An Ode to My Boys

The oldest grandchild in my immediate family was a boy. The most recent grandchild, born this week, is a boy.
The six grandchildren born between the two also…have been boys.

I’ve got eight nephews, and this poem is an ode to the beauty that they are in my life.

To my first one:
Tonight, as I read you a story in your bed,
My mind wandered as you leaned your almost-seven-year-old head on my shoulder.
I felt your little sighs and the little struggles on your big heart,
As you prepared to go to sleep, a big brother for the 4th time.
It was a long book, and I asked if you were ready to press pause,
And right before you said yes, you said quietly “can you just read one more page?”
And my heart split, and I read three more pages.
You have younger brothers, four of them now,
And three little cousins who live past the hay-filled farms and old American towns on the other side of this country.
There’s 8 little guys in all.
And my love, for each, continues to grow.
For the little eyes that blink awake in my arms,
And the little eyes that blink shut as I sit nearby,
And the little hands that squeeze tight,
And the tighter hugs when it’s only been a couple of days.
And the giggles, and the jokes that really make me laugh,
And the long talks about space, and the Mayor, and saving the day.
For the FaceTimes, and the naps on my lap.
For the exploration, and the trust I see in your sweet little eyes.
For the way you reach out your hands and ask to play.
For the songs we sing together, for the inside jokes we share, for the little whispered secrets.
And for the moment your hand grips mine as we walk down the street,
my heart not ready for the fact that any day now you’ll realize you’re too big for that.
And the best part about loving all of you
Is sharing you with all your aunties and uncles.
Because it means you’ll always be loved.
And you’ll never doubt
That the world has your back
And that you’re capable of everything.

To my newest one:
Last night, I sat near your oldest brother,
Waiting for his many thoughts to drift
Into peaceful slumber
And tears found my eyes.
My heart swelled at the thought
Of you: my newest boy,
Ready to join the chorus of little boy voices
And my tears fell
But they were happy tears, baby,
And they filled eyes that will watch you grow,
My heart barely containing my love for you,
And all my little boys.

 

 

24/52


Photo by Dragos Gontariu on Unsplash

Long Night

Thump, thump, thump. Thump, thump, thump.

I learned about anxiety this week.
Right now, I’m taking deep breaths to get through every sentence, because I’m not sure what’s going to be said here, and I’m also not sure this is me prioritizing properly. I’ve just discovered that an assignment I was about to submit was missing many, many requirements, and it means a few hours of work that I thought I didn’t have in my future this week. My eyes are already closing because I slept badly last night. It was one of those nights in which it feels like you’re constantly looking at your phone to see the time, and somehow time is passing but it’s also going so slowly.
I put caffeinated coffee in my cup this morning, something I don’t usually do, because I’m reckless and I drink coffee for the flavor, not for the buzz, because man, do I buzz when I drink caffeine. But I drank it, because I could barely lift my head up from my pillow this morning.
Anyway, that caffeine has long left my veins, and my eyes are shutting, and I need, need, need to work on that assignment, but I also need to write a blog post, and I’m not sure that this is what I should be doing, but here I am, with my heart going thump, thump, thump, my stomach churning a little because I’m honestly not sure this assignment is going to get a good grade anymore, and my grades are really important to me. They never were, not in high school. I didn’t really care much for grades ever, but now, when every dollar is going towards this education, I feel this unending duty to learn the material more than I have ever learned anything before, to sear it to my brain, to do really well in every class.
I’m not going to waste this opportunity.
And I guess this pit of anxiety in my stomach, that I’m ignoring with all my heart, is begging me to re-prioritize, to STOP WRITING A BLOG POST and get to work on this assignment. It’ll never go anywhere but my professors grade book, but it’s about mental health, so it’s important. It’s teaching me things that are going to help me in ten years when I’m faced with a client.
Right?
This is all worth it?
This weekly pulse racing, panic, race to the finish line as I close my laptop before Shabbat begins, hoping and praying I didn’t miss anything, that I read every line I was meant to, that I thought the right thoughts.
Being in school is a privilege, one I don’t take lightly, but it’s also so very contradictory to what my real life is. I’ve been teaching writing for three years, and to be totally honest, I’ve been doing that by trial and error. I’ve made mistakes while teaching and those are some of my worst moments. But I always learn from them, and I get back up stronger, and those lessons become a part of me, and I rarely make the same mistake twice.
School makes me slow it all down in a different way. It asks me to think more, to prepare in a way that I’ve never prepared for anything in my life so that I don’t make mistakes. And it’s hard. I’d much rather learn by experience, to jump into the deep end, and somehow come out kicking. But for my specific line of work, that isn’t a possibility, and to be able to heal other peoples hearts, I need to be as prepared, and educated, as I possibly could be.
So I know, that’s why I’m here, that’s why my heart is thump, thump, thumping, because I’ve never cared more about school than I do right now. And although I know I’ll complete the assignments before the weekend is up, because I always do, it doesn’t calm my nerves. In fact, I’m pretty sure all that nervous energy is what brings me to the finish line, each and every week.
And now, just like that, I’ve written a blog post.
It’s not all that great, but for this week, we’re going to suffice with just okay, because I’ve got a whole lot more words to write tonight before I call it quits.
23/52.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Fear, Potential, and Everything Else

