Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Impressions of a Grandson

I roam the streets of Budapest, somewhat in a daze. The taillights of speeding cars blur in slow motion. It is two AM. A few drunken lips are laughing while tears streak down my sober cheeks. My heart should be heavy, but I don’t feel a thing. I gaze out into nowhere, into everywhere. I look at everything and I see nothing. I am in shock: my Zaidy has died.

Three hours later I am on the way to the airport. The taxi driver is so courteous. The world moves around me so normally. How can that be when everything has changed?

I go through the airport routine. But this time it's different. I buckle my seatbelt. But this time it's different. I don’t watch the safety video of how to inflate my life-vest. But this time it's different. I scan the in-flight magazine’s crossword. But this time it's different. I’m flying thirty thousand feet above the ground but I have never felt so low. Yes, it is definitely different.

I am waiting for my connection flight in Amsterdam. One man is buying a book at a newsstand. Another is talking on his phone. A woman is sipping a coffee. Another is cuddling her baby. People are being paged. Pages are being turned. The airport is alive; my Zaidy is dead.

I land in JFK. I have checked no suitcases but I carry a lot of baggage. I get my passport stamped and the man tells me, "Welcome back". Thank you.

I step out, into the yellow swirl of emotions and cabs. I look out the window of my friend’s car and into the window of the unfriendly world. What I see looks familiar but I do not recognize it. We stop by a red light. It seems to be mocking me. It is saying: I will always be here. Without warning it turns green. I guess it too was wrong.

I walk through the door, expecting Zaidy to be sitting at the table, his head hiding behind a newspaper or six. But instead I see an empty space. I see people sitting on low chairs and between them an empty space. I see wet eyes and behind them an empty space. I see ripped shirts and there too an empty space. In my heart, an empty space. The room is full, full with empty spaces.

I sit in the hospital three weeks before he died. He asks the doctor: "Why are doctors always healthy and patients always sick?" The doctor laughs. He was lying in bed, machines attached to every part of his body, tubes sticking out everywhere – and he was making the doctor laugh. He just wasn’t the dying type. Life rarely is – and he was Life.

He would tell me: "Why do you hang out with a sick man, go live life, go home". I don’t think I had to tell him that he was healthier than anyone I knew. Standing near his bed, listening to him talk, watching him struggle, I don’t think I ever lived life the way I did that day. I don’t think I realized it at the time, only now – now when it is gone.

He just wanted to get out of the hospital. It was like a soul imprisoned in a body. One day that soul just said, "I’ve had enough". It left the hospital; still, they say it hasn’t left us. But it’s hard, so hard. You may be able to look at a soul but you cannot see it. You may be able to feel a soul but you cannot touch it. Is it so bad to want not only a soul but also a body? I don’t think so.

My father and uncles are saying Kaddish – I have never heard anything so sad. Everyone is crying – outside, the world still spins.

Nothing will ever be the same – not even the things that are different: no longer will Zaidy compliment our flaws; no longer will we take those slow walks up Brooklyn Avenue; Friday night will no longer see Zaidy making kiddush. Yet, in the world nothing is different – not even the things that are the same.

So, what now? Zaidy is roaming the gardens, going from an interview with Moshe to an interview with the Baal Shem Tov. His press-pass allows him unlimited access. But what with us? Do we go back to our normal lives? Do we try to follow the earth’s unchanging cycles? Do we?

No. We take that unchanging universe, that “normal world”, and we try to make it different, we try to make it worthy of a scoop.

That is what Zaidy would want.


Blogger Dovid said...

How sad. Mendy, that is a beautiful peice, and it touched me. As I posted on my own site, from what I knew of your Zaidy, he was an exciting and bubbly person; truly alive.

May you be reunited with your Zaidy with the comming of Moshiach.

(welcome back to your blog. I almost gave up on you blogging ever again.)

6/07/2005 9:11 AM  
Blogger jakeyology said...

I was just a little busy, as can be understood.

In the future I plan to update once a week.

6/07/2005 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Shmuel said...


Wow what a post! really well written.

May the omnipresent G-D comfort you and your family, and may he bestow upon you health wealth and lots of time to enjoy it! ;)

6/09/2005 1:23 AM  
Anonymous eli said...

reading you has left me in awestruck wonder. so seeing you backwas good. till you said nothing is going to be the same. my mother told me how elie weisel said a "hefsed" at the funeral home, which is not the norm for lubavitchers. but your zeidy wasnt the norm. talk about him all you want on the blog and maybe in your once a week post you can include a story? mendy you write too well. write a memoir of him. he deserves one, and in your youth you should be the one to begin it. dont leave it to his sons.

6/09/2005 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at the ohel by your Zaidy's Kevurah... to pay my last respects to a great uncle I should have gotten to know better. He always seemed like someone special to me. May Hashem grant everyone the strength to mourn and be comforted, and may our family only share Simchas.

6/09/2005 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your writing has pierced my heart!! You are an artist with your words! Keep writing!!!

6/09/2005 9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Writing is a gift and a means of comforting us when we are sad. Follow in the path of your grandfather and write on, life will feel fuller.

6/10/2005 7:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


6/22/2005 7:23 PM  

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