I was reading a friend-blogger’s post this evening, and it put me in a dreamlike memory state for just a moment…
My grandparents have been gone for many years now. My parents also passed on a decade ago (they were relatively young). Gone, but not forgotten…
I remember my grandfather Max, my father’s father, taking me down to Montrose Harbor a few mornings when I was very young to fish with him. I don’t recall him ever actually catching anything–it certainly wasn’t a time that developed my love of eating seafood (I have no such love :)), but it was a very quiet time, sitting on the side of the walk, dangling my feet over the side, just listening to the sound of the waves, occasionally listening to my grandfather talk about some odd subject from work (that completely sailed over my head). Those moments defined “peace” for me. Nothing to worry about. No stress. Just sitting there, hanging out with my grandfather, taking in the lakefront.
I don’t recall my grandfather Morrie, my mother’s father, ever taking me fishing. I think he preferred to do his fishing at the grocery store or the deli. I remember sitting in the middle of the front seat of my grandparents old olive green sedan, between Grandpa Morrie and Grandma Sarah, as they ran errands on a given Saturday or Sunday morning. (Strangely enough, I don’t remember how I wound up with them…perhaps I was just spending odd weekends with my grandparents.) I remember going into Kosher-style delis to get lunchmeats, being given samples of Kosher corned beef or hard salami. My grandparents would talk about hard work, only getting what you earn, how they built their business during the Great Depression. I recall my grandfather talking about small things he did to de-emphasize his Jewish name and traditions in order to attract business during the Cold War era. He would talk about emigrating from Romania to the United States in the early twentieth century. Grandpa Morrie never talked a lot about it, but would drop hints about life as a teenage gun-runner in the old country. Unfortunately, I also remember my grandparents criticizing my parents in front of me. Criticizing their decisions, criticizing how they were raising my brother, sister and myself. I got to hear from them how they did not approve of my parents’ marriage–even before they (my parents) divorced.
While my mother’s parents taught me a lot about the necessity to work hard to succeed, they also flashed their flaws. What I learned from them about trying to be non-judgmental was through examples of what not to say, and how not to act.
My Grandpa Morrie and Grandma Sarah were also the annual Passover hosts. While I may not have vivid memories of much during my early years, I will never forget those Passover Seders on Columbia in Rogers Park. Sitting around the table, reading from the traditional coffee-branded Haggadahs, singing in Hebrew and English (regardless of whether we understood either language’s actual lyrics), finding the afikomen in the back office, or in my uncle’s room, or in the basement. Running down to the basement to bring up ice-cold 16 ounce bottles of RC or Pepsi, Bubble Up. I even used to dream about someday buying that old bungalow on Columbia to continue the tradition. Alas, the neighborhood has dramatically changed since my grandmother, in the wake of my grandfather’s passing, decided to sell the house and move closer to my brother, sister and mother in Skokie.
While this starts as a very happy, pleasant stroll down memory lane–all the way down memory lane back to the 1970s–it ends bittersweet. My mother passed away when Micah was less than a year old, and three years before Aviela would be born. My father got to know Micah a little better, and got to meet Aviela, but still died when they were six and two respectively. There were no fishing trips. No shopping excursions. No traditional Passover dinners. My children never got to truly know their grandparents or develop relationships with them. For that, I’m sad.