Seder V

So I don’t want to brag about the media prowess of the Pearlman Family. Really, I don’t. But tonight, in the aftermath of seder No. 2 at my parents’ house tonight, I stumbled upon this in a folder of yellowed pictures …

The item ran in the March 29, 1984 edition of the Jewish Journal. Page 34B, no less. Mollie and Nat were my grandparents; my dad’s folks. They’re both long deceased, but I think of them quite often. Especially around holiday time. Especially at Passover.

You’d figure I mean that the grandparents and I spent a lot of quality Passover time together. Truth is, we didn’t. By the time I was 2 or 3, they had relocated from Brooklyn to a hopping new place called Sunrise, Florida. They lived in a complex of stucco apartements called Sunrise Lakes, with a pool across the way and the permanent scent of Ben Gay-meets-crabgrass-meets-duck. You think I’m kidding about the smell—I’m not. It was insanely distinctive. Even today, when I travel to Florida, there are certain moments when it flows up my nostrils. I immediately think of Mollie and Nat.

My grandparents were a hoot. My grandma was an insanely nervous woman. Maybe she became that way because, at age 10, she lost her sister. Whatever the case, you couldn’t sneeze without her wondering whether you had a disease; couldn’t cross the street without her watching from the balcony. Their condo was on a canal, and Grandma always worried that an alligator would emerge from the water and eat my brother and I. She’d heard that once happened—the story was enough. Grandpa, meanwhile, just seemed to want to take it easy. He was heavily involved in his temple, liked gadgets—and that was that. Give the man and bagel and a newspaper, he was pretty happy. I remember he tended to slurp soup or milk directly from his bowl. Drove my mom crazy.

My grandparents were cheap, in the way many Jewish ex-New Yorkers from that era seemed to be. Whenever we went to Florida for vacation, it meant we’d be eating dinner at 3:30 pm. That’s when the early bird specials kicked off—steaks or chicken; fries or potato; ice cream or jello for desert—$4.99. So what if nobody could possibly crave dinner at 3:30? The price was right.

My grandpa was a lovable guy. Not overly affectionate, but extremely warm. Starting when I was, oh, 14, he’d end phone conversations by saying, “Don’t forget to wear your rubbers.” He thought it was funny and, to be honest, I did, too. I don’t think Grandma actually got the joke. At least she never seemed to. I only recall seeing Grandpa angry once. It was when he allowed my little cousin, Daniel, my brother and I to rent movies. One of our choices was an Andrew Dice Clay concert tape. Man, the language. “Are you boys sure this is appropriate?”

When Grandpa died, I wasn’t there. Not sure why, but it sucks, and it’s extremely regrettable. When Grandma died, probably seven or eight years ago now, I was with her. Not for the final days, but near the final. I remember my dad and mom and uncle and cousin and brother gathered around, sad … heartbroken … at a loss. When a woman in her mid-80s has lived a good life, you hate to see her go. But, at the same time, you hate even more to see her suffer.

I miss them. I really do.

A final thought: Many years ago I recall some tool showing up on Springer, talking about how he’d be physically beautiful forever. It was insane, obviously, but he seemed to believe it. I only knew Grandma and Grandpa from the portrait above—the one where they’re old and happy. On the one hand, they once looked so dashing. Especially Grandpa. Then, over time, they just became sorta short and wrinkly and frumpy. The guy from Springer would deem that tragedy. I don’t. My grandparents lived happy lives, and genuinely loved one another. That’s beauty.