk about feeling so isolated. I didn't realize that you felt that way so often. I can identify, but I've always had you. There's this big part of my childhood that consists of adventures with you.
Do you remember when we had those inflatable kayaks that we took on the Huron River?
I think you were 77, and I couldn't wait to go and brag to my friends about how I had such a cool, like, badass grandmother [Laughter] who was kayaking down a river with me.
BH: You know, I have lots of people in my family who think I am OK. But, there's something about me that they would rather fix. But my experience with you is that I'm always perfectly free to be me.
AH: And you introduced me to the freedom to not worry about saying or doing something others would consider to be foolish. I remember we were climbing through the forest and there's this yellow tape that said DO NOT ENTER. You know, the mischievous side of me really wanted to do that. And you came right along with me. That was the first time I'd ever been encouraged by an adult to cross a border. I think we bring out the best in each other.
BH: We do.
AH: In a lot of ways. I don't know if I've ever told you, but I see you as an incredibly interesting person and one of the most admirable people in my life.
BH: I have advice. [Laughs] And my advice is: be yourself. Don't let any adult ever convince you that you should be somebody else. Don't let them try to give you a cheerful personality if that's not who you are. Be who you are.