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Taking Bubby Home

As told to Azriela Jaffe

She was the seventh-oldest known person in the world, and the oldest Jew. But to Brucha Weisberger, her husband Avraham, and their nine children, Evelyn (Chava Rivka) Kozak was simply, “Bubby.” In honor of her shloshim, Brucha shares the story of taking in and caring for her beloved grandmother.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

teddyBubby was an important part of my life since I was a child, although we scarcely saw each other. We lived very far away but we felt very close, and always wrote letters back and forth. None of us had the money for airplane tickets (she was inMiami Beachand we lived mostly inArizona), but after she turned 91 and relocated to aPittsburghnursing home, and I was in a school in Monsey, I saw Bubby every year.

After I married, we made an annual road trip from Brooklyn toPittsburgh, no matter how hard it was. We drove through the day and night, making frequent stops. We even bought a 12-seater one summer to fit our growing family so we wouldn’t miss this trip.

Bubby went crazy over our kids. Each one was the most beautiful baby in the world. When she was 106, she held my daughter and fed her a bottle. We thought she couldn’t see well because of her macular degeneration, but as my kids ran around the lobby of the nursing home, she kept track, making sure no one got lost! She showered our kids with love and presents, and when we left her each summer, she would cry, not knowing if she would live to see us the following summer.

When Bubby turned 110, we went to visit her and she was doing well. A few months later, she had a stroke and we made an emergency trip back, distraught that we had to come say goodbye.

When we got there, we discovered very quickly that the staff had given up on her, and she was only dying because of poor medical attention. She wasn’t being nourished properly, and she was suffering from infection. The nursing home and hospital staff didn’t understand why we fought so hard to save Bubby’s life. The medical staff saw a frail, ancient woman who had already lived long past her life expectancy. We saw a still-vibrant Bubby whose mind was sharp and who had so much love to give.

When we realized that leaving her inPittsburghwas basically a death sentence for our beloved Bubby, my father paid $2,000 to transport her by ambulance fromPittsburghto aBrooklynnursing home.

At the time, we didn’t realize we could actually take care of Bubby in our home, although one of my kids used to ask, “Why can’t Bubby come live with us?” When I visited her in theBrooklynnursing home, Bubby would cry and beg me to let her come home to live with us. She was so lonely. I would cry when I left her, wishing I could bring her home with me. A short time later, we began the very complex process of getting her insurance to pay for the home health aides that would make this a feasible reality. About two months after her stroke, with a lot of persistence and help from Shamayim, Bubby moved in with us. She was 110½ years old.


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