I sat my father down in the kitchen so I could interview him about his father. His father had died 5 years prior and though the wounds had healed you could still see the scars and the pain behind my father’s eyes. I asked him the question: what was the best thing your father has ever done for you? With the other questions he took time to think about it, shuffling through his memories, but with this question he took no time at all. He answered, “He was present and made sure I knew it.”
My grandfather grew up in Philadelphia with his mom, Mary, and his father, Saul. Saul was never a good father, he was always jealous of my grandfather for his accomplishments and his life. My grandfather didn’t want to be like this, he wanted to be there for his kids, he wanted his children to love him, they did.
My grandfather was a family therapist. He helped people process and deal with emotions. How to shuffle through them and help people find the light in the darkest of times. He had to transform himself for his patients, he dug through their lives as if they were filing cabinets to find the best and the happiest of times to remind each of them how much they truly had. He used his own pain and his own trauma to feel empathy and made each of his patients feel special and treasured. If you dug past his pessimistic and stubborn outside you found the good and the incredible within him.
The first time my mother ever met my grandfather was on a sunny Monday in New York. Her and my father waited by the curb for him to come. My father looked over my mother's shoulder and chuckled. He pointed behind her and when she turned around my grandfather was standing there in full bike gear. A bright red bike helmet, knee pads, shoulder pads, and elbow pads. The whole family still laughs at the first impression he made on my mother. One thing I still admire about my grandfather is his freeness. His ability to be himself, to express who he was without embarrassment. To love himself no matter what. His ability to not care.