In his years around the sun this man has done many deeds, my personal connection to him leads from the umbilical cord of my Grandma Francine.
Him and she, she now buried but he is remarried to Elaine. Elaine and Bernard who live in San Bernardino County, Southern California, USA, where the land has slowly melted from misty redwood forests to rolling hills that will become Mexico. Yet before that arbitrarily drawn border bedecked in chain link fence sits the city of Los Angeles.
It really exists and not just in the movies! I’d come to this suburb of LA to celebrate my grandpa’s 80th birthday, alongside all kinds of our relatives and him and Elaine’s friends. I’ve always liked Elaine but never really cared for grandpa and was making the trip out there for the opportunity to see cousins and aunts that are hardly ever in the same place.
Im growing from my angst to become a critical human being yet parts of me hate Bernard for being a creepy old man, a creepy old white Zionist dude, a creepy old republican grandpa. He’s hardly able to gauge what appropriate comments and physical boundaries are toward women of all ages and has been creepy toward me, my cousins and sister since we were young. We talk about it and air our grievences to each other. This part of grandpa is more idiotic than malicious.
During his bday holiday I came to see grandpa as a little more human. I may have hurt his pride by laughing at a picture where he’s riding a horse while dressed up as a cowboy, but I couldn’t help it because the man takes himself so seriously. In the picture he looked like a cross between Woody from Toy Story and George Bush jr. looking stupid riding around Texas on a horse.
Do you ever oscillate between defining what’s good and evil and just giving up on the categories? After this holiday I reconsidered if grandpa Bernard is necessarily a bad man. A whole manner of different friends showed up to his party and showed love toward him, when I figured his friends would all be creepy old dudes based on stupid comments and the way he acts. Maybe it’s dumb to respect him more for having friends from all age categories and cultures. I think there’s a way of considering people where assholes are still human beings, what ever it « means » to be a human being. Grandpa isn’t even a concept though, as much as sometimes it’s easy to chalk this dude up to being some kind of caricature of the patriarchy, he’s a living breathing old man.
Elaine spoke with me about Brooklyn in the 1960’s. She lived in Crown Heights nearby the Hasidic Jews and would visit the Botanic gardens with her dad to see the roses, and with her friend to sketch plants and landscapes. They’d bring charcoal to the garden and then work on the drawings more when they got home. Elaine loved the cherry blossom trees that are still there and bloom each year as the central attraction to a spring festival. She told me that her family didn’t make much money there, and that she moved away from BK in her 20’s to live in different parts of the states, briefly in Israel and eventually to the Los Angeles area.
Another friend of theirs lived in Bay Ridge, BK, around the same time and witnessed the Verrazano bridge to Staten Island being built!
Grandpa’s bday brought our family together for a couple days in a new, unfamiliar environment. We talked, catching up, eating food and taking pictures in their back yard filled with peach, mandarin orange, avocado, and apricot trees, grape vines, tomatoes, onions, and greek oregano plants. Their garden literally had everything….
The garden reminded me of the garden an old Croatian couple kept in the yard of an apartment me and a few friends sublet in Queens, NY, which is something like the most internationally diverse city ever. There are many Greek and Croatian people living in Astoria, but anyway the couple had a grape trellis, squash, tomatoes and peppers. Though they brought theur culture and food from the Mediterranian region, southern California’s climate may actually be closer to that of the Mediterranean. grapes rock!