Two days ago, a friend and I sat shoulder to shoulder on a pier looking out from Brooklyn, facing the Manhattan skyline.

It was night, so it was dark, but the air was balmy and it felt more like mid-summer than mid-September. It was quiet, but not empty. The jangling sound of dog’s leashes and the low murmur of conversation across the pier could be heard consistently. And the skyline, well, coming straight out of the skyline were two lights shining, dramatic against the dark sky, reaching up and up, reflecting on the clouds above it.

I don’t remember 9/11.

Something about that unsettles me a lot. I was here, but I wasn’t. I was alive, on earth, probably playing with dolls or something similarly inconsequential, while the largest terrorist attack occurred on U.S ground.

As an adult living in New York now, every year at 9/11, I go through the same emotions.

Horror, shock, and in a weird twisted way – guilt, because I feel horrible that it’s taken me this long to understand the gravity of that day.

Yesterday, I found myself reading things about 9/11 – particularly transcribed phone calls and voicemails left for family members of those who lost their lives on Flights 11 and 175. I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t stop reading, as nausea grew inside me, as my mind was literally begging me to stop.

When I was a kid, for some reason we had a VHS in our home of a documentary about 9/11. It was graphic and detailed and scary, and my mom had kindly asked of my older siblings that it not be shown to the younger kids. I don’t know if I begged, or if my older brother was actually out to traumatize me, but I have clear memories of watching that VHS over and over in our basement, terrified beyond words. That is where my 9/11 memories begin, at 7 and 8 years old.

“Don’t worry, Dad, if we go down, it’ll happen quickly.”

Those words were said from a son on a plane, to a Dad on the ground, over a voicemail*.

When I read that, my heart exploded in anger. I suddenly wanted to punch G-d in the face. I wanted to yell and scream, and at that moment, I had no clue.

I had no clue how we all just kept walking around in a world that is so clearly so deeply flawed and messed up, I had no clue how anyone could ever bring more children into this planet.

I couldn’t believe that it took me 22 years to reach that point of absolute disgust.

And for ten minutes, I sat seething, and I wrote words like this:

“What exactly is the point?

Some days are overflowing with meaning and purpose and you can see it all written across the sky. You can smell it in the air – it’s called beauty and growth.

Some days are just dry. They’re regret-filled, and maybe tear filled, or maybe just tired. They’re hard to get through, and they feel hopeless and pointless.”

And then I stopped writing, because I didn’t even feel like putting words in the world. Which is why I’m writing the rest of this this today.

I don’t have any answers, not a one.

I know that when I sat on that pier, in the dark night, I saw what I thought were two low-flying planes right over the skyline. My stomach clenched and I said “what the heck are those planes doing?”

And my friend showed me that they were helicopters. And I remembered me that helicopters fly around the city every single day, and we had already seen a whole bunch of them.

