It’s possible that he could have shined brighter if he’d not been in the shadow of his articulate, go-getter wife for all of those years. The person who took center stage was Bubby. She ran the show. She was the one whose English was strong, whose accent was somehow impressive and not detrimental. She was the one who told me—and later everyone, everywhere—the stories. She was the one who remembered every last detail of every last story. No one questioned her version of the story. She was the one who could bring tears to your eyes even if you thought you’d heard it all. My grandmother managed to wear her tragedy in the most graceful way, sharing and re-sharing it through her speeches while still being one of the strongest and most optimistic people I have ever known. The Holocaust was my Bubby’s badge of honor. She wore it proudly and she wore it well.
Zeidy died in 1991 when I was twenty and in college, and while he was around for most moments of those first twenty years, I knew and still know so little about him. By the mid-1980s, his mental and physical health had declined. Sadly, one of my most lasting memories of my Zeidy was of him walking up to complete strangers any time we were out and telling them in his Polish accent, “I ate the grass. In Dachau, I ate the grass.” People would nod with concerned looks, but no one understood what he was talking about. It was undoubtedly the truth that he ate the grass, but I’d never known much of his story, so there wasn’t much context to put it into. Most of his stories died with him and likely years before his physical body died. For that, I will always feel sadness and regret.
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