December 26, 2005

Generations

My mother remembers the Summer of '69 for many reasons. During the day my father had a full time job and at night he worked to finish his masters. In between he spent as much time as possible with my mother and his newborn son (me).

A new mother has a lot on her plate and my own was none too happy when she learned about the murders that had taken place she was less than pleased to be home alone at nights with her baby boy. But time passed and she grew more comfortable as a mother and less concerned about the various bogeyman of the night.

In time the family grew larger, a younger sister and then twin sisters joined our brood. At the grand old age of 30 my mother had four children ranging in age from 5 years-old to a little less than a month. During that time frame I went from having four grandparents and three great grandparents to just three grandparents.

Within a year the numbers adjusted again as my sole surviving great-grandfather died and my grandfather remarried. The readjusted number left me with four grandparents and two great-grandmothers.

The advantage of being the oldest of my siblings is that I remember all of the grandparents, including my dad's mom who passed away when I was just shy of three. Granted the memories I have of her are fuzzy, but they exist.

The hardest memory is trying to recall her voice. I am just not sure that I really remember it and suspect that I really don't remember it at all.

I didn't lose my great-grandmothers until I was a teenager as they lived to be about 95 and 96 respectively. It is possible that they were slightly older or younger as the recordkeeping when they were born was not as tight as it is now.

My father has a picture that was taken when I was about 11 months old. It is of my great-grandfather, grandfather, father and myself. Four generations of the men of my family.

Thirty years later my son had the privilege of being part of a similar picture as he is seated with myself, my father and grandfather. That picture is hung next to the older version. It means a lot to me and I hope that when he is older he will appreciate it.

I remember my great-grandfather but I am not old enough to have shared in the telling of stories of his youth in Lithuania. I know from his children stories of he and my great-grandmother hiding from the Cossacks. And I know the stories of his work in Chicago in helping to establish unions and tales of fist fights with the police. I wish that I could have heard them from him, but that was not to be.

For a while after my son's birth he was privileged to have five great-grandparents. We have since lost a great-grandmother and now we are down to four great-grandparents. It is a joy and a blessing that is lost upon my children but he is only five and my daughter isn't quite two so I cannot really fault them.

I do what I can to make sure that they see their great-grandparents as often as possible as I can see the sand in the hourglass running. One of my grandfathers lives with my parents now and that is an interesting situation. I watch and learn from my parents as they show what kabed et evecha veh et eemecha really means and at the same time I see the toll that it is taking upon them.

I am worried because my grandfather requires more and more assistance and taking care of him becomes less a labor of love and more like work. I do what I can to help and I try hard to ease the load for all of them.

I know that it is hard for all three of them. I cannot imagine being in a position in which my children have to care for me and it pains me sometimes to see it. It reminds me of the old saying that goes something like this:

"When a father helps a son to walk only the child cries but when a son helps a father to walk they both cry"

At the same time I am watching my mother's parents age too. It is not such an easy thing but it is the price we happily pay to be able to have kept them around for so many years. I'd write more but I have lost my muse.

So instead of continuing I am going to provide links to other posts about my grandparents.

A Grandson's Distraction

Married for More Than 70 Years

I Feel Your Pain And I Share My Own

Putting It All In Perspective

Don't get me wrong, I am very happy but sometimes life can be challenging.

6 comments:

Stacey said...

It is hard to watch those we love grow old and infirm. You are blessed to have such longevity in your grandparents.

Tamara said...

Your stories reminded me of some of my own. Thank you. I remember my father's mother dying when I was about six. I remember her and my grandfather's home, the Shabbos table, the plastic runners on the carpet, the layout of the house. I don't remember her voice. It's odd and something I've discussed with my dad. I also remember not being allowed to go to her funeral which upset me even though I was only 6. My grandfather was never a truly happy man after she passed.

The other thing you made me remember was my great grandmother, born in 1888 in Warsaw. Died when she was 99 in Fairfax area of L.A. I was lucky to know her, even though, like you, I never got to hear the stories of her youth.

Thank you again for sharing.

The Misanthrope said...

The saying you posted about "When a father helps his son to walk..." really hit a nerve as my dad just had a second knee replaced and is having a hard time getting around.

I have to stop reading your posts about grandparents because it makes me sad. Memories are bitter sweet because they are nice to have but difficult in that they are only memories now.

Jack's Shack said...

Stacey,

You are right.

Tamara,

I am glad that you were able to share those with us.

Misanthrope,

I hear you. I do have my share of people who are memories to me now and it can be tough.

MC Aryeh said...

A real blessing to have such longevity in your family. Two pictures of four generations is beautiful. I hope the tradition will continue when you are a grandfather and great-grandfather.

I also was a teenager when my last great-grandparent passed away. I feel privileged to remember her.

I hope you have recorded all the great stories from the old world...

Jack's Shack said...

Thank you, I appreciate that. We have made an effort to tape as many stories as we can so that we will have them from the original source.