I sat by the shiva and listened to the stories. We laughed at a lot of them, because my grandfather was a witty man, were in awe by many, because my grandfather is still an inspiration. I texted myself notes of the stories, so I could write them up later.
When later came, I had a lot of material, but nothing to write. These were other people’s memories and impressions of my Zaidy, they were representative of how they knew him. I wanted to tell my story, my version of Zaidy, but my memory failed me. I could only think of one time where I could relate what he said, all the other memories, were just that, memories, fleeting glances and glimpse, small actions, and expression, no speech, or reaction; it was really all emotion. They all said one thing though, my Zaidy loved me.
Yes, my Zaidy was a baal chessed, yes, he was straight and righteous, yes, he was funny. He was all those things everyone who was maspid him said he was, and more really. For me, what I’ll always have is my Zaidy’s love, and the way he made me feel.
I didn’t see him that often honestly, nor did I call. I wasn’t the best and devoted grandchild. But from when I was small and fragile, and up until two days ago, when I’m now grown (and still a bit fragile), my Zaidy greeted me with, “Esther, my Esther.” Every wedding, bar mitzvah, sheva brachos, Channukah party, seldom visit that I saw him, he’d look into my eyes, clasp my cold hands tight in his perpetual warmth and say those words. I’d lean in and give him a kiss on his beard-scratchy cheek, pull back, and he’d look into my eyes again, smile small, and give my hands, still in his, a squeeze.
I was the only person in the world that mattered in those moments.
Yes, he told me stories, great mashalim for life. I remember his little notepad filled with all the funny anecdotes his kids did growing up, and him reading their mischief with pride. Yes, I spent a lot of time in the store and saw how he greeted the meshulachim, and how he made the kids say their “please and thank-you’s” to get paper. All these things, they made an impression, they shaped me, my perspectives, my priorities, they are so much a part of me, that I often forget where it started and often even attribute them to my father, who emulates my Zaidy in many ways.
But besides for the lessons and inspiration my Zaidy was for other people, and for me too, when I think of him, my first reaction, and thoughts, are love. I just feel loved. I feel loved, important, accepted, which as young confused child, to a navigating adult, I needed. And still need.