My grandfather fought in the Navy during WWII. One of my favorite photos shows him in his Navy uniform; he’s holding my grandmother, his wife, whose back is to the camera, and he’s winking.
He was a bit cantankerous, my grandfather. I’m sure he’d had a terribly hard life as a child, and that made him a hard man. Whenever I went to visit my grandparents, he was pretty much quiet and kept to himself. He had a favorite chair where he liked to sit, he chewed tobacco, and he loved to play Dominoes.
My grandfather had absolutely nothing to do with religion. I have perhaps never met a man who had less to do with religion, in fact. But about 35 years ago, when my brother was bar mitzvah, he wrote me a letter that included a joke about a bar mitzvah boy (from Readers Digest, I believe). It was the only letter he ever sent me.
I have two items that had belonged to my grandfather. One is a five-piece collection of his drawings on the backs of envelopes, all showing comics that I’m sure were slightly risque. He sent these to my grandmother during WWII, and he was a very talented artist.
The other is a red sweater with braided leather buttons. For many years I kept this in a closet downstairs, to preserve it. But then my eldest daughter Adina found the sweater and wanted to keep and wear it, and I said, of course.
Last night was difficult, as my middle daughter Talya is in the hospital. Adina and I went to visit her, and I noticed that Adina had on that red sweater. My grandfather would have been thrilled to know how much she loves it. And that she chose to wear it last night seemed like my grandfather was winking at me, giving me a thumbs-up, just like the photo, and whispering, “Be brave.”