I’ve read some blog posts that are absolutely incoherent. Hell, I’ve written quite a few. But usually they follow a few glasses of wine or a long solo drive with too much thinking time. I’m hoping that whatever comes after these words is a little more readable.

I got an e-mail from my mother Tuesday morning, literally two minutes before walking out the door to work, telling me that my grandfather passed away. I kept rereading the e-mail, waiting for the words to sink in, waiting to feel something, waiting for anything. But nothing happened. Just a numbing shock. But not even REAL shock. My 83-year-old grandfather, up until last summer, was in better physical shape than anyone else in my family. He golfed regularly, he went to the gym, he stayed active. This July, after a year of hospital visits, routine procedures and not-so-procedural hospital slip-ups, he suffered a massive stroke, and that was when we all knew things weren’t ever going to be the same again.

The week before I left for Korea, on a visa run down to New York City, I went to the rehab facility where my grandfather was, so I could say goodbye. I didn’t fully know what kind of goodbye I was saying at the time, but I hadn’t discounted anything at the time. I brushed away tears as I walked out of his room to the car and headed into Manhattan to get my visa. A week later, I boarded my plane mere miles from the Brooklyn rehab center where my grandfather was.

I had said my goodbyes, I had made peace with the idea that not only would I not be be in the States in the event that my grandfather did pass away, but that I would miss the funeral and subsequent shiva.

But making peace with an idea is a lot different than dealing with something when it smacks you in the face. In this case, I got smacked at 8:30 in the morning, too early to be a good time for anyone to get smacked by anything. My morning classes went by in a blur; I can’t remember a single thing from the three hours I spent teaching Cooking. It was in those few hours that it began to really hit me. The only grandfather I’d known (my mother’s father passed away a few years before I was born) was gone. The Weisses are not a big clan, and I was one of only two grandkids on that side of the family. To say I was doted on would be putting it lightly–Joanna and I were both spoiled rotten. When I was younger, trips to my grandparents’ house in Brooklyn always included a trip to the toy store. By the time I was 11, I’d already had my hair permed four times, each time going to the salon around the corner from my grandparents’ house. My grandparents were the ultimate Jewish bubbye and zayde (though we never used those names, weirdly enough), and that rocked.

So by the time my third class ended Tuesday, I wordlessly had a few bites of lunch and then came back to my apartment. After a brief phone call home, I spent the rest of my lunch hour crying. It’s one thing to be at home and going through this, surrounded by other grieving relatives. While mentally prepping for the move to Korea, the idea that I’d be going through this alone never crossed my mind. It’s just not something you think about, you know? I don’t think I’ve ever felt as empty and defeated in my life as I did earlier this week.

Now it’s nearly a week later. That emptiness is still there, but some of it has been replaced by sadness. I’m sad that I’m missing sitting shiva, I’m sad that I couldn’t be there for my family. I’m just sad. But I’ve got some good friends here, and a support network that literally extends around the globe, and I am eternally grateful for the stream of IMs and e-mails that have come over the past few days.

Now that I’m over the initial shock, I can process my feelings. It’s taken a couple days, but I’m finally able to turn my thoughts into words here. And then think some more.

It’s weird to think that, when I eventually make my way back to the States, I will no longer have a reason to go to Brooklyn. I went from going every month (or at least what felt like it) as a child with the rest of my family to going for some holidays with my father and sister to spending a night, just my grandfather and I, whenever I made the Kingston-to-College Park trip. In recent years, I’d gotten to know my grandfather a lot better thanks to those overnight stops, and I’m grateful for that. I know my visits brightened him up as his friends and neighbors began to leave, and especially after his brother passed away in 2006.

I suppose the one thing I have really, truly made peace with is that he is finally at peace. My grandmother’s four-year illness took a toll on the whole family, and after she passed away in 2001, nothing was ever the same. I know that, after she died, he began to question his faith much more than he ever had. To hear that as a loud-and-proud Jewish teenager should have been terrifying to me, but at the time, it was oddly comforting to know that there truly is never an age at which one stops questioning his beliefs.

