I’ll always remember my grandfather as being serious and logical. My mother was his favorite daughter. He never had to say it out loud, but we all knew it.
He wasn’t your tickling or a piggybackride-providing-kind-of-grandpa. It’s not that he didn’t have a sense of humor or sarcastic streak because he did. He’d laugh and watch his grandchildren play, but then all of a sudden he’d round all of us up and make us sit around for one of his serious stories.
There was always a moral to his stories and we were never allowed to laugh even if we thought his story was funny. I was the oldest grandchild by many years, but I was never exempt from having to sit and listen. Even until the very end of his life he still sat me down for one more story…and it had a moral of course.
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I grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but lots of my weekends were spent with my grandfather at his grocery store in Brooklyn. It was in Williamsburg, on Manhattan Avenue. It was the early 80s.
At the time Williamsburg was not terribly trendy or horribly hip. It was an immigrant’s neighborhood, just like lots of other neighborhoods in New York now polished and unrecognizable. I learned basic words in Polish because the store was in a Polish neighborhood. I ate kielbasa for the first time in my life in Williamsburg, and I can’t live without it even today. I love kielbasa.
I had my first fight with a Polish girl, and it was a draw.
Best of all I got to hang out with my grandfather for hours on end. I got to eat and drink all I wanted from his inventory, and I got to learn how to use the cash register too. I read my first real nudie magazines at my grandfather’s store, without ever getting caught. My grandfather paid me $5 each day for “helping” him at the store, meanwhile I probably cost him an additional $60 in merchandise and food per day.
When the Garbage Pail Kids cards came out I had more than anyone else did. I plundered my grandfather’s candy deliveries for them, and the cards came with some of the worst sugar-bomb gum but nobody cared about the gum anyway. They were some of the best days of my life.
I’m so glad I got that time with him, to be serious and not serious like we had all the time in the world…