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Random Memories of a Grandfather

Posted Dec 10 2012 2:51pm

One year ago, today, I was in Brazil celebrating my grandfather Moyses’s 90th birthday. Something told me it would be his last, so I embarked on a whirlwind 3-day trip just days after we moved into our house to join the rest of the family  for the party in my hometown. I wanted to see him, hold him, bathe in his adoring gaze one last time. I was right, he passed away right before Memorial Day.


My grandfather was one of the strongest pillars of my childhood. A kind, gentle soul, generous to a fault, he was universally adored and admired. He dedicated his life to his community, serving in Boards and Committees, fundraising, connecting, and loving every minute of it. We joked that he needed about an hour to say his good-byes whenever leaving a public event, much to the chagrin of my grandmother, a classic introvert, who was always ready to leave long before he was. He could talk to anyone, and within minutes, a stranger would be introduced as a new friend.

He was a successful man in many different areas, but in my opinion, his favorite accomplishment was his family. He was one of nine siblings, and was deeply involved with all of the extended family. He cherished us grandchildren with remarkable pride. At a time pre-Facebook status updates and electronic pictures, he got to know us the old-fashioned way – spending time together.


With both my grandparents, circa 1978

Every Sunday morning of my childhood was spent with him. He set out driving his boat of a car  to collect me and my brother, then my three cousins (there were two more cousins who did not live in town). Every week, we enjoyed a different child-friendly activity. We were the first in line whenever there was a circus in town. We went to the park, fed the ducks, bought cotton candy, pedaled the swan boats, went to the theater, saw the local orchestra, and much more. Our parents and grandmother got the morning off, then we all gathered for lunch at a restaurant. Afterward, we spent the afternoon at their home. The kids played, the adults talked, and before going home there was always cake. As a child, I took for granted our time together. Now, I can appreciate the gift he gave us – large chunks of unscripted time spent with him, and cousins who were our favorite playmates. It amazes me how deeply he committed his Sunday mornings to us.

I grew up asking him to tell me stories about his family, their immigration from Russia and Romania to Southern Brazil, and what life was like as a first-generation Brazilian Jew. He repeated the stories, sometimes, but I did not care. Immigration, and starting a new life and family in a new, adopted homeland was fascinating to me…

When I was 13, my grandfather took me and my cousin Pedro (then 12) to Israel and Europe.  I was a sullen teenager permanently attached to my new red Walkman, headphones blaring U2′s Joshua Tree in a constant loop. It is a testament to my grandfather’s patience and fortitude that he did not dispatch me home early. We visited his younger brother who had left Brazil with his wife for yet another homeland, and got to know his children and grandchildren.

Mel e vô em Israel001

Masada, 1988

To our family’s surprise, many years ago, my grandfather declared he did not want to meet any great-grandchildren. It was obvious that the idea of meeting them and not seeing them grow up was painful to him. He did not have a choice. The first great-granddaughter came in 2003, and he was head over heels in love. He went on to meet 5 more great-grandchildren, including my two daughters. He was not lucid enough to understand the circumstances of Daphne’s birth, and for that I was grateful.


Caiobá, last days of 2010

My children will have no memories of him. But I have more than enough to share. He would have been 91 today.

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