zeide a"h during WW2
Friday 12 Av is my zeide's yohrtzeit.
This may sound unreasonable to those of you a generation older than me, but it's how I feel. Hitler took our zeides and bubbes from us prematurely. Schneur will surely tell us how he, nor any of his friends, had any zeides and bubbes growing up, since they never made it out Europe. So, I'm being selfish. I see what my kids, b"h, have and I would've liked it as well. Why should I not have any memories of my zeide because he passed away when I was 8 years old? Had he lived just as long, but had he started to build his family years earlier, just like all others his age did, I could've had at least 10 more of spending yomim tovim and other joyous occasions with him. I say this today because today 12 Av is my zeide's 31st yohrtzeit. The kvius was just like today. The temperature was a whopping 104 degrees. On his return from a hard day's work his heart gave out on the front porch. It was our first experience with death in the family, us young children, and we had a hard time understanding why. Why others still had their zeides and we had lost one. He was just as young as some of the others - it was just not fair. I was away from home punkt that week and I wasn't there witness the levaya and shivah. Only after the shiva did I return home and see my bubbe, who lived out of town. That lead me to ask questions, and thus I was told about life and death, and how my beloved zeide had left this world. These lines don't do my zeide justice, but nothing I can write here really does, so I apologize ahead of time.
My zeide was born in a small town in Hungary in 1911. His parents were Ashkeneyzishe Yidden who worked hard and had little to show for it. My zeide did not merit to learn in Yeshiva after his bar mitzvah - not everybody did back then. Most didn't. But I dare say that when it came to מעשה, which is the point of the לימוד, he did want. His devotion to Yiddishkeit was beyond dispute, despite losing so much of his family and suffering so much. During WW2 he was taken to forced labor, like many others in Hungary. He married my bubbe o"h in 1942 and they both b"h survived. His labor group was taken as far as Vitebsk, from what I understand. His siddurim and machzorim were worn with use over the years. Shabbos and YomTov were revered and special. Time set aside for learning whenever possible. The chinuch of his child was of utmost importance, no matter the hardship in sending away an only child. The joy of spending time with the eyniklech, which didn't happen that often because we lived in New York, is difficult to put into words. But alas! that didn't last as long as we dare say it could have. He did not live to see the eyniklach grow up, something I know would have made him burst with joy and pride! I had the zechus, together with an older sister, to spend the last Pesach with him and my bubbe, a"h. I distinctly remember the sefirah beard during chol hamoed and how I was tickled by the stubble. To an 8 year old these things stick in your mind. Don't ask why I'm sharing this with you...
I have lots of pictures on my dining room walls. Pictures of zeides and bubbes, going aback as far as I can. With my side it's only elter zeides and bubbes, and even that I'm not quite sure why my bubbe and zeide managed to salvage them. From my wife's side there are several more generations to display; they either got out soon before or were long gone, depending on the particular ancestor. I know the yichus well, on my wife's side I know it better than her siblings and cousins. They have so much to keep track of, it gets difficult for people who aren't into yichus. I try to tell my kids about my zeides, but they have a hard time relating. Even those kids who are named after their elter zeide/bubbe have a hard time. They get the lineage mixed up. "is it bubbe's mother, or zeide's mother," they ask. Then they give me a funny look and tune out. So much for that history lesson. If only they could to spend time with them; it would make life so much easier, They'd have that link to the old country, and they'd have a stronger sense of family. Which is why I say that Hitler, ימ"ש prematurely took our zeides and bubbes, from both us and from our children. Strong grandparent figures do wonders for kids growing up. Every child should have them. The problem is that, like every other good thing, we tend to not recognize how dear and important they are, and how we need to treasure each moment with them.