6/15/2008

Family Ties

Tomorrow is my grandmother's 90th birthday. Ninety years. She was born shortly before the end of World War I. She lived through the Great Depression and World War II and the Korean War. She saw a president assassinated and the Civil Rights Movement unfold. America landed men on the moon. My grandmother saw the Berlin Wall being built and also watched it come tumbling down. She was alive during the formation of Iraq out of the crumbling Ottoman Empire and she's watched as that country has fallen apart over the past five-plus years. Ninety years.

In honor of his mother's birthday my father, using his much vaunted iMac, put together a book, a collection of photos of her and her family and friends from the past 90 years, many of whom are no longer with us. My mother and father sifted through piles of old, weathered photographs, pictures of my grandmother as a small child, pictures of her parents, even. I saw pictures of my grandfather, my father's father who died at the age of 50 when my father was only 13 and newly Bar Mitzvahed, one of when he was a big-eared little boy in Russia before his family immigrated to America, and others of when he was a big-eared man, a father, enjoying time with his two children.

To join in celebration of this milestone of longevity, my brother and his wife and their son and daughter drove to town from Colorado, and my cousin, my father's nephew, the son of my father's sister who died nearly 15 years ago, flew to town from Pittsburgh with his wife and their almost-one-year-old son. My sister, of course, lives here in Omaha with her family, her husband and their son and daughter, as do I, my parent's youngest child who has struggled to find his place in the great, vast scheme of things.

Today, in the midst of my grandmother's birthday celebration, is also Father's Day, a not insignificant day in my family, given the number of children born over the past seven years. It was really something special, seeing my father surrounded by not only his children but his grandchildren and grandnephew as well. It was impossible not to think of my cousin, whose father, an incredibly disappointing and selfish man, died shortly after his mother.

And as we grew closer to this weekend, it's been difficult not to think of my grandfather as well, especially after looking through all those old photos of him for my grandmother's book. I regret not having had a chance to know him, and I know my father regrets it, too. But such is the fate life bestowed upon us. Life is tenuous and requires of us to enjoy every moment. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. And all that remains are memories and old photographs.

So here's to making those memories and taking those pictures. Here's to not only my own father, but to my brother and my cousin, and to my brother-in-law as well. Happy Father's Day to you all. One day I hope to join your ranks, and I can only hope I exhibit the same love and patience (especially patience) that I've witnessed in all of you.

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