our late grandfather was scary. large, silent, and serious, an old country russian with piercing eyes. he communicated with fear. i have no personal recollection of him speaking.
he was grandpa sam. the legends of him a mixed bag. as a cobbler, he made his fame chasing down a thief who had stolen a pair of shoes. at my brother’s bar mitzvah, he wandered around dropping money out of his pockets. that evening, our father, in the middle of the night, switched out grandpa sam’s cash wad with monopoly money. grandpa sam’s struggle with labarbara’s super cheesy pizza was epic. there was also the famous fish tale. we mourned when grandpa sam used the guppies’ water, including the guppies, to wash the dishes.
the real horror occurred on the 405 freeway northbound. with the whole family in the car, grandpa sam grabbed the steering wheel from our father and nearly caused an accident. he placed the whole family at risk of serious bodily harm.
eventually, grandpa sam was moved into a group home where he stayed until he passed.
the fear that we had of grandpa sam was real. in retrospect, however, there was nothing sinister or evil about him. he most likely suffered from alzheimers at a time before it was popularly recognized as a disease. with this in mind, his memory transformed from scary to a man who suffered from a pronounced illness which consumed him.
while the negative viewpoint of grandpa sam went away, fear relating to him still remains: the biological destiny. years later, our father succumbed to early onset alzheimers. we, as the next generation, now live with the thought that we might be next. every time a word can’t be recalled, a name can’t be remembered, we wonder whether there is an impending destiny.
life’s horrors may, in the end, be benign. thus, one must turn to humor as a means of solace. once in awhile at a family dinner, the legendary tales of grandpa sam are shared for both laughs and memory. my children, and nieces will slowly begin to understand and appreciate these important memories that may become a reality.
thus, enjoy every day of life as a blessing.
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