Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?

After a fun Shabbat in Herzliya with a friend from school in the states, now attending the IDC, I came home, found a few emails, facebook messages, and voice-mails from my parents, thought it could wait, and went to bed. In the morning I went about my business: class, lunch with my roommate, and then called my parents on skype. I made a few jokes about my having gotten on a bus from Bnei Brak full of ultra-orthodox Jews after Shabbat in my shorts, tshirt, and ipod and the hilarity/lack thereof that ensued. My mom laughed and my dad stayed a bit quiet. A moment of silence. "We have some bad news..." I knew what was coming. " Yesterday Papou [Greek: grandpa] passed away" With that they broke into tears and I sat there stunned despite it not being a total surprise. After a few minutes of shock I too broke down. Not that I have so much experience, thank Gd, but it was some of the most awkward crying I've done. I can see and hear my parents right in front of me but no one can reach out to anyone else for a hug. Anyway, after a few minutes we got off the phone so I could have a few minutes to myself. I davened a tough mincha then spoke again with my father on the phone.
My grandfather had been hospitalized a while ago and had been back and forth between better and worse. My father went to Greece for about a week and a half and my grandfather had been doing better at that point. Whatever, it wasn't such a good day. Thank Gd, he was pretty healthy for a man in his mid-80s who lived through things that really help you put things in perspective. I was also lucky to have a pretty good relationship with him given that my Greek isn't what it could be. Two summers ago we sat down with my grandfather and videotaped him telling his life's story. That was amazing and I hope to add subtitles to the cd my father made of it. My grandfather was born when Greece had a king, lived through a Greek dictator, Greek civil war, Nazi occupation, and a split between fascist and communist parties (not necessarily in that order). He grew up on an island in southern Greece, didnt finish high school (and im not sure if he went at all), left home at 17 to do physical work in Athens, came back to the island a few years later,married my grandmother, moved back to Athens, bought land, built a house, and raised a family. I do wish I'd been able to communicate a bit better though I am really happy that I got to know him in the way I did, and was fortunate to be able to visit him so often. I hope that his memory will be a blessing and inspiration to our family to model our lives after the many good and respectable things that were part of his life. I hope I'll be able to learn from how he worked through challenges and, at the end of the day, sit with my grandchildren and tell them the things I learned from him, and maybe even a little bit I'll put together on my own. Here's to the man who sat at lunch and hit his (once) big belly for me, for the man who taught me to swat flies and then helped me graduate to wasps, to a man who rocked old aviators, walked with his hands behind his back, gave up smoking, enjoyed a good cucumber, tomato, or melon at the end of the day, talked to me with his teeth in or out, often communicated wordlessly with faces and shrugs, and never let us leave the island at the end of the summer without tears in our eyes or his. Love you and miss you Papou!

2 comments:

Eric G. said...

Both saddened and uplifted by what you've written. The best to you and your family. I'll try to talk to you in person soon.

Bonnie said...

Well my sweet nephew I relived deep feelings of loss and great love and admiration as you wrote about your Papou. He must have been very proud of you.

Your pictures are wonderful. I long to one day set foot in Israel, its history, its diverse society, and most of to share the holiness of this very special place on earth.

love you and look forward to seeing you in a month. Tia Bonnie