Latest update: July 2nd, 2012
I needed Zaidy’s scissors for another chore.
It’s a heavy, garment scissor that Zaidy Meir used when he worked as a shnaider (tailor) in the City. When he came to America with his family in 1951, he was able to get steady work although he did not speak English.
He came into my life when I was a teenager.
I never knew my own grandparents but when Zaidy and I locked eyes, it was love at first sight.
The year was 1967, a mere few weeks after the Six-Day-War. Zaidy was going to attend the first Israeli Day Parade with his two grandsons. As I was dating the older grandson (whom I would later marry), I made up to meet them in Central Park.
I was immediately taken with the care and respect with which the boys attended to their grandfather. He was stricken with arthritis and was hunched over and walked with difficulty. But his face was the face of an angel.
He had snow-white hair, bright blue eyes, a turned-up nose and a smile that could melt anyone’s cool reserve.
His grandson and I became engaged within the year of our initial meeting and subsequently spent a lot of time with Zaidy and his wife, Bubba Dina. Zaidy was always cracking jokes, which would dissolve his family into fits of laughter. The only problem was I didn’t speak Yiddish. I am American born, and while my parents spoke Yiddish, they used as a secret language between themselves, so I never learned the Mamma loshen.
The jokes got lost when they attempted to translate them for me, but I still warmed to the good vibes that Zaidy’s humor generated.
Bubba Dina was quite different in temperament to Zaidy. She was frail, yet possessed an indomitable spirit. She had lost two of her three children during the war years. Bubba never talked about them, but the hurt was evident in her brown eyes.
Her two grandsons became the focus of her life.
When her son-in-law passed away suddenly at the age of 35, Bubby and Zaidy represented some semblance of stability for the boys, while my future mother-in-law sought work in order to support her family.
My husband’s love of cooking stems from the happy times he spent in the kitchen with Bubby watching and assisting her whenever he could.
My parents doted on Bubby and Zaidy too and we spent many happy times together.
My husband and I waited for children for several years after our marriage. Shortly before my husband and I moved to England for his stint as an Air Force Chaplain, we took a Shabbos walk with Bubby and Zaidy. Bubby told me that she was going to give me silverware that she spirited out of Europe. It would be a service for three, the number 3 representing a segula that I would indeed have a child!
Within a year’s time I was indeed expecting my first “miracle” and Bubby called up and gave me the most wonderful bracha, which I have since passed on to my own children: “The baby should be geruten,” meaning that the ingredients should include everything perfect so that the baby is born completely healthy.
She was a woman of few words, but when she chose to speak, her words were pearls of wisdom.
She never felt any different towards the two young ladies who married her grandsons than she did towards her own grandchildren. Each young couple was one neshama she felt; intertwining her two fingers to demonstrate her belief.
She doted on her great-grandchildren, shtupping them with food as she most likely did her own children, and grandchildren, breathing in their innocent smells, while keeping her innermost thoughts to herself.
Zaidy and Bubby had a mid-afternoon ritual. He would peel a grapefruit for her each afternoon, concentrating on getting the peel off as perfectly as he could. He would love to show me photos of her as a robust, Rubenesque figure, wistfully recalling her beauty in times gone by. Now she had a perfect model’s figure, but this did not impress him in the least.
They were a couple of opposites but fiercely loyal to one another and to their tight-knit family.
The year was 1984. Bubby had a heart attack and my father was recovering from surgery for cancer. They were a few floors apart in Beth Israel Medical Center.
Daddy was in the ICU, so I couldn’t stay with him all the time. I went to spend some time with Bubby while I waited for my mother-in-law to arrive. Something told me not to leave her side. I stroked her hair and told myself, “Remember this moment.” Bubby slept, but at one point she opened her eyes and took my hands in hers and held them with a very strong grip. She looked deeply into my eyes and thanked me for staying with her.
That was the last time I saw her.
She lapsed into a coma and never recovered.
Zaidy was inconsolable.
Even naming my daughter after Bubby did little to assuage his sadness.
My father passed away within a year of Bubby, and Zaidy promised me that he would buy me a new coat. He would take over where my father left off.
There was a family who moved to Crown Heights temporarily and their brief sojourn turned out to be longer than anticipated. The winter was cold and this family was living in a basement.
I had a warm Shabbos coat that had seen better days. It was stretched out from Baruch Hashem numerous pregnancies. Zaidy took a warm lining from one of his raincoats and sewed it by hand into my coat so that this young mother would be warm.
This was one of the last things that Zaidy did before he too succumbed to cancer.
I wouldn’t leave his side at the hospital. His vision was gone by now, but when he heard my voice it was clear that Zaidy, did in fact know who I was.
“Zaidy, Zaidy, listen, Peninaleh is speaking Yiddish!” He responded, turning his face in my direction.
I said Shema with him and when I was shooed home to nurse my baby, I made sure that he was not alone.
He was niftar during the night on the 9th of MarCheshvan.
I have made several weddings since that time and Baruch Hashem I am now a proud Bubby.
In the year 2000, my husband and I traveled to England to attend the bris of our grandson.
“And his name is called in Israel: Meir Zev.”
Upon hearing the name, my husband cried.
There are now three Meirs who carry Zaidy’s name and Baruch Hashem they spread their own shining lights. Just as Zaidy cried tears of joy upon hearing my son teitch Gemora in Yiddish, I know that Zaidy is kvelling on high to see how his namesakes as well as his entire family bring credit to him.
Two Dinas also grace our family. One is my daughter whose spunk is testimony that Bubba’s genes definitely thrive within her. My little granddaughter Dinaleh is a sweet, unaffected little English maidel, always smiling, always happy to spread good cheer as she dotes on her twin brother, Dovie.
Bubby and Zaidy endured hardships of which they rarely spoke; yet the seeds that they planted have born the best fruit possible.
Their memories are indeed a blessing for us.
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