Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New York, New York : 2

Today was one of those days they write songs about.  In fact, I believe that they did write a song about today - it was called "New York State of Mind" and the brilliant Mr. Billy Joel sings it - at least he did prior to the financial collapse... not sure if he does anymore.  At any rate, the streets were buzzing, the sun was shining - all the good things that come with being in a very busy city were charming the life back into living. It was like God's version of a Fred Astaire number - done with practice to perfection yet never lost on even the most devoted fan.

And now here I am - sitting in an airport bar drinking a drastically overpriced beverage and only slightly annoyed at the dirt and grime surrounding me.  The day draws to close and I'm alive with the recent memory of my grandfather's arms around my shoulders, his laugh and smile lighting up the room and a warm "looking forward to seeing you again" echoing in my ears. At 92 years old and the living legend of strokes and heart malfunctions - he is a miracle... even if he doesn't feel that way.  Yet... I know that each visit is potentially the last - and that's a particularly morbid accent to the flight.  He was never a character of gentlemanly traits the way Mr. Cary Grant was.... but he was and continues to be a character in his own right.  He sits outside of his upper west side apartment, barely able to remember the ten minutes he just lived through but, still - ogling the women as they pass by.  At one point he whistles at a woman who is roughly 22 years old (or so I guess.)  And when I turn to him to smile he says, "What? I'm still alive!" - Yes Opa... you are. 

For those that do not know me or my history - my Opa is my hero.  I have written once about my Grandmother- my father's mother... and told you of her history.... so it seems only right that I should share with you my Opa.  My Opa, his 3 wives, his 3 children, his 3 grandchildren.... my Opa who does everything in a series of threes apparently.  I guess I just realized that... an epiphany mid-blog... go figure.

At any rate, Opa is a musician who ages without the blessing of his ears.... they've been gone for several years now... and it is only through the use of some very powerful hearing aids that he is able to only slightly get into a verbal exchange.  And only then after you say things very slowly and very clearly... oh yes... and very loudly. But a musician who cannot hear music can still hear music.  And so he does.  As he gets hungry, he begins to hum.... a tune (I'm told) is a from an Opera and from a scene during which a man awaits his food from the servers. An Opera? Yes. An Opera - because what else would you expect a master of the English Horn who played with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for thirty years to know? His wife, still practicing Cellist with the Company, knows all the shows and in this very sweet way, this is how they communicate. He hums a show - she knows why.  Of course the meaning of Biere Hier isn't quite as difficult to decipher.... it may be German but to understand that the man wants a Beer Here... not very complex.... yet still pretty damn adorable.

My Opa... I'm not sure how you can even begin to describe him.  But I can explain that since he's aged... he is different.  Sometimes I miss the man I knew - the man who would scold me, scare me... teach me some incredibly valuable lessons about life... but this man that he is now... well a five year old girl came to visit with her parents - the nephew of Opa's wife, Marian.  In no way related to my grandfather by blood you would never believe that this group wasn't the most pure form of family you can find.  There is an understanding, a knowing... and common bond that they all share.... and that I share - or so I like to believe. And here is this man visiting... a man who was only a boy when he first met Opa... who now has a wonderful wife and a little girl of his own. He's family in a way I guess I don't even understand myself.  The three of them are - even though I've only just met the daughter and have only ever met the parents a handful of time... still - family.... inexplicably.   Besides the small one bedroom apartment buzzing with Hebrew sounds (I did learn how to say Chicken during my visit) there is this energy that only a little girl who has no inhibitions can produce.  At any rate, the effect she has on my grandfather is nothing short of amazing.  He watches her and he smiles. It's the smile of a man who knows he doesn't have a lot of time left - like somehow this innocence and purity is the only thing left in the world that he cares to see. The adults - we're done. We've been molded and cooked - and as we age we're getting stale.  But not Alma... Alma is just a child who - I suspect - thinks of things much like my grandfather does now... as simply as possible.

To walk away from someone who you love as much as I love my Opa is beyond difficult.  I have to do it quickly - like pulling off a band-aid. If I linger, I won't go.  I'll sit and want to know more, hear more, understand more.  I feel a very real sadness that my cousins are so young - that they never really knew the man Richard Werner Stein Nass was.  I envy my mother that she's had a lifetime with him and my uncle for how much he has become him.  Born in Germany my Opa is the American Success story that should serve to inspire a generation.  I wish - more than you know - that I could share him with you.  What I can say is this - if you believe that I am opinionated, stubborn or independent... then know this... I don't have anything on him.  If I could live to be one tenth the human being that he has been and continues to be 92 years in.... then I will be a great success in life.  That is a fact.

Opa - until Thanksgiving.  I love you.

- Kat

1 comment:

  1. it....is....very....hard....to....type....thru...tears. Beautiful, Kat. Beautiful like the man my dad is and the person you have become. I love you, Mom