Published: August 9th 2008August 9th 2008
My grandfather finally passed around 4am on Wednesday. I say finally because he had become so incredibly thin and seemed so uncomfortable over the past month or so that it was the best thing. The past few days have been filled with the funeral, sitting shiva, and dealing with such a tremendous loss. Although I feel a sense of relief since his death has been looming for the past 3 months, and I know that he is now at peace, losing such a big part of your life and piece of your history is not easy. And since this is the first time that I have lost someone so close to me, I have been forced to learn a whole new set of coping skills. Since my usual way of coping is writing, I thought this deserved an entry.
My grandpa was described at the funeral as an uncomplicated man--not simple, but uncomplicated. He truly spent his life trying to make everyday fun, whether it was flirting with waitresses, making funny faces at the dinner table, or singing show tunes while snapping his fingers. He went through many hardships in his life--a difficult childhood, 3 and a half years serving in WW2 (where he saw a great deal of tragedy), the loss of his second child, and watching his third child fall very ill at the age of 18. But despite all of those things, you hardly heard my grandpa complain about anything in his life. He was simply happy and silly. I'm sure there were plenty of times that he hurt that I did not see, but the point is he never let anything get him down for long. Even a couple of weeks ago as I was rolling him around in a wheelchair in the bank as my grandmother took care of some business, he was flirting with the tellers and making jokes.
One of the most vivid memories I have of my grandpa was all of the times he stood me on his feet while he danced around. When I got older and too heavy to stand on his feet, he would still dance with me and swing me around, whether it was at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah or in his living room.
The other vivid memory I have of him is the time he took me to play in Central Park when we were visiting he and my grandmother's closest friends. While playing, I fell off a swing and scraped both of my knees pretty bad. That day he picked me up, carried me home, and sang to me the entire way to get me to stop crying. The singing continued as he cleaned me up and bandaged my knees.
I could also always count on him for tic-tacs and ice creams sundaes, games of pool, cards, and scrabble. He will surely be missed.
But what struck me the most these past few days as we've spent time at my uncle and aunt's house sitting shiva and remembering my grandfather is how much I love my family and my cultural heritage. Living in Kathmandu and experiencing the death of my grandfather has made me realize how dependent I am on my family for support. I am so lucky to have such a close-knit family that no matter what happens in my life, my family will be there to help me pick up the pieces. And being surrounded by Jewish traditions and culture throughout the mourning process has made an event like this feel as comfortable as it could possibly be. While on the one hand I feel like I have lost a piece of history with the loss of my grandfather, on the other hand I feel closer connected to my family and heritage than I have for a long time.
On Thursday night my parents, my brother, my brother's girlfriend, and I went back to my grandmother's house to sleep. I heard my parents in the bedroom talking late, so I went in and laid on the bed with them. And the next morning when I woke up, I went back; this time my brother joined us. Two grown children lying in a crowded bed with our parents. My mother was relishing the moment, and I was, too, because it reminded me of a simpler time as a child when if things went wrong, you just crawled into your parents' bed.
My way of dealing with tragedy and trauma and rough times is to look for some sort of good that has occurred because of it. While it is a tragedy that Grandpa Nat is no longer with us, his passing has been a reminder of how important my support network is, especially my family. And it has reminded me of how lucky I am to have such a strong net to fall in to.