My maternal grandfather was born 100 years ago today. He was born during The Great War, he lost his mother and at least two siblings at age 3 to the Spanish Flu. He lost his firstborn daughter. His surviving two children had some disabilities: my mom was born with dislocated hips, my uncle had epilepsy and some mild developmental disabilities. Grandfather served in the army in World War II, lived in oppressive regimes. He passed away thirty years ago, so I was blessed to have him in my life for eight years.
My grandfather lived 200 km away in the city of Miskolc. He and my uncle would travel to visit us a few times a year, and we would spend a few werks in the summer with them in Miskolc. My second cousins are the same age as me, so we would sprnd countless hours playing in the garden. My grandpa took my cousin Judit and I to the grocery store to buy gummi strips, and he always let us make a mess on the patio. He gave the best gifts and he had a great sense of humor. My mom tells me he was good at business and always managed to provide for his family, including some luxuries. One family legend is about how he managed to get some bananas back in the late 50s or early 60s, when it was very very rare in Hungary. My mother thought for the next 30 years of her life that she hated bananas: the Cuban import was green, unripe, and tasteless, but they didn’t know that: it was the first time they had any. Later on in the 80s when bananas were only sold in the winter and often there were great lines for them, Grandpa bought us some every time he came.
Every August my great-aunt’s nameday was celebrated in their joint garden with lots of family present. My great-uncle woukd make fisherman’s soup from fish he had caught, and my cousins and sister and I would frown at the thought of fishbones. My grandpa and my great-Uncle crefully removed the fishbones and the not-so-kid-friendly parts, and convinced us to try it. Then we’d cook bacon on sticks and drip the lard on bread and eat together. It is one of my fondest memories from my, childhood, Judit and I running around the garden, pretending to be wild horses, and the grown ups letting us.
Today I’m searching for specific memories of him in my mind, and I have to admit I remember less than I wish I did. Looking through family photos there are only a handful of him: he was often behind the camera. When I look at his photo, though, I see some of my mother and some of myself in his face–and I even see him in my niece’s eyes.
He would be 100 years old today. I wonder what he’d think about the world we live in now. How different his childhood was from mine, and especially from my niece’s. I cherish the heritage he left behind with those family ties we have with our cousins 200 km away. And I miss him, like every Christmas Eve, when he, like my other grandparents, is missing from Christmas dinner.
Mom, Uncle Lackó, my Grandpa holding me, and my paternal grandparents on my first Christmas.