I learned a lot from my grandfather, but more than the lessons he didn’t realize he was teaching me were the memories I have that essentially sum up who he, at least in his final two decades, had come to be:

-The first time I ever spent the night on my way down to College Park, I stayed awake, as usual, longer than my grandfather. I probably went to bed around 11 p.m., but something was keeping me up and I couldn’t figure out what. Finally, I figured it out–I had left my crappy Dell laptop in my car and didn’t think to lock my car, even though I was in New York City, because I am a huge, huge idiot. I silently freaked out for a few minutes until I decided that I had to wake up my grandfather so that he could deactivate the security alarm for me to get outside to lock the car. I expected him to be pissed (though in all fairness, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen him pissed), but he was cool with it all. Very few people would be OK with being woken up in the middle of the night for something this unimportant.

-My entire childhood, every visit down to the city would involve my grandfather trying to trick Joanna and I into believing that he had canceled all of the TV stations we watched. I’m pretty sure it only worked once or twice, though I have a feeling Joanna will tell you never. You can bet I got my Degrassi fix when I went down there.

-About a year and a half ago, I stopped in Brooklyn for a night on the way back up to Kingston. I went out for dinner with my grandfather and his girlfriend, Mary (oh yeah, at the ripe age of 82, my grandfather had a girlfriend). My meal came with a complimentary glass of wine, and not being 21 yet, I flashed my fake, and the waiter decided not to question the fake ID of a girl out with elderly relatives. As he walked away, this:
My grandfather: “Wait a minute…you’re not 21.”
Me: “I know…”
Mary: “Oh Sandy, it’s those fake IDs. All the kids have them now.”
My grandfather: “Oh.”
Me: “Wanna see?”
My grandfather then inspected my ID, deemed it passable and I drank half of the absolutely disgusting, cheap wine (And I’m not one to dislike wine). When I couldn’t finish the glass, he did.

-When I first began writing for The Diamondback, I would excitedly cut out my clips and send them to my grandparents, because neither one had a computer.  As time went on and I had several stories published each week, I stopped cutting them out and sending them off.  But the novelty of seeing my byline began to wear off, to the point where I wouldn’t even read my stories in the paper the next day except for to skim for inserted errors.  I truly regret that I stopped mailing my clips out (well, except for this one.  Something tells me my grandparents wouldn’t have gotten a kick out of it…).  But while The Diamondback doesn’t circulate up in New York, USA Today does.  Whenever I had a blurb in the On Deadline section of the Nationline column, I’d give my grandfather a call and tell him to pick up a copy of the next day’s paper.  When I visited this past summer, a year after my stint at the paper, I remember seeing random page 3As scattered around the house.  My grandfather wasn’t a journalist, but he understood how important writing was to me.  I couldn’t help but smile when I’d move around papers on the table looking for the remote control and come across an old clip instead.

-At our family’s Passover seder in 2007, we drove out to Long Island to see some of my cousins. My sister told a story about how she had recently gone to Atlantic City and gambled and bought a drink. My grandfather put on this great act and pretended to be extremely disappointed in her and gave a lecture about the evils of drinking and gambling (and then proceeded to have several glasses of wine at the seder). One of my cousins captured the Kodak moment:

n5700272_33894041_136Sadly, that’s the only picture I have of him here.

-The one thing I just didn’t understand about my grandfather was how he ate his pasta. Most people, they put spaghetti sauce on pasta, right? Right. Well, not my grandfather. He topped every bowl of pasta with ketchup (“They’re both made from tomatoes–it’s like the same thing!”).

-My absolute favorite story, hands down, took place years ago. I was probably in middle school or just starting high school. My grandfather had come up for a weekend to visit, and took me shopping at the local mall. When we hit the checkout line at Old Navy, he told the cashier that he was my sugar daddy. At 14, I was mortified. At 22, I find it really, really funny.

Like the blog title said, this is the post I never thought I’d write. But now I have, and I feel better for it. Maybe it isn’t too coherent, but I really don’t care. My mind has been cloudy all week, and getting some of these thoughts out of my head and into this blog was the only thing I could think to do. Now that it’s all down on virtual paper, the moving-on process can begin. Starting now.

Sanford Ira Weiss, z”l

המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

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