I was comforted for a moment, before I realized that one day, not all that long ago, for real, people looked up and wondered “what the heck is that plane doing?” and in the next moment, everything was lost.

It was just a normal September day.

I was watching the recordings of the live CNN coverage from that day, and I was blown away by the way that the anchors continuously discussed the first plane crash as a horrific accident, a horrible mistake.

We live in a world today that a horrific mistake would be assumed to be a form of terrorism, and that makes my stomach sick.

I live in a world that my stomach clenches in fear all too often. I spend solo subway trips examining every face, trying to find the one who would be willing to murder us. I look at the world with fear cloaked glasses, and it’s not just because I’m paranoid, it’s because thousands of people in this country, in the last 18 years, have woken up assuming today was going to be normal, and never saw the end of that day.

And I’m learning that to get through life on this planet, you have to ride out the fear, ride out the pain, and hold on to the days that make life feel like potential and goodness can’t be contained.

Because something else that happened this week is that I began teaching creative writing and debate, and I met a whole bunch of teenagers that made me smile for the future.

And that is what this life is about.

Big ideas, and growth, and kindness.

And the real question is, why did I feel like I had to write about this this week, when I actually spent a good amount of my week in a space of happiness?

So, I share this post, because evil and pain are intertwined with our lives, and not allowing ourselves to feel that pain is a disservice to ourselves and an injustice to those who have been lost.

But I pray for this for you, and for all of us: for days that are overflowing with meaning and purpose, when you can see it all written across the sky. You can smell it in the air – it’s called beauty and growth.

 

*I don’t know if these transcribed messages are verified and true, but even if they are not, the emotions and meaning are 100% representative of the truth.


22/52.

Featured photo by me.

 

Trying

Today, I was walking down the hectic Brooklyn streets that I live in, and from a distance, I saw a woman walking towards me, with a baseball cap and a loose shirt and it all happened in a flash –

I thought “oh, that’s Hindi.”
And in the next millisecond, I realized that was impossible because Hindi passed away a year ago. It was just a stranger, someone who on closer inspection didn’t actually look anything like her.
But the entire moment, that only lasted less than a second, kicked me in the stomach.
It was a moment in which I wondered how often that happens to Hindi’s best friends, to her husband, and her siblings and parents, to her kids.
How often do they hear her footsteps, her voice, see the flash of her hair, only to have to relive the loss all over again?
I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to pretend that I knew Hindi well. I didn’t.
We didn’t cross paths much, we were ten years apart, I lived in New Hampshire until she got married. We never had the opportunity to share more than a few Shabbat meals and family gatherings.
And as a result, I didn’t lose her presence in my life. I didn’t lose her wise counsel because I never sought it. I didn’t lose her humor because I didn’t laugh with her all too often.
What I lost, and what I now sit with for the rest of my days, is simply potential. All the could have been’s. The wonder why.
There are some people in the world who you don’t have much in common with, and therefore, you don’t necessarily need to befriend them, whether or not they’re related to you. It’s not possible to be close to everyone in your world.
But there are people like Hindi, whom I admired, yet held myself back from. I was intimidated. She was accomplished. She had triplets and a Ph.D. for heaven’s sake. She was a powerhouse. She was blunt and she was honest.
I enjoyed her company when I shared it, but I never thought we would be close because she was so much more than I imagined I was.
She was so much, and now she’s gone.
When I think about it, all I want to do is stop thinking about it. I don’t want the hurt to settle in because when it does, it really hurts. When I think about my aunt, or my cousins, the ones who have this enormous gaping hole in the middle of their living room, a hole that doesn’t allow for you to not fall in, it’s hard to breathe when I think about that kind of pain.
It makes me want to grab everyone I love and put them all in a box and never let them leave and just keep them alive forever and ever so I can just look at them when I want to.
And then I remember that that’s not what life is. And life is lived intertwined with loss.
And that absolutely sucks, and it’s absolutely unfair.
The honest truth is that losing Hindi made me think about a lot of things in life. It made me think about the fact that there are people right now in the world that are still around that I should try harder with.
So I did, but so many of those situations brought me to dead ends, and I realized that the solution to loss was not to just throw around love. It wasn’t going to help to befriend people I don’t have much in common with just because I regretted not being closer with someone I should have invested in a relationship with.
Perhaps a more appropriate response is to strengthen my bonds with the people that I already have in my circle. To be more genuine when I’m too afraid to be. To be blunter when I’m being too careful. To work harder when I’m too tired. To truly be there for the people that count on me most.
Or perhaps nothing. Perhaps there is nothing one can do when there is a loss this large, perhaps all one can do is cry in the shower at the horrific unfairness of it all, and let it crack your heart wide open.
I was recently asked by someone how I reconcile my religious lifestyle with all the horrible things that happen in the world. How do I believe in a G-d that doesn’t stop the pain?
My answer was simple:
The pain is going to be there no matter what, whether I believe in G-d or not. Believing all of it is random and pointless is a death wish – I’d crumble if I thought that. By believing there is a G-d, I am saying that I don’t know what the meaning behind anything is, but I do believe there is meaning. And that belief alone keeps me afloat.
So, yes, I believe there is meaning in everything.
But I refuse to even search for what that meaning might be because there is no answer my earthly mind could comprehend. So I sit, and I cry, and then I try.
I cry, because this world is a scary place to call home.
I try because I want each of my days to count. I try because none of us know how much time we have. I try because I want to be the best version of myself for the people in my life for as long as I get to be here.
I try because Hindi did, and if I’ve learned anything from her, it’s to do more than anyone expects you can.


