What I Would Have Said, If I’d Thought of It

Today brings the second guest post in the history of my blog. My brother-in-law Peter (www.reluctantlawyer.com) shines his considerable light on the legendary Lilli Diamond, my grandmother.

The Birthday Party, 5th Year Edition

By Peter Rustin

Could it really be five years ago that I first met my wife’s grandmother? Surely, I am allowed to say who she is: why, she’s Lilli Diamond, and today is her birthday; tomorrow the party. And it was five years ago that my star began its orbit around the very powerful gravitational field of which she is the center.

Completists will remember that my then-girlfriend and now-bride, Marni, invited me to meet her grandmother at her parent’s house, on the occasion of a rather landmark birthday, the exact number of which is unavailable for public attribution.  Now, my grandparents had long since moved on to better stuff—heck, I never even met two of them. So, meeting a grandparent of a rather important girlfriend? Huge.

I was carefully briefed: Lilli was a flame-haired woman of definite opinions. Although impeccably mannered, she would leave no doubt about what she thought and where you stood. And, I was told, my predecessor had not exactly fared well, but hey, no pressure.  And so, it was not without a certain degree of trepidation that I was ushered into the family room of the large house with the sort of ocean view that had hitherto been reserved for guys like John Glenn.

We have all experienced those moments where we feel our life turning, like a large, heavy bank vault door on a small, jewelled bearing.  One moment, your life is about one thing, and another, something else. Examples?  Learning you passed the bar. Hearing your band’s single on the car radio. Red Sox sweep the Cardinals, 2004.

So a choice had to be made. What self was I going to present? The respectful, deferential suitor? Nope. Too Fiddler on the Roof. The experienced lawyer? Yeah, right. Like that would fly. Marni’s dad, Roger, pretty much cornered the experienced lawyer market on Via de la Paz. No, something else was going to be needed. I reached deep down, and using the keen grasp of the obvious that I have taken decades to hone, and decided instead to just let fly, and see if I could make her laugh. Risky, yes? Only one chance to make a good first impression, right?

I would be lying if I were to tell you I remember what we talked about, but I do remember emerging with one singular impression: when I talk to Lilli, I sometimes get the feeling that I am shooting the shit with a co-conspirator.  She will ask a question, I may respond with a flippant answer, and then I’ll ask something, and she will bat it right back to me. But here’s what’s cool: I’m talking to a woman who has seen stuff in color that I have only seen in black and white, and heard sounds live that only exist as scratchy recordings to my ears.

So, Lilli Diamond, we gather tomorrow for another landmark birthday of a grandparent. My grandfather was Max Rustin. He was a big, sweet guy who drank Schlitz on lawn chairs in his back yard and lifted fruit all day for most of his life. He died the day before we were all to celebrate his 80th birthday. So I consider myself fortunate to be here for another grandparent’s birthday. Those are, I am afraid, a commodity that is in exceedingly short supply.

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