Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Rant #899: My Grandparents
Today, February 6, is the 38th anniversary of my grandfather's passing.
I think today was the date, although I am not sure. It could have been yesterday, or even tomorrow, but I know that it was sometime in this span of time in 1974 that he left us.
I am a very, very lucky guy. I grew up with my grandparents.
I had four grandparents alive during my childhood years, and beyond.
But my Grandpa Morris was the first one to go, well before the other ones left this earth.
I remember my grandfather to this day as a very, very good man.
He was actually born in England, on a boat that came from Russia, I believe, on passage to the U.S. My great grandmother couldn't hold out, and she gave birth to him there.
Anyway, I don't know the whole story, but he met my grandmother, and they married in the 1920s sometime, I don't know the year.
And in 1931, my mother was born, and some time later, my uncle was born.
Anyway, my grandfather was an extremely intelligent person. He seemed to be very good in things like mathematics, and in another lifetime, he probably would have been one of our leading architects, engineers (what my uncle became), or mathematicians.
But back then, during the Roaring 20s and later the Depression, he took what he could get, and he worked for the Post Office for many years.
I believe he was a postal inspector during Prohibition, looking for bootleg liquor.
He carried a gun, and he knew how to use it. My mother told me that he was so embarrassed to carry a pistol that he never, ever showed the gun to my mother as she was growing up.
This type of work was beneath him, but he had a family, they had to eat, and he did what he had to do.
He was too young to serve in World War I, and too old to serve in World War II, so during the Second World War, he served as an Air Raid Warden.
My birth in 1957 made him a grandfather for the first time, followed by the birth of my sister in 1959. He actually has another grandchild, a girl, who is my uncle's child. She came many, many years later, way after he had passed.
Anyway, by the time I was up and about, my grandfather had retired from the Post Office. I believe he worked in an Army Navy store. He got me my first baseball uniform and my first cleats.
Growing up was great. I had all four grandparents, and they were all around seemingly all the time. We would visit them lots of weekends, and I really enjoyed being with all of them.
But what a contrast my sister and I had. My mother's parents--Grandpa Morris and Grandma Betty--were New World to the hilt. They were the youngest grandparents a kid could have. They knew everything new, and I remember doing the Twist with my grandmother. She loved to dance.
My father's parents--Grandpa Jack and Grandma Harriet--were as Old World as it came. They were Orthodox Jews, were active in the synagogue, but were more strident in their practices. Even though they raised four highly successful children, I doubt they knew what the Twist was. But Grandma Harriet's smile could light up a room, it really could. Grandpa Jack had a wicked sense of humor that was formed by having a pretty hard life.
Anyway, my Grandpa Morris could help me with my homework, he could watch TV with me, and he could be stern if he had to. I still remember the stare he gave me when I got greedy and poured 7Up into a glass and it got all over the table.
My Grandpa Morris was human. He had his faults. But one fault overran the rest.
He was a smoker, and not just a smoker, but a heavy smoker. He smoked pipes, cigars and cigarettes, usually in one fell swoop. He always had a tobacco product in his mouth. He never stopped.
I think it was a nervous habit, as he would smoke when he was tense. It was also the times. Seemingly every man smoked. Even my father smoked at one time.
When I was little, I would ask him to stop. He simply could not stop.
Then if I remember correctly, one day in the early 1970s, he was coming home from work, and used the train (he never drove). The doors to the train were closing, and a woman was rushing to the door.
Being the gentleman that he was, he tried to keep the door open, and it crushed into him.
He was never the same after that.
He was a relatively healthy man, but that incident allowed a weakness to find an opening.
He had cancer, and by the time he realized that the cancer was eating away at him, it was really too late.
Yes, he did quit smoking, but the cancer was too advanced for anything to be done to help him.
I remember his funeral. He was in an open casket, and I peered over to look, and it didn't look like my Grandpa Morris. I moved away from that casket pretty quickly.
I said something at his funeral. I don't remember exactly what it was, but I know he probably would have liked what I said.
He was really a great man, the type of guy you will never read about in the newspapers or hear about on TV, but he--and all of my grandparents, for that matter--were my heroes. They battled things that my sister and I never had to even think about to try to make our lives better than theirs.
And that goes for our parents, too. Real battlers, real heroes, and real people.
Anyway, my other grandparents all lived to ripe old ages, and they all passed in the mid to late 1990s. They lived to see their grandchildren become adults, and they lived to see my sister and I get married and have children of our own.
I often think about my grandparents, and my Grandpa Morris. I think he would be happy about how my sister and I turned out, and I think he would be happy that he had great grandchildren who are turning out fine too.
Lots of bumps in the road, but I think right now, we are all on pretty solid footing.
I will never forget my grandparents, and I know that my sister and I have spread the wisdom we have learned from them to our own kids. I know that my kids know quite a bit about Grandpas Morris and Jack and Grandmas Betty and Harriet.
They made us who we are today, as have our parents. All good people in a world that is constantly changing, but the one thing that holds steady is that grandparents are very, very important to your upbringing.
I am so happy that I got to know my grandparents very, very well, and that my children and my sister's kids have gotten to know their grandparents pretty well, too.
Maybe one day my sister and I will become a grandparents ourselves, and I just hope that we can live up to the standards set by our grandparents and our parents.
It will be difficult, but I think we can do it.
Posted by Larry at 3:00 AM