21/52.

The Things I’ve Seen

I’ve been MIA on this blog for a few weeks.

It doesn’t really matter if anyone else noticed, it was a weight on my mind that got heavier with each week that passed without a blog post.
I like the me that is able to get a blog post out every week. That is a productive me, an eye on the prize me, a sticking to the commitment me – the me that I always believed would be a writer.
Alas, the last few weeks (five, to be specific), have been busy in a different way. I’ve been on the west coast twice, with full-length flights between each visit, I’ve spent time at the pacific and the Atlantic Ocean, I finished a summer term of college just barely submitting my last assignment on time, I’ve been laughing until I’ve cried, taken more pictures than I really ever have, I met my brand new nephew and created the sweetest memories that I’m now packing away for safekeeping.
And I’ve written about 25 blog posts that I hated.
Nothing has felt right.
I felt a little like good writing requires devotion that I don’t have, and that I’ve been relying on the seat of my pants for years, and I’ve been swimming in the sea of kind words, forgetting that writing requires serious work, and I can’t just hope words are waiting around when I’m ready to find them.
I have to present myself every day, and write, every word.
And as I prepare to teach creative writing for the third year, I need to give my writing a new promise of commitment, of showing up, of giving it what it deserves so that it returns pieces to me that I’m proud of.
The last few weeks have been busy, in the best ways, and I’ve discovered G-d hidden between cracks, in his every creation, and sometimes sitting in the wide open.
Like in the bluest water I’ve ever laid eyes on, in the mountains near Vancouver, and in the tiny blue eyes of my newest nephew as he lay in my arms, his entire being trusting me to care for him and love him.
That’s when He was revealed.
But I also saw Him in the eyes of homeless people on the streets of Seattle, as I found myself inching away from them, feeling horribly guilty but genuinely afraid, I closed my eyes and I reminded myself that we came from the same cloth, life just took us two very different directions.
And I wondered why G-d gave some an easy, happy life, while He gave others countless challenges that left them begging for food in a city that didn’t want them.
But I saw that we are each G-ds creations and that there is no way to measure anyone’s worthiness, because all I saw was the effect of life circumstances, nothing more. I could not see their souls, I could not see where they were in the pathways of life.
I saw G-d’s handiwork in the people, all the people that I came across, in the flight attendant who was dealing with boyfriend troubles, in her friend who grumbled “men, am I right?”, in the little family that sat next to me, their small baby playing peek-a-boo with me, in my nephew that played peek-a-boo with me through a phone, his infectious grin making my heart leap, in the mom at the airport who just wanted her daughter to have a challenge-less life as she demanded to speak to the airline manager, in her daughter who inched away, red with embarrassment, in the TSA employee smiling widely with a hidden joke as each passenger went through security, in my Uber driver who is just trying to make it in LA as a makeup artist who talked me through my tears as I left my three little nephews after living in their home for three weeks. Because I hate goodbyes, always.
I’ve had endless reminders of just how much we all have in common.
I’ve seen G-d’s beautiful wonders, as if He looked at the world thoughtfully, pulled out His paintbrush and painted breathtaking landscapes just for our enjoyment.
I think He did it because He knew we’d build cities that blocked our view of the sky and the sea, and we’d forget that the whole world is not contained within a couple of blocks, piling our frustrations and anger up and up and up until we found ourselves at a sea that’s more beautiful than we realized it could be. He put those there for us.
And I realized I seem to write about the same things, over and over and over, I’m drawn back to the same themes and the same ideas.
Maybe rather than hating that, it’s time I embrace it, and see where it takes me.
By giving me words, G-d asked me to create, to add to His glorious world, to connect to others using a most powerful tool.
I don’t know why words float through my head and onto a paper, I don’t know why they sometimes flow and sometimes don’t, I don’t know why I write poems in my mind in the shower only to have them flutter away as I pick up a pen.
But dreams are a procrastinators life-source, so now, I say: I am a writer.
20/52.

