I never knew either of my grandfathers. All I have are names, documents and a few photos. Because of that I envy people who know theirs. And maybe because of that I tend to write about grandfathers in my fiction.
My paternal grandfather was Joseph Amernick. That’s right. With a ‘k’ at the end. He came to Canada from Poland and married my grandmother, Pearl, who was from Belarus. This was before World War I which was a good thing because they were east European Jews.
You can attribute it to luck.
My maternal grandparents, Henry and Clara Walton, were Jews from Romania. They also came here before World War I, and thus, they too were lucky, as were their extensive offspring. I say extensive because Henry and Clara had ten children, my mother being the third youngest, while Joseph and Pearl had three children, my father their only son. Of those four grandparents, the only one I really knew was my Dad’s mother Pearl, who was a lovely woman but unfortunately for me never learned English. My other grandmother I never knew because of a family rift, and both grandfathers died long before I was born.
So now you understand the source of my envy.
Imagine being able to draw from a grandfather’s experience. Why, he might have been 60 or 70 when you were born, and the stories he could tell can come from no one else. Imagine learning first-hand what things were like when he was young.
But imagine is all I can do.
My first novel Gift of the Bambino was about a young boy, the special relationship he had with his Grandpa, and how they were bound by baseball. The book was dedicated to my father who was the basis for that character. I started writing it six months after he died and looking back I know it was a way for me to deal with grief.
The Last Witness is about a 100-year- old man who is the last living survivor of the Holocaust. He is not only a grandfather, but a great grandfather and even a great great grandfather which is what happens when you hit 100.
The next novel, Medicine Man, embodies this sort of thing as well because my protagonist’s ancestors go back centuries. It has to do with bloodlines and relationships, but more than anything it has to do with stories.
Indeed, the envy is spilling off the page.
If you are lucky enough to have grandparents, enjoy them. Listen to them. Hear what they have to say. The world they came from is so different than yours.
To ignore them would be a crime.