02 June 2008

My Grandfather and the Clarinet

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.


Pelkyi Dorje said...

Thanks. I put two checks in the box for reasons to be alive.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

One great story, one sweet story.

You're on a roll.

SJ said...

I think the lesson from the first story is: When at war learn Yiddish.

Two posts in a row you made me sad could be bad for my heart you know :)

Aimeepalooza said...

Again, great stories for which I have no words.

Simon said...

Don't feel guilty - I'm sure he thought warmly of his beloved grandson every time he gazed up at his shattered chandelier.

Nice stories...

People in the Sun said...

Pelkyi, thanks. It took me a while. Actually, I called Honey and asked her why Pelkyi wanted to send me two checks.

Xbox, thanks. I promise the next post will be different. It'll even include the word "shag."

SJ, I see you've read Sun Tzu. But really, you haven't read The Art of War until you've read it in the original Yiddish. -- And as I wrote to Xbox, the next post will be different. It will be about my future (short-term ) plans, which at least will make God laugh.

Aimee, thanks. You don't need to say anything else, really. Just a comment like that makes me keep going.

Simon, maybe you're right. We were invited back every week, after all. Poor guy was coming into the living room, and as he was walking, he was taking his belt off. But he never hit anyone. Maybe he did like us being there after all.

Abdul Vahid said...

thanx friend.........for visiting my blog ...... i want to build a good virtual friendship with you .....ok all the best....

Ricardo said...

Could it have been a bad reed?

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

Ricardo - that's what I was wondering. I don't know anything about reed instruments (or even if a clarinet is one), but don't those things get brittle or something & need replacing? I suppose by this time it makes not that much difference. :-(

Anyway...I did enjoy the stories.

People in the Sun said...

Hey, look at me losing track of comments like tears in the rain.

But it was the cigarettes. He had one of those tall swively ashtrays that made you want to smoke. They don't make cool ashtrays anymore, now that smokers are considered evil-er than Osama bin Laden.

Oh, and Abdul, thanks and all the best to you too, you know?

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