Photo was taken by Chanchie Krinsky, in Porteau Cove Park.

Bare Feet

What is it about an airport,

that everyone’s soul shines through?

I see it through the little holes in their socks,

and their bare feet at security.

Who doesn’t think to wear socks on airport day?

I see it through their sweet voices,

explaining to their five-year-old,

why must we go through this security line –

“to check if anyone has snakes or spiders in their bags, dear”

I can see a world in which that is why we must all bare our feet

for TSA to peek through our shoes

and find our secrets.

I can see the soul in the woman whom I’m begging

to switch my middle seat to an aisle seat,

I see her long day, her long future,

I’m tired, but so is she, and I am not the first, nor the last, to beg her for something that is not in her control.

I see the soul in the man who sits beside me,

who talks about the old days

when corporate airlines didn’t charge for hot meals

and headphones.

I smile at him and I reach out to buy some headphones because I’m not doing this middle seat flight solo. 

What is it about airports?

They say airports are a no-mans-land, no country can claim it, and perhaps that’s what it is.

None of us are home, yet none of us are lost, we are all in between the beginning and end of a journey.

And we’re in our socks.

For some of us, it’s bare feet.

And we all hope there are no snakes in someone else’s bag.

 

 

19/52.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Mornin’

It’s been loud for weeks.

Loud externally, loud internally.
I haven’t allowed myself to stop, to just think.
And breathe.
There are always things to do, or people around, distractions from the whisper inside that was getting louder and louder, calling out:
Just stop!
This morning, for whatever reason, I decided to take ten minutes outside to drink my coffee. Rather than pairing my coffee with typing, or working, or talking, I took myself outside and sat in the early morning air.
I didn’t always love mornings. I used to consider myself a night owl, but a few years ago, my friend encouraged me to get up early with her and work out. It was then that I realized how life-infusing the mornings are. There’s something about the air, and the quiet, and the fact that everyone else is still sleeping.
So, although I wake up each day at 6:15, today I chose to take ten minutes of my usually tightly scheduled morning to sit outside.
And I began to breathe.
And my soul used the first oxygen it’s seen in weeks to release a slew of feelings, rising to the surface.
Sometimes, it feels like life is happening to me. Sometimes it’s so busy, you just have to let it happen to you. There isn’t time to grab on to each horn, to fully envelop yourself in every experience, happy or sad.
Summer is often this way.
The sunny days blend together in one constant chaos of laughter, exhaustion, swimming, working hard, and sweating it all out.
This morning, when I took that deep breath, I felt it all slow down a little.
It was a breezy 68 degrees, a reminder of early fall, the world was open and clean, and it felt good.
And at that moment, I remembered something I haven’t given much thought to recently.
This world is inherently good.
Its goodness gets blurred through our tears, covered in the dirt we rub off of our shoes and drifts away as we fall asleep after another long day.
But, that goodness is there.
And it’s most easy to find in that early glow of a summer morning before the sun beats down on my neck, and the noise levels reach a crescendo again, inside, and out.
And today, I held those ten minutes dear, as I absorbed their emptiness, and in that sense, their absolute preciousness.
And I sipped my coffee. And I texted my friend:
“Thank you for teaching me about mornings.”
18/52

