Sunday, January 11, 2009

Two Hours

It was exactly two hours ago that I received a phone call.

My grandfather had passed away.

He was 96 years old. Healthy given his age. He never had any kind of chronic illness. Everyday he walked the streets of NY city as an icon of the past. He and my grandmother came to the states when they were very young. They lived in the same apartment since they moved here. My grandmother died there about 15 years ago.

Today, he took a nap and that was that.

My granpoppa was different. I've always been proud to say that I look just like my grandmother, and my personality came from my granpoppa. He and my grandmother travelled all over the world. They survived bombings in Libya. Walked the great wall. Climbed mountains. Meditated at Macchu Picchu and....the list goes on and on.

He once told me that of all the wonders of the world. The greatest wonder to him was how people could hate. He'd been all over the world and the lesson he brought home every time wasn't how different everyone was. It was how much the same we all are. In every community, everyone just wanted the best for their families.

When I was growing up, we were very close. When I turned 21, at the Christmas dinner, he pulled me aside and said, "Well, you're an adult now. You know what that means?"

I almost cringed thinking I was going to get the sex talk again. Then he got that sneaky smile and said, "When I die, you get to move to the adult table".

I told him that if that's what it took, I was plenty happy eating off the Playskool table and drinking out of sippy cups.

He wasn't afraid to curse. He was loud...and got louder as his hearing got worse and worse. He could be obnoxious. He wasn't afraid of walking around the city at night.

He was the one that always told me not to put up with shit, and to always remember my own values, and I couldn't do wrong.

He wasn't a fan of "organized religion" but understood the power of the church, and THAT really pissed him off.

In The war, he earned the Purple Heart, and every year visited the graves of his three best friends from the army. He didn't like to talk about the war, but he'd also drop his pants in a second to show you where he was hit 3 times in the back of his leg and butt. It wasn't for glory though. It was to show that even as he bent over to try to pick up his friend who was dying, someone was still shooting at him.

He was a HUGE baseball fan. I remember sitting in the dining room watching a small atennae black and white tv, almost having to squint to see the he would yell "Dammit STRAAAAWWWBERRY hit the GODDAMN BALL." Afterwards, we'd walk over to the deli to get a knish with sauerkraut and a yoohoo.

He was also the only person in my family who supported my decision to work on first my Master's degree then my PhD. Everyone else would question why I'd want to do that with kids in the house and good job.

But he knew the importance of learning at every age. We both shared a love of traveling, learning, languages, history and NY pizza.

Maybe the best lesson that I learned from him was the lesson of love. My grandmother was his one and only true love, and he missed her immensely. After her passing, I said to him, "I'm glad you decided to stick around." He said, "to give up on life would be to give up on their love."

Maybe it was just his time. Maybe he realized that he wasn't giving up but that it was just time...