I wrote before about my grandfather from my father’s side. Now, my grandfather from my mother’s side, Grandpa Albert. I have two stories about him.
The first story is one he told us. Near the end of the war, he said, he was fighting with the French resistance, the Partisans, when someone saw a group of retreating Germans. The next day, an American platoon went through the woods and was met by the Partisans, who tried to explain to the Americans where the Germans were headed. But of course, none of the Americans spoke French and none of the French could speak English, and it seemed like the Germans were going to escape.
Then, my grandfather heard an American officer referring to one of his soldiers as Cohen. My grandfather then quickly ran to introduce himself and to explain, in Yiddish, where the Germans were hiding.
That’s it. It’s a cool little story, I think.
One other thing I know about him was that as a young man he played clarinet in a Klezmer band. When my mom told me about that, I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world and I was proud and eager to hear him play. One day he finally agreed. He took the small box from the back of the drawer, opened it, unwrapped the pieces of clarinet from the satin sheet, and slowly put together the clarinet, piece by piece.
I think time moved differently back then. But maybe that’s what childhood is all about.
And then he put the clarinet to his lips and blew. And nothing. He tried again, but still nothing.
And I don’t know if it was smoking or maybe it was just old age, but I just remember feeling I was witnessing one of the saddest moment of my life. What can be sadder than a musician who can’t play music anymore?
I don’t remember much else about him. My mother says he was a great father and she cries a little when she mentions him. He was great to me, too, considering I broke his chandelier in a pillow fight with my cousin. And I know he was an antique dealer in France.
Lesson to us all. If you’re an antique dealer who moves to Israel and is forced to get rid of everything because there’s no market for antiques in a land eager to invent itself, and you keep only the most prized, sentimental possessions in your house, don’t put a pillow, a chandelier, and two kids in the same room. Poor guy.