Powerless.

Powerless.

That is how I feel as I whisper psalms.
Hands tied behind my back,
As I beg G-d to chill, the, freak, out.
Exhausted.
That is how I feel in my every bone,
Heavy with the weight of the tears
That refuse to come out.
I’m aching; aching; aching.
My stomach is in knots,
Where will the next fracture in our earth occur?
Who will be the next to break?
How do we live in a world so filled to the brim with pain?
I pray; I pray; I pray.
17/52.

The Little Bird

I’m home now.
My home state, that provides a new backdrop for my writing. A reminder of how many stories were spun in the woods of New Hampshire, how many poets secluded themselves in the mountains, breathing only fresh air, speaking to no one.
Alas, I am far from secluded in the evergreens. As the summer begins, my childhood home is filled with family, and often, chaos reigns. And amidst the noise, and the hustle and bustle, and the lists of what needs to get done, there is a single bird, who lives in the tree right outside our home. He spends hours each day slamming himself into the window. It is mesmerizing to watch as time and time again the bird foolishly throws himself at the window – why? As he bounces back off of it, he looks again at the window, as if this time, the result will be different.
How is it possible that the bird does not learn from his mistakes?
How does the pain of the never bending window against his feathered wings not teach him to stop?
The science of it is simple. The bird sees his own reflection in the window, and regards the reflection as an enemy. As all he holds close and dear to his heart only lives a couple of feet away, this is his attempt to protect from an intruding bird. His dedication to his little nest is so fierce that no pain will stop him – as long as he believes there is danger, he will stop at nothing to be the protector.
If only he could understand the science as simply as we could.
If only he realized that what he perceives as the enemy is truly only himself.
I’m that bird sometimes. Sometimes I get confused about who the enemy is. I see the enemy in the reflection, and I charge, I try to fight it, to protect what is dearest to me, and I end up hurting even more, confused, sometimes even with a broken wing that requires tending to, to heal from.
It is an endless, life-long process to master the balancing act that is putting yourself out there, and protecting your most inner world.
Most of the world you interact with each day won’t have the time, or the patience, or the ability to understand and grasp who you truly are.
There is a reason humans seek companionship, and why we seek that one person that “gets” us. For some of us, there are plenty of people who get us. For some of us, that number is much more miniscule, and that much harder to find.
As a result, some of us turn into that bird, fighting anything that seems like the enemy, because so often, it feels like an enemy. So often, others don’t see who we are, or are dismissive of what we hold dear. So we protect it. We go on defense.
But maybe, like the bird, we have become so caught up in protecting ourselves, we don’t even realize that the enemy has turned into us.
Perhaps I spend so much time assuming that others do not “get me” that I forget to just be me, whether they are listening or not.
Little bird, one day, that window could seriously injure you. Perhaps rather than looking around you, ready to protect your nest from imaginary enemies, stay near your baby birds, and revel in the life that you have.
It’s a good one.

 

16/52.

5 Things I Learned From My Grandfather

Today is my grandfather’s 4th yartzeit (anniversary of death). It’s obviously unbelievable to truly recognize that, but when he passed, I had just been a year out of high school, unsure yet of where the future would take me. A lot has happened since then. I’ve changed. But, in passing, my grandfather has been a constant, and I still remember him exactly the way he was when he left us. I lived with my grandparents for my final two years of High School, in New York. I lived side by side with my unassuming Zeidy, getting to know him well between quietly shared breakfasts at 7 am, or through conversations in the living room, as he spoke Yiddish and Hebrew fluently, and I stumbled through attempting to use my tiny knowledge of those languages, always resulting in me just speaking in English, much to his chagrin.

