Father's Day is a little bit different for me than for most people, but it is nonetheless an important day for me. You see, it is not my father for whom I am most grateful for on this day, but my grandfather. He was the man who I think of as my most important male role model. Hey, in life, we are given all sorts of ingredients. Some say that if you are given lemons, make lemonade. I say if you are given a variety of ingredients then mix them all together, add some spices and stir. Stir frequently and lovingly and make the best possible savory soup that you can.
In fact, in a somewhat related vein, I have become quite a good soup maker. Bear with me here. I promise to return to the main point after my brief digression. I just love mixing up various flavors and adding a little of this and a pinch of that and seeing what develops. When my daughter and stepson were in high school, I was delighted when their friends would come over for some of mom's or, in my stepson's case, Barbara's yummy soup. It wasn't uncommon for me to have a tableful of teens in my kitchen having soup and crackers. They loved it and I, in turn, loved nurturing them. And, we know that teens won't lie and say that something is tasty that's not so tasty, so yep, I was always quite proud of myself. The soup was one of the ways that I bonded with the teens and my those were some sweet times.
Now, let's get back to soup and Father's Day. I have decided to think about Father's Day as a wonderful day with my grandfather's love as a main ingredient. Let me tell you a little about my grandfather, or "zeidi," which is the Yiddish word for grandfather. He was a steely blue-eyed man with a penchant for history, current events and all things loving and beautiful. He had a hearty laugh and taught me about the importance of sharing a good laugh. We used to find similar things amusing and would at times double over and just crack up.
My grandfather valued joy, laughter, education and ambition in life, despite having a terribly difficult life for many years. He was a Holocaust survivor who lost his parents and all of his siblings at the hands of the Nazis. Yes, I would sometimes see tears in his eyes as he showed me photographs of those family members who did not survive. And I am named after some of those people who were part of my grandfather's tragic early life. From grandpa I learned that there is something so lovely and incredible about a man who dares to show his vulnerability publicly.
My grandfather was always so happy to see me -- or so it appeared to me. I distinctly remember coming home from graduate school to visit him in the hospital after he had suffered a stroke. Despite the fact that his voice was squeaky and barely recognizable, he was so excited as he said "It's my Basha (Yiddish for Barbara) and she came to see me. My beautiful Basha!" I knew that he meant it. He adored me and I adored him. He loved my humor, my academic success and my essence. I could see it in his eyes.
Grandpa lived until his mid-80's. I remember getting the call when I was in my mid-20's that he had died. He had suffered his final and deadly heart attack after a string of strokes and heart attacks. I was crushed. I remember sobbing in the arms of a friend who had never even met my grandfather, but she knew me well enough to know how wounded I felt. She, too, began to cry.
I remember as if it was yesterday what the rabbi who spoke at Grandpa's funeral said. I remember because he was spot-on. He described my grandfather as a man of deep integrity and sensitivity. He described his precise and exacting personality style. Finally he spoke of grandpa's deep devotion to his family. No kidding, I thought.
Grandpa -- you live on. During this week of Father's Day, I will think about you a lot. I am so sorry that you didn't get to meet your great-granddaughter -- my daughter Amanda. I know exactly how you would have described her. You would have referred to her as a "lailke," the Yiddish word for doll, because she has the face of a beautiful doll. And she has the spicey and zesty personality style that you always preferred. There is nothing bland about her and I know how you had little tolerance for all things that were bland. I have told her about you many times.
Happy Father's Day, Grandpa. May you rest in peace and comfort knowing that your spirit lives on. Thank you for being such a lovely source of energy in my life.