It all started with a phone call I shouldn’t have picked up. I am great at ignoring phone calls, but today, for some reason, I am hearing my father while I am in bed.
“Zaidy passed away last night can you take me to the airport and take over my business for a week?”
All the punctuation there is correct. There were no commas, no ellipsis and no exclamation marks. The flood of marks I saw was from me, not from the phone. All the phone gave was that little question mark at the end which asked for one thing: a mundane yes. Which it got, and two of them.
The ride and the business faded away and Zaidy came into my screen. He was there from then until now—and hour before the livayah–and he’s only getting stronger and stronger.
As I head to my father house, I was greeted with a good morning by an old friend. Today he tells me good morning? It’s not a good morning! Who says it’s a morning altogether. If Zaidy is not here, then maybe morning is also not here. Zaidy was always here. Zaidy never changed in my short 25 years. How can one phone call change it all?
As I continued with my day, I realized that it was not just the phone call that was off, the whole day is; everything is different today. Everything is the same, but everything is different. Today zaidy is not here. And he will never be here again.
I come to my father’s house and see a man praying. Perhaps it’s good he’s praying, I have nothing to say to him anyway. But why is he praying? I never knew you have to pray when Zaidy is not here. It’s not a regular day, and on a not-regular day, regular things should not happen.
I didn’t even know that zaidy was sick—my father did not tell me. My father is a man who does not seek attention through pain, even—and especially—his own. For this reason he did not tell my siblings what happened today either, so I picked up my phone and spammed them this text:
BARUCH DAYAN EMES!!!
ZAIDY PASSED AWAY LAST NIGHT!
TATTY IS FLYING FROM
NEWARK AT 1:15
I am bombarded with details. How did it happen? When did it happen? Where did it happen? But in all of these questions, I see one painful thought: how is it possible for zaidy to leave us.
Yes it’s painful, and that’s my point today.
Zaidy was 93, but to me he was Zaidy. To me he was Zaidy from Eretz Yisroel. To me he was my Tatty’s Tatty. He was the one who made sure I was not on the bus that blew up. He was the one who made sure I did not die, and today he died himself?
I am not saying that he was the best Zaidy, he probably wasn’t. I am just saying that he was Zaidy. He was Zaidy and he is Zaidy, and he will always be Zaidy, even if he was 93.
But all my feelings shattered when my father asked me to wait while answering a phone call. “Nigmar histaryah,” he said while his stomach breathed deeper then I have ever seen. All his limbs fell out of place; the muscles holding them together were gone. Gone together with Zaidy.
It was then that I realized that what to me was Zaidy was to him Tatty. Tatty for sure can not go away! But that’s what happened today. That’s what happened in that phone call. It happened, though everything I see says otherwise.
While driving to my father’s business, I saw many cars on the road. That too, I did not understand. What are cars doing here when Zaidy is gone?
On the news sites, Zaidy’s passing is almost good news. Besides being words to fill up an intimidating white paper, the editors go on to say his age! It says it almost before his name. It starts with his age, continues with his accomplishments, and finishes with his many children. No where does it say what I know. No where does it say that Zaidy passed away. No where does it say that he will never come back. Of course Moshaich is coming, of course Zaidy will be back, but Zaidy was not supposed to leave in the first place. Not my Zaidy.
When I tell my father’s friends that Zaidy passed away, they sigh; but are relieved when they hear that he was 93. Who cares about 93? Zaidy was not 93! Zaidy was Zaidy. Who cares if he accomplished, and who cares if he did not accomplish; who cares if he had children, and who cares if he didn’t have children; today, one thing matters, and one thing only: My Zaidy.
At the levayah of Reb Yudel Chitrik obm, I remember my principal was proud of his sharpness and subsequently repeated this many times: “This is a good levayah.” He said, everyone else thought it. Everyone except the children. And today I am the children.
Though that principal is not here today, though that levayah was not Zaidy’s, I hear him saying it about my Zaidy. I hear everyone saying it about my zaidy. And to you, everyone, let me say one thing: you have it wrong and I have it right. I promise. For as my father will wish goodbye to his father, he will not be thinking that it is a good levayah. He will be thinking what I am thinking: this is the worst levayah on earth.
He will be thinking about Tatty. Tatty who kissed him and Tatty who slapped him; tatty who laughed for him and tatty who cried for him. And then, when he will finish thinking of all the things tatty did and did not do, he will return to think what he already thought: Tatty…Tatty…Oh Tatty!