The Grandfather I Never Knew

December 23, 2010 at 7:36 am | Posted in Family Ties | 6 Comments
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In just a few short weeks, I will become an aunt for the first time. This is very exciting for me and my family. The first grandchild. But I have to imagine that this is a particularly important moment for my father. He will have done something his own father never did — become a grandfather.

My grandfather died seven years before I was born, four years before my brother. He had been a smoker all his life and succumbed to cancer before ever reaching 60. He left behind two sons and a widow who would live almost another 20 years and would never marry again.

My father is a very emotional and proud man. It was a common occurrence growing up to catch him swelling with pride when one of his children scored a goal in soccer, performed in the school play, got an A on a really hard test. It was common to hear him say, “I wish Daddy were here to see this,” and shake his head as if to fight the tears away.

It is true that my grandfather missed out on a lot. But for someone I never met, I feel like I knew him well and that’s thanks to my father. He kept his memory alive with stories and would always tell me how he would react as situations came up.

My favorite story of my grandfather is one where my father paints him as a true hero, and it’s hard to really see it any other way. He had done some legal work for President Hoover, who was quite grateful and told my grandfather he owed him a favor. When World War II ended, my grandfather used this favor to find any relatives who had survived the Holocaust to bring them to safety. He used this favor to save lives.

Of course, not all of the stories my father tells me are quite this triumphant, and many of them are simply intertwined in my memories and difficult to separate from memories of moments I actually experienced. I know my grandfather was a simple hard working man that, despite bad habits, loved his family. And I know he would have loved me. In the pictures I’ve seen of him I see so much of my own father it’s hard to picture him as anything other than amazing.

I’m so happy my father gets to experience meeting his first grand child, and we all can’t wait to spoil him. I plan to spend my time instilling the same kind of memories in this child so he knows what an amazing bloodline he comes from. My grandfather would be proud.

The Tragedies That Mark a Generation

September 14, 2010 at 7:29 am | Posted in Life and Living | 4 Comments
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from the September 11 Photo Project

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nine years since the Twin Towers, and thousands of lives, were taken in a horrific act of terrorism.  It was one of those moments when everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news, when life suddenly moved in slow motion, when confusion and heartache took over, and life as we knew it, would never be the same.

I don’t know if the feeling is the same in other areas in the country, but in New York, there is still this underlining feeling that’s hard to describe.  It’s a sense of worry, of sorrow, of silence.  It doesn’t seem like it will ever truly go away. But New Yorkers are resilient and strong.

I had been away at college for exactly a week when it happened. It was my first time living outside of New York. I remember the frantic feeling of not being able to get a hold of my family, my father working only 4 blocks from the attack at the time.  I remember the surreal feeling, was this really happening? I remember the pain, but I also remember the pride.  My brother was on the other end of the college spectrum, and was about to enter a job market now marred by this tragedy.  I became highly aware of the world around me very quickly. I think sometimes it can take a whole college career to develop that worldly understanding.  For my generation, we learned fast.

As is only to be expected of Americans, we stood strong.  And as is true with all tragedies, we were brought together.  We hung signs that read, “United We Stand” on our cars and our homes.  But oddly enough we were more politically polarized than ever before.

Tragedies change the course of history.  It’s hard to believe they ever happened. How could JFK have been murdered?  How could so many people have been brainwashed into nearly destroying the Jewish population?  How could we have ever had slaves?  How can we still?  There are some realities that are hard to swallow.  It’s only in retrospect that you can truly see the impact such events had on shaping the world.

The future is uncertain. All we have is the past and the lessons we can learn from it.  My generation has a huge burden on their shoulders in trying to make sense of this tragedy and remembering how it happened so that years from now, when we are the ones making the decisions, we can make the best ones possible.

It’s in remembering that we keep those who perished alive.  It’s in remembering that we can try to create a better world.

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