Let me start off by saying that this column is not about hockey.
If it were, it would be about how neither the NY Rangers nor the NJ Devils are in the Stanley Cup. If it were, it would be about how it has been so long since I have actually followed the Devils that I no longer know any of the current players. And the players who I do know probably are in a nursing home by now.
But, again, that is not what this column is about.
Almost 23 years ago, husband #1 and I received a Stanley Cup kiddish cup as a wedding gift. It looks just like the Stanley Cup, but smaller. Husband #1 likes to tell our guests that a series of these cups were made in honor of the Rangers winning the trophy in 1994. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I just let him tell the story, because I am such a wonderful wife and I don’t like to interrupt or disagree with him.
Back to the cup. There are many special things about it. It has our Hebrew names engraved on it, with our Hebrew anniversary. And then, with each of our sons, we were able to have their Hebrew names and their Hebrew birthdays engraved on it as well. I liked that idea a lot, because I have no idea when my own Hebrew birthday is — sometime in Cheshvan, but I couldn’t tell you which date. And I have fond memories of getting back to school forms sent to the house requesting my Hebrew birthday. “Mom,” I would scream, “When is my Hebrew birthday?” And she would look at me and say, “I have no idea. Go ask your father.” Now, would she tell me to do this because she knew my dad was at the hospital delivering a baby (because that was his profession, not just because he needed something to do on a Sunday afternoon) or because she knew that he didn’t know either, and she had no idea where that paperwork would be.
Truth be told, I think we just made up a date. Because who really cares?
But with this special cup, whenever we would get our sons’ back-to-school forms, all I would have to do was look to the cup for our answers. We were hoping that one day, we would be able to add rings to the cup, with future wedding dates and birthdays of those yet to be born. Man plans, and God laughs.
The most special thing about this cup is the man who we got it from. A man whose professional career was adding beautiful Judaica to people’s homes. Making the holidays more special. Making every day more special. At the shiva house, his sons were speaking about how people all over the world were using their kiddish cups that they bought from this man and they were all thinking of him.
There are so many people who are the proud owners of a silver calendar that marks the birthdays of all those people closest to them — their families. And this man was all about family. Perhaps what first drew me to him (and his beyond-lovely wife) was that he also had three sons. I often felt like I was looking into a crystal ball, imagining my sons would grow up to make me proud, as his sons have made him. Whenever he spoke to me, he made me feel like I was the most important person in the room. Always with a smile, always dressed nicely (though I can’t imagine what he thought of how I dressed, but the fact that he never commented made him even more special). He was just a mensch. Pure and simple. A mensch.
Like many people, I really do not like going to funerals, but I went to his, because, honestly, I wanted to learn more about him. And what I learned did not surprise me. He ran the chevra kadisha for decades, and was always available when anyone needed him. He was a devoted husband, an incredible dad who taught by example, and a grandfather who had a special and unique relationship with each of his grandchildren.
Getting older is a gift. It is a blessing. But along the way you lose people who you love, who have made a lasting impression, even if you haven’t seen them on a regular basis. But from someone who doesn’t like many people (who, me?) I really and truly liked this man. He made me laugh. And I am so grateful for the piece of him that my family gets to see and gets joy from every Shabbos.
May his family be comforted by all the memories they have of him and may their pain be lessened by the joy he brought them. All just words, but written with love.
Banji Ganchrow deviated a bit from humor this week. She hopes that the man she wrote about is looking down and smiling, even though she didn’t write anything controversial….