Monday, February 16, 2009

Zaidy's Party

Sunday was an absolutely gorgeous day.  For a chance to walk in the sun, I took public transit to my grandfather's 96th birthday party instead of bumming a ride or taking a cab.  The trip takes ten minutes from my door to his door by car.  I figured allowing 45 minutes for public transit would be plenty.

The stupid bus sat idling for around 25 minutes before finally closing its doors and farting off towards Bathurst St.

I arrived at my grandparents' apartment just as the family lit the candles on the birthday cake.  Just in time to sing Happy Birthday, which is the most important part of any birthday party.  I would have felt bad if I'd missed out on that.

My grandparents’ tiny, one-bedroom apartment in an assisted-living seniors' residence was cram-packed with people, furniture, and food.  My father had even brought the dog.  Chairs had been dragged from the common area into the apartment to provide enough seating for everyone, and one tiny table, supplemented by some folding TV trays, were so loaded that the rims of plates hung over the table-edges on all four sides.

There was a surfeit of goodies. Lemon pie, marble cake, two types of cookies, potato chips, several boxes of chocolate bonbons, ice cream, rice dream, and on and on. My grandmother was dispensing tea all around, and plastic tumblers of sparkling water. There was a festive busy-ness in the air. Various conversations split and merged. My grandfather, more lucid than I’ve seen him in a while, cracked jokes that had the whole room laughing. We held on to the backs of chairs as we crawled over other chairs to reach the people we hadn’t hugged yet. The dog trotted here and there with her tail a-waggle, snuffling at the rug for crumbs.

It was good to see the family together, having a good time. That apartment must get awfully quiet when it’s just my grandparents at home. My grandfather, I’m told, sleeps a lot. And when he’s awake, he’s not able to hold much of a conversation. He repeats a few phrases, and the same questions, over and over. It’s sweet when he tells us for the hundredth time that he can’t decide if my grandmother is a honey bunny or a lovey dovey, but I know that she craves more conversational variety.

After a couple of hours it was time for everyone to get back into their cars and drive home – which for one cousin is as far as Peterborough. Leftovers were packed away and the extra chairs were dragged back out into the hall. I patted my grandfather’s soft, snowy hair, and kissed his cheek. His brilliantly blue eyes held each of us as he said goodbye, and told us how proud he is of us, and how much joy we bring to him. He tells it in Yiddish – shepping nachas is what he calls it (where the “ch” is that throat-clearing sound that doesn’t exist in English).

What a man. Ninety-six! If I’m to take after him, I’d better save up a lot of money for my retirement. It’s going to have to last a long time.


Warped Mind of Ron said...

Sounds like a good time. 96 is a great accomplishment, imagine the things he has seen in his lifetime. I myself figure I've got about another 15 years tops so I'm not worrying to much about retirement.

Nicole said...

96 is a proud age, darn,...!
Glad you all had a good time :)

Karen said...

Happy Birthday Grandpa. That is great. What a blessing to your grandparents in your life for so longs.

Anonymous said...

96 years. That's incredible.

Oh my, I just realized my grandmother would have turned 96 last week.

LL Cool Joe said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful day. 96 is an amazing age too.

I wonder if we would live our lives differently if we knew we were going to live that long?

I'm so glad you made it for the cake and singing. :)

Kate said...

Those are the best kind of parties.

Scarlet said...

96?? Wow! I wish him many more! He sounds like the life of the party.

I love gatherings like that...good company, tasty food and funny stories. I also enjoy squeezing together in an intimate setting like that. Sounds like my kinda party.

Aurora said...

That's pretty amazing, 96. I can't recall anyone in my family living that long! how lovely that everyone was there to celebrate together.

Claire said...

Sounds like a great party!


SoMi's Nilsa said...

I think we can learn so much from our family. Amazing your grandfather is well into his 90's. That man has long-term stamina!