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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Hello Again and Goodbye

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

My father's parents perished in the Holocaust so I never knew them. I carry my grandmother's name with pride and my brother carries my late grandfather's name.

I know that set of grandparents only through a few stories that my father and uncles shared with us.

My mom's parents lived in Revere in a small apartment high on hill.

My Bubby Rose died when I was thirteen, so I have few memories of her, but I still have her postcards that she wrote me when I was a little girl. This poem is mostly memories of my grandfather, Papa Abrasha, my mom's dad.

I write this now as a grandparent myself. When I remember back to Papa Abrasha, who died when he was 89, the image I feel most poignantly is seeing him sitting in the front window or the front porch waving good-bye. My parents did the same thing as we left them when we visited them on the Cape. They would stand and wave as we pulled out of the driveway and they would be waving until we disappeared back to our own lives.

This summer, as my son and his family left me when I was on the Cape, I was very conscious that I was taking up my grandfather's and my parent's traditions of waving good-bye. I stood on the porch and waved as they left the driveway and were out of sight.

As grandparents there is nothing sweeter than greeting our children and grandchildren. The hellos are satisfying and the visits are full, and the good-byes always contain just a hint of bittersweet. Our hearts belong to our children and our grandchildren and as we part from them we our lives are just a little emptier. We await that next visit, that next taste of the energy of youth and the beauty of our grandkids.

As Jews we smell spices when the Sabbath departs to give us extra strength to proceed to the week ahead. The light of the braided candle lights our way to the next week which we pray will be healthy and busy and "tov," good. So it is with our children: Our waves good-bye to our children and grandchildren need to go along with the thought that these farewells are "good" and that we will meet again soon, with joy.

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Hello Again and Goodbye

When I was young my grandparents never seemed old

Instead they were a wonderfully messy potpourri

Snippets of images and sounds

Damp herring breath and stubble

Baggy bloomers peeking out from under a print housedress

"Mein kind," my papa would say with salty kisses on my cheeks

"Kill 'em" my bubby would yell at the wrestlers on the television set

Later, after countless visits to a dusty apartment on top of a tall hill

Papa was alone

We'd enter, all noise and talk and energy

Radiators loudly clanking

Yellow light pouring through a lonely stained glass window,

Papa sitting at the kitchen table, his rumpled head bowed

The table was his universe, one end to the other covered with books

Studying history and torah throughout the day

Answering long lost unanswered questions about himself and the universe

A gallon jug of wine next to him made his studies more sweet

Koncletten* frying in a greasy frying pan

"Come in, mein kinderlach," he would say

Wet kisses on both cheeks

The smell of hundreds of Yiddish newspapers on an airless back porch

Bubby's handiwork laid neatly on the beds

The blaring radio to keep him company, tinny voices filling the air

Pushing aside his books so that we could eat among the accumulated knowledge

He stood by the stove watching us with a smile.

We rushed to eat and disappeared into the back yard

Papa shared food with us, shared jokes and his view of life

Peppered with advice and a laugh

At the end of each visit he would go onto the front porch

"Goodbye, mein kinderlach, come again! Don't forget to call!"

He leaned onto railing as we disappeared down the hill

Raise his hand as a farewell

He'd follow us with his eyes

He'd follow us with his heart

Slowly he'd return to his table, his universe of books and his wine

Drawing of Papa Abrasha by Moreen Hirsch 10/11/73

*Koncletten were hamburgers

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