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December 31, 2002
My grandfather Paul

My grandfather had a very soft face. Not only was the look of his face very soft, there was also something different with his nose. I would always want to be there when he blew his nose, because it would just bend out of shape beyond what a regular nose could do and then return to its old glory as if nothing ever happened. My grandfather was a large, strong man in his 70’s when I met him. He did not say much, as far as I remember. And whenever he would speak I would be only barely able to understand him. He had gone through two strokes when I was old enough to remember him. He would still show me things and explain things to me, but it would be more through actions, like feeding the birds, or making little bread “soldiers” for me. Or we would spend days browsing through old German books of which he seemed to have a library. They were mostly books with medical illustrations and strange folding out pictures of human insides and outsides and cross-sections and explosions of color and form. My grandfather used to work for the red cross when the place where I was born used to be German. He then worked for the rail. For maybe 30 years or so. Most of the years were during the German times, just a few years in Poland. Then the accident happened. He was connecting two train cars by hand, when a young kid put the train in motion. One of my grandfather’s legs was cut off half way above the knee immediately. He managed to almost pull himself away from the moving metal wheels, but his second boot was caught and he pulled his leg out of it, tearing away the muscles and tangens and ripping off the skin. His left leg later had to be amputated just below the knee.
My mother told me that when she first saw her father in the hospital after the accident, she did not recognize him at all. All of his hair went from black to a complete white. He was the only bread winner for the family of four and this was just a few years after the war, some of the toughest times. He received a pension for the few years he worked for the Polish rail.
I would take walks with my grandfather. I would watch him put on his prosthetic legs. He would then somehow walk using only a cane. I do not believe this can be quite true, but this is how I remember it.
My grandfather died in when I was 6. It is so sad that I remember more of the preparations for the funeral and the funeral itself than of the actual time spent with my grandfather. I remember my father taking on another fight with a priest, and then with the Catholic church, to get my grandfather to be laid to rest on the cemetery right by his house, the one behind the hospital where most of us were born. I remember my grandmother going through the secret drawer to which my grandfather kept his key to his death. I remember my grandfather being buried with his prosthetic legs, and yet with two different socks. And I remember walking right behind the casket with my cousin and laughing. We laughed all the way, from church to the moment when it was time to throw soil onto the casket. The entire procession was crying and we were just laughing like insane. And the more we laughed, the more my mother cried.
I later found a large annotation in a parenting book on one of the back shelves in our apartment. The book stated that it was normal for children of my age to behave oddly in situations requiting piety, my mother wrote down the entire story of the funeral and how my behavior was hmm, normal.
My grandfather somehow became a great childhood friend of mine in the years after his death. He was such a survivor, managed to overcome so much pain, such hardship. He became the super-hero I wanted to be like as a boy. I think he still is, he still is the best example for me on how to overcome impossible situations of any kind. Yes, he definitely was my super-hero and he always will be one for me.
Tonight at midnight, my Grandfather would have turned 100.


what a wonderful entry... he sounded like an amazing fella.

Posted by: shauny on December 31, 2002 05:50 PM

Just spoke with my parents who are in Poland to celebrate the New Year and my Grandfather’s 100th birthday and there are so many more things I know now. My Grandfather’s accident happened on November 20th 1951. He was actually born on January 30th or the 31st, but his father did not want him to enter the army too early or go to school too early, so he claimed the birth to have happened on January 1st, three minutes after midnight. People could do such things back in the day when babies entered the world at home. There is much more I know now, but I might just post it later. Oh, one more thing. He really walked without a cane most of the time. The cane was just for speed and additional security. Amazing.

Posted by: Witold on December 31, 2002 06:08 PM

Happy Birthday.

Posted by: vis10n on December 31, 2002 07:11 PM

Happy New Year

Posted by: em!ly on January 1, 2003 03:00 AM
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