Saturday, April 2, 2011

“If it wasn’t for you…” A toast to my grandfather on his 89th birthday (translated from Russian).

A long time ago, when you were only a toddler, your family settled in the “promised land” (Israel) to grow oranges and camels. Fortunately for me, in just a couple of years, all of you returned to the land of promises (the Soviet Union).
When you told me this story I was very young, but it made a big impression on me. Over the years I’ve often thought that there could have been myriad different reasons and circumstances that would have prevented you from being my grandfather. Your family could have stayed in Israel. You could have been killed in a pogrom or in the World War II…And even if you had survived all of that, instead of my grandmother, you could have met someone else or no one at all…and so on. My point is that, I am convinced, had we not “met”, my world would have been a much bleaker place. You see, I not only love you as my grandfather, I really, really like you and respect you as a human being. So, today, on your 89th birthday, with gratitude and love…a little bit of awe, I want to tell of the things that couldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for you.
  • If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t know that my “real” name is “shainer punim” or “sweet face” in Yiddish. The memory of you calling me that special name since I was a little girl, its warmth and beauty, are always in my heart.
  • If it wasn’t for you, I would have never tried skiing, or fallen off a bike, or broken my arm trying to ice-skate. Considering how “un”, or should I say, “anti” athletic I’ve always been, basically, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t even come this close to any sports-related activity.
  • If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have believed that real, passionate, mad kind of love between a husband and a wife could last more than 60 years…And then, when the time comes, it could just evolve into a new form and become eternal.
  • If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have known that any dish could be SIGNIFICANLY improved by mixing in the right amount of finely chopped, fried onions (this includes desserts too!)
  • If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be so self-confident. When I was called bad (horrible) names in school, you were the one who told me, “You are a star. So, there will always be people who are envious of you. Get used to it and then revel in it.” And now I know we are all stars! I was just fortunate enough that you taught me that secret early on in life.
  • If it wasn’t for you, our family wouldn’t have made it to America. You took care of it all – the tickets, the paperwork, the red tape…and, to a large extent, thanks to your energy and persistence I am here today.
  • If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t know that it is possible to be both a major pain in the butt and enormously loveable at the same time (yes, I am talking about you!)
  • If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t know an awesome, multi-purpose Yiddish expression “Oi vey”. Two tiny little words that can easily express deep sadness, surprise, exhaustion, annoyance, etc.
  • And finally, it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have known that an undying, vibrant sense of humor combined with a passionate, hungry, almost greedy love of life, could be considered an official, personal religion. I learned it from you and doing my best to practice it every day.
Happy birthday…and, God-willing, many, many more good years ahead.
Yours always,

Sheiner Punim


kat said...

I love it :)

梵婗 Fanny Lawren said...

Happy birthday to Grandpa! If it wasn't you, there wouldn't be a "sweet face." Thanks for helping to shape who she is now.

rmgclu said...

This a beautiful piece, Rina. You ARE a STAR in everything you say and do! Heaven bless your grandpa, you and your entire family!

Terry Granger said...

This is so beautiful, Rina!

Rina Koshkina said...

Thank you!!!