The truth is, I don’t see a lot of myself in my Zeidy. Perhaps it’s simply the generation gap, or because I was born in America, and he in Israel, or perhaps because my life has been nearly bump free, whereas he persevered through challenges to get to where he was. Whatever it is, I know that I can learn from my grandfather in a lot of ways. As I was thinking about this day coming up, I thought about the things that so personified my Zeidy, and that I felt I could do well to learn from him. Here are 5:

1. Keep it simple.

From what I’ve heard from the old days, and what I saw for myself, was that my Zeidy didn’t have much he wanted for himself. He had a simple diet, made up of simple, tasty foods. As I rooted around in my grandparent’s kitchen Saturday night, looking for something new, and different, and exciting to eat, my grandfather sat down to the same exact meal, each Saturday night. Food is a big part of my life, and I am not ashamed to find it enjoyable to explore new flavors and cook up a storm. But – it would do me well to remember more often, as my grandfather clearly knew, that we don’t live to eat, we eat to live.

2. Joke around.

I’m a serious girl. I like big conversations and real life things. There are things in life that I believe should not be joked about. My grandfather was a serious man. He dealt with issues of great importance on a daily basis. He was constantly surrounded by people who were going through difficult times. He knew, better than most of us surely, that life was no fun and games. But if you ask any of his grandchildren what pops into their mind when they think of Zeidy, I will assure you that right up there on the list is the memory of his practical jokes and teasing. He had a light spirit and found joy in putting his grandchildren and many guests at ease. He would try on our sunglasses and jackets that he found laying around, he’d tease us about all kinds of things, and I will never forget the infectious grin on his face as he did so.


3. Talking less, but talking when you should.

I talk a lot. Not everyone believes this about me, but then there are times that I’ve met people, and when I told them I’m an introvert, they did not believe me, because when I’m excited about something, I could go on, and on, and on. I know I talk a lot. My grandfather did not. He could sit at his Shabbat dinner table, and not utter a word, just listen and observe. But, at the same time, if something came up, or someone did something that he did not find appropriate, he would speak up. His silence was not a result of fear, or being shy, or not having what to say. He simply recognized the value of words and did not waste them.

4. Doing good things, quietly.

I like doing good things. I get a lot of joy from doing things for people. But that doesn’t exactly make me special – it’s a human thing. What made my grandfather special, is that no one else in the world, other than those he helped, knew about it. After he passed away, our family heard countless stories from all over the planet about people that had been quietly assisted by my grandfather, whether it was financially or emotionally. He never bragged, he never even mentioned anything. He was the worlds greatest secret keeper, and his secrets only began to leak when those who had been touched could not hold it in any longer.

5. Overall, I think about myself way too much.

Clearly, I think about myself all the time, as this blog post shows. But, even if one is thinking about themselves in regards to making oneself better, I’ve learned that the less we think about ourselves, the better. When we keep our focus on others, we naturally become better versions of ourselves. By making our lives about others, we correct our flaws so that we can be a better friend, child, employee etc, in a way that obsessing about our flaws can never help. My grandfather lived a life for others, and today, he is deeply, and warmly, remembered by all those who had the privilege of knowing him.

Always, on this day, I remember the last moment I saw my grandfather, as I left his house after dinner on a Wednesday night, as I waved goodbye to him, as I called out “Good night, Zeidy!”. He smiled and waved, and two days later, I found out that those were the last words I’d ever say to him in person.
I’m just one of his many, many, grandchildren, yet, then and now, I still have a relationship with him that I cherish. I am forever grateful that my genes stem from this great man who lived a full and generous life, never chased honor or attention, but left a legacy that the wealthiest men on earth would be envious of.
15/52.

 


Photo by David Becker on Unsplash