A letter to my Grandfather

Dear Zeyde,

I’m not really sure where to begin, but I’d like to start off by saying thank you for being such an inspiration in all of our lives. 

Without you, I wouldn’t be who I am today and the gratitude I have for knowing that simply cannot be expressed through words. 

I’m grateful for the time that we got to spend together over the last 30 years. 

I will never forget all of the jokes in your back pocket. And maybe even more funny than your jokes were Bubbe’s reaction to them after having heard them thousands of times over the years. 

Especially the one when you and Bubbe were in the garage and she asked you to marry her and you couldn’t back out.

I have so many great memories that I will fight to remember with as much clarity as I possibly can. 

Like how you always used to listen to AM radio in the car, our times playing shuffleboard, poker and pool. How you always used to shoot the basketball underhand, how you printed out and saved every single one of my sports articles, and how you and Bubbe were always mine and Daniel’s #1 fans at all of our basketball games. 

How you’d pick grapefruit off the trees in Oriole Gardens, how you’d make us grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup on the side, and how much you loved going to the buffets like Cici’s, Bellantes, and your two favorites of all time, Sweet Tomatoes and Golden Corral. 

And I’ll never forget the time Shawna and I snuck you in chicken nuggets and how quickly you started eating them because you thought Bubbe was going to catch you. 

There’s no doubt about it that I acquired my love for food from you!

Thank you so much for making all of us feel so loved and special. You’ve always been such a positive presence in my life and were never short on telling me how proud you are of me and the life that I’ve created for myself, and that is something that I will hold on to for the rest of my life. 

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have grandparents in their life, and to be able to have had and felt the love and joy and laughs that you filled my world with for as long as I can remember is something that I will cherish for my entire life. 

I feel so fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of your life, and I’m honestly not sure what I did to deserve the greatest grandfather of all time.

As I’ve gotten older and I look back on our times spent together, I realize just how much your influence has made on my life. 

Your generosity and kindness towards others, like the waiter at Sweet Tomatoes and how much joy and appreciation I could see in his eyes each time he saw you. All of the nurses that took care of you over the years, and how easy it was for them to just be themselves when they were around you. 

You always illuminated with an energy that can’t be described, but that everyone who knows you immediately felt when in your presence. 

We all know that things were not easy for you over the last few years, and to be able to see you with a smile on your face each time I came to visit you despite what you were going through just proves the rare and incredible person that you are. While most people in your position would be angry and take it out on those around them, you would tell us how glad you were to see us and tell us a couple of jokes.

You’ve overcome so much, even when the doctors told us last year that the end was approaching, within a day or two to all of our amazement you were awake and eating. Nothing has stopped you from living your life, you are the epitome of a warrior, and to be a witness to the courage, strength, hope and positivity that you have embodied is something we are all very grateful for. You would want us to be warriors too right now and keep fighting to live our best lives. 

I know in my heart that over the last few months you held on and fought just so that you could see Bubbe a few more times before leaving this world. 

I’m not sure if anyone has the strength that you possess, and I know Bubbe doesn’t like to believe it, but being married to you for 62 years has created that same strength within her. 

On your 84th birthday we went to an Italian restaurant and I recall sitting right next to you when the waitress came to take your order. She looked at you and asked you how were you doing and if you were okay and I vividly remember your face lighting up, you putting on your patented smile and your eyes opening wide and saying something along the lines of, why wouldn’t I be? Everything that I could ever want is right here in front of me, as you looked around the table at your family. 

That gratitude and love for life has inspired all of us Zeyde. 

You always said that you never worked a day in your life and that you loved what you did, and how despite the tough times over the last few years that you still wouldn’t trade it for the world, and how great of a run you had.

Being able to not just hear you say those words but actually live by them has been one of the greatest influences in my life. I strive to live my life with that same gratitude and love and I hope that I can continue to pass on what I’ve learned from you and your actions and inspire others the same way that you’ve done for me. 

If I can one day become even half the man that you are, I will feel like I lived a valuable life. But even if I can’t, I know with certainty that you’ll be proud of me either way. 

In Austin there’s a park that I ride my bike to and I like to sit on a bench right near a memorial plaque and what’s written on it is something that has stuck with me and feels fitting to end this letter with. 

It says, “Those dear to us live on with the reflection of their love upon our lives.”

Zeyde, you may no longer physically be here with us but your influence and spirit will live on in all of our minds, our hearts and our souls. 

Thank you for the honor of being your grandson.