My grandpa passed away on the afternoon of Friday, March 29, 2019. He was 94 years old. Luckily, I was able to go out and see him earlier that week when he came home from the hospital into home hospice care. It was a truly magical moment when all my cousins and I were singing songs to my Grandpa that night. He lived a full and complete life.
As was printed in the official obituary today, “this is not Sidney’s first obituary. . .” Cue ominous music.
In May 1945 when he returned home from internment as a POW in Germany, the twenty-year old Sidney learned that his hometown paper had published an account of his death during the Battle of the Bulge. But Sid was one of the lucky few who were captured, shipped to Germany, and survived until being liberated by General Patton’s army. He returned to Princeton University to resume the education that had been interrupted by the war he saw as “the fundamental uniting experience of my generation.”
I feel like I knew my grandpa pretty well, as we’re a close family and I went to college where he taught, but I did not know that. I do remember his stories of being a Jew held captive by the German Army and having to fight some of his fellow American soldiers because he was Jewish.
But mostly what I remember was his love of knowledge and his love of great food and travel. He had what my daughter calls a “wandering eye.” When he was deep in his career, he mostly loved to talk about intellectual matters – when I was in college, I would yank his chain while we played chess by talking to him about “Creationism.” I once brought him an evangelist-creationist comic-book; that was fun. He was a lot more fun to have fun with than his father – Grandpa Dave – who cooked a mean borscht, but had no humor about frivolous matters.
My grandfather certainly passed on a love of reading to me. I have always been incredibly proud that he translated Crime and Punishment. Because of him, I have read most of Doestoyevsky’s novels, Tolstoy, Bulgokov, Turgeñev, and tried to read James Joyce. My grandfather truly loved Joyce – and could often be heard quoting from Finnegan’s Wake in what he thought was an Irish brogue.
As he got older, he was much more a pure lover of fun – more available to children and childish pleasures. Singing silly children’s songs. And that’s how I will remember him best.