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.