The Flag Day Refrain

When I was in third grade, I was given my biggest theatrical opportunity. I was cast as the American flag in our Flag Day play. My job was to stand draped in red, white, and blue and to sway for the approximate 90 minute length of the play. My mother, in the midst of an important study section, could not attend my play. My oma and opa, however, could.

True to their German Jewish roots, they arrived 20 minutes before the start of the performance. And because my oma was practically deaf, they took front row center seats. They proceeded to smile for the full 90 minutes, as I stood swaying in an imaginary wind gust.

Then it came time for the curtain call. My opa decided to trade in his inside voice for the loudest whistle he could muster. [ed. note: my grandfather was in a choir so he actually had quite a distinct and audible whistle.] Eight years old and tired of standing on stage, I quickly came back to life. His voice had inspired me; it had reminded I was loved, and by the most loyal grandparent a girl draped in a tri-color curtain could hope for.

It is this memory that came immediately to mind as I listened to my mother’s voice mail at 7:30 am, informing me that my opa had passed in his sleep. At 86 years old, he had finally decided his patriarchal duties were complete. My oma had died nearly a year before, and he no longer had any obligations to provide or protect.

Though I had hoped he’d live well into his nineties, perhaps even see me embrace matrimonial bliss, G-d had another plan. Or, as my opa used to say, “Man plans, and G-d laughs, so why bother planning at all?”

And yet my opa and I are planners. It’s what us German Jews do best. We take chaos, and we create a systematized, often alphabetized order. We live and breathe by our calendars– his paper, mine electronic. But this time I was unprepared. There was no google calendar invite to my opa‘s death. There was no friendly 24-hour notice reminder that the start of my 2015 would be rocked so significantly. There was just life, and then there wasn’t.

Over the next few days I will be working on living in the past. Pressing pause on planning my future, I will try to think back to those moments– like my Flag Day play curtain call– when my opa proved his love knew no bounds.

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One response to “The Flag Day Refrain

  1. That was so beautifully written. While I only met your opa once, I feel from this tribute that you wrote, that I truly knew him well, at least the things about him that made him so special.

    I was particularly taken with this part:
    “And yet my opa and I are planners. It’s what us German Jews do best. We take chaos, and we create a systematized, often alphabetized order. We live and breathe by our calendars– his paper, mine electronic. But this time I was unprepared. There was no google calendar invite to my opa‘s death. There was no friendly 24-hour notice reminder that the start of my 2015 would be rocked so significantly. There was just life, and then there wasn’t.”

    Powerful. A true account of how life really is.

    May the memories of you opa stay with you for your lifetime. There is a book you may find interesting, perhaps comforting to read called “My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging” by Rachel Naomi Remen.

    As you think of each memory, I encourage you to write your memories of your opa down, as you did with the “flag” story, so your memories don’t get lost over time.

    Love & prayers to you & your family.

    Love,
    Brenda

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