Friday, August 31, 2007

My Opa’s Jarhzeit
by: Schvach Yid

Today, the 17th of Elul, is my paternal Opa’s (grandfather’s) jahrzeit. He died in 1968 at the age of 77 years of a cerebral hemorrhage. It seems all the men in my paternal line of descent suffered strokes. Opa developed a thrombocytopenia, stroked, and that was that. Regrettably, it was also my bother’s birthday – oy!

My grandfather was a native of Bremerhaven, Germany, descended from Gd-knows how many generations of German Jews. He served in the German coastal artillery during the First World War, and was shipped off to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp the day following Kristallnacht (Nov 10, 1938), on the eve of the Second World War. Them Deutschen! Fortunately, their entry visas to America came through in just a few weeks, and Germany, being in a slightly more altruistic frame of mind toward its Jewish populace (their German citizenship had previously been revoked) allowed my father, uncle, and paternal grandparents to sail to America.

My Opa’s wife, my Oma, was also a native German, born in Steele bei Essen. She died in 1996, at the age of 103 years (unberufen!).

My paternal grandparents had two children, both sons; my father is the younger. His older brother, my one and only uncle, died in 1990 of metastatic lung cancer at the age of 69 years; he was a life-long cigarette smoker, beginning in his early teens.

My father, nebich, suffered the fate of is paternal inheritance; three years ago he suffered a stroke. His stroke was preceded by the onset of senility. Two years ago, at a moment of neglect by his caretaker, he fell to the ground, knocking his crown, and the three neurological insults – progressive senility, the stroke, and the closed head injury – have left my father significantly debilitated, both physically and mentally.

There is almost nothing my father utters that is coherent. Rarely he recognizes a family member and answers the person by name. Other than that, not much. He’s confined to a wheelchair, with the exception of very brief walks with the aid of a physical therapist or caretaker.

Well, the other day I visited my folks and stayed for dinner. My father ate his dinner with the assistance of my mother. In the middle of the meal, as my mother reached for another spoonful of food to deliver to my father’s mouth, he paused and began to sing Avinu Malkanu.

Mind you, he almost never attended schul, although he was far from areligious.

He must be aware of the time of year. Good Shabbos!

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