My first memory is of my Zaidy (Yiddish for grandfather). I was in my crib, wearing my blue pajamas with feet, and there were people downstairs. He came into the room, and told me to be very quiet, and he lifted me out of my crib and read me the “Snoopy Come Home Movie Book.” I loved that book as a child and I really loved the man who read it to me.
Zaidy died when I was four and a half, and I have only a few memories of him. Most are a little embarassing, like when he had a box of my favourite fruity Chiclets in one hand and a Coffee Crisp bar in the other and was begging me to go potty as I sat mortified on the Donald Duck toilet seat that he bought me. It had a squeaky Donald’s head – so fun – but still I was totally embarassed! Anytime that I would visit him in Ottawa, when someone would walk into the house, he’d trot me out, and have me spell his last name for them – it was ten letters, and I was just over two when I learned it – pretty impressive. He entertained me for hours clicking his false teeth in and out for me. If he was in a business meeting at his house, I’d crawl in and climb on his lap and say “What you doing Zaidy?” He always patiently answered and let me sit there as long as I liked. If it was nap time (his – he worked very hard) and I decided to play my little plastic tambourine – well, that was way more important since I was a budding musician, at least in his eyes.
I also remember how much my grandparents loved each other. They always walked hand in hand, called each other Mommy and Daddy and always played gentle tricks on each other. Truly, it was sweet. My Zaidy seemed to be the tallest man in the world – at least to me. He was actually 5’11 – we aren’t a tall family. I was always a little afraid of him because he seemed so much bigger than me, but he was a gentle man.
Today is the 39th anniversary of his death. I remember going to visit Ottawa not long after, and being too young to really understand that when someone dies, they don’t come back, I’d go running upstairs to see him. Although he wasn’t there, I feel that he is always with me. When I hear my mother, sisters or cousins speak about him, he comes alive through their words. People always speak so reverently about him and it makes me so proud to be his granddaughter.
My Zaidy escaped from Lithuania as a teenager and came to Canada without knowing the language. He started as a fruit peddler and ended up owning a fruit wholesaler and then got into real estate. He became successful not because he was given something, but because of hard work and determination. He lived through wars in his native country, suffered in ways that I can’t imagine and was never bitter. We can all learn a lesson from people like him.
“You Being Beautiful” has a chapter on improving upon your relationships including those with family members. There was no improving Zaidy or a relationship with him. As anyone who was lucky enough to know him, he was quite simply, the best person created. His name was Nathan – the meaning is “gift of God” – how appropriate since he was a gift.