Goodbye Nat

NatThis afternoon I’m heading to my step-grandfather’s funeral. It will be small and fanfare-free, just a few of us clustered in a narrow aisle of a Queens cemetery, saying our goodbyes.

In recent years, as Nat grew more feeble, more committed to a life spent in bed, I didn’t see him much. So I need to hold onto memories of him from earlier years–The man who always had a new joke from the Big Milton Berle Joke Book I gave him years ago. The man who never had a bad word for anyone. The man who unexpectedly reemerged from critical care wards of hospitals so often, we decided he really did have 9 lives.

He loved his family with all his heart. He loved my dad like a son. And he loved his wife so much, that when he outlived her–something no one thought possible, he simply lost the will to live, even as he did it for 3 more years.

I can’t think of anything more tragically, painfully, unfortunately romantic.

Nat was 93 and he went peacefully in his sleep; we couldn’t wish for a better way to go.

But I do wish that we were Heaven believers, because he’d want nothing more than to see his beloved again. I also wish that we could go around in a circle and tell jokes this afternoon instead of delivering a tearful euology. I think it’s how he’d want to be remembered.

In Nat’s honor, tell me something that’s made you laugh recently.


38 thoughts on “Goodbye Nat”

  1. What a lovely, honest and beautiful post. Nat seems like the type of grandpa I would have loved to have had.

    In honor of Nat- something that made me laugh: This weekend- I was making a birthday cake for my long time friend WILLIAM’s party. Im pretty “Bree Van de Kamp” about my cakes….wanting everything to look perfect and visually clean. This poor cake unfortunately burnt- so I had to trim off the burnt parts- making it look “bevelled”. To be honest, it ended up turning from perfect rectangle to the exact shape of a “saab”. Frosting it- went so wrong…it headed straight to cakewreck territory. So….I just went with it- giving up on perfect- and tried to make it as insanely bad/crazy looking as possible- the crowning touch- was writing “Happy Birthday Melissa!” on top. Everyone laughed when it was presented to my horrified, and hysterically laughing friend William.

    p.s. the taste was not compromised!

  2. Nat seemed like a swell guy, so for him, I honor his life with a something funny I thought of when I was watching CBS Sunday Morning where they profiled Hugh Hefner. This came right on the heels of a conversation about the tv show (and horrible form of entertainment) “Hoarders”.

    I called him the original Whoreder.

    I thought it was funny, but The Cuban laughed AT me and not my joke.

    I maintain it’s hilarity.

    Love you, Liz!

  3. What a lovely tribute to what seems like an amazing man…

    As I sit here trying to think of something hysterical…all I can think about is how my son whose 5 asked me why dogs can’t laugh? And then proceeded to cross his eyes by looking at his nose while staring at the dog saying “Chip all you have to do is look at your nose, you can do it”

  4. What a beautiful tribute, Liz. My step-grandfather was possibly my favorite grandparent, and he died too young. I’m glad you got to have Nat for as long as you did.

    Something funny: We have taught our dog to sneeze on command. You ask her “Do you have a cold?” and she sneezes, and then gets a treat. Which means that when she wants a treat, she has a massive sneezing fit. Which also means that… yesterday after we made muffins, my son walked into the kitchen and started pretending to sneeze so that I would give him one. It made me laugh (and he got his muffin). 😉

  5. Absolutely beautiful and totally heart breaking. I love your way with words.

    I don’t hear many jokes or even talk to many adults most days, but my kids keep me laughing with their antics. Case in point, my daughter made a mask out of her bread. Crazy kid.

  6. Sorry for your family’s loss.

    I posted this on Facebook, but laugh every time I think about it. My 7 year old thought the basketball players were called the “Harlem Globechowders.”

    If you say it fast, it kinda makes sense that he thought that…

  7. I’ve never commented here before, but this post hit me too much that I had to leave my two cents. My great grandmother just passed away at the age of 105. Just like you, I want her service this week to be a celebration of the wonderful, amazing, hysterical woman she always was.

    In honor of Nat and of my Grandma Esther, I’ll share a funny story of her from a few years back. She was well into her 90s and we were over at her house for a get together. My cousin had been taking care of her at the time and encouraged her to tell us “what she had been up to the day before with the firemen.” Esther got this big grin and said that when my cousin had run out to the store, she decided she would try to get up and get something from the bedroom. Heading there, she fell and called 911 for assistance getting up (she was fine, just needed a bit of help). So the firemen came and helped her back into her chair. A couple hours later, the firemen show up at the door (my cousin was back home at this point). When they asked Esther why she had called, since she was perfectly fine, she said “Well, you boys were just so cute I wanted to see you one more time! Maybe you can even pick me up again.” So that was her – a lady who truly enjoyed the finer things in life.

    Wishing you and your family all my best. I am a Heaven believer and I have a feeling Nat and Esther might be friends up there…

    1. Your Grandma Esther sounds like a sparkplug Carrie. Thanks so much for sharing the memory. 105! Whoo!

  8. You have such an amazing family.

    I haven’t laughed as much as I’d like to today, but I’ve gotten some great compliments on my kids, which is always a welcome bright spot.

  9. What a beautiful post. To honor your request I must tell a story about my own 85 year old grandmother, who is the epitomy of a Southern Belle who occasionally has moments of brute honesty. Recently, when I was complaining to her about not being able to lose weight, she looked at me and said with her southern drawl, “Don’t worry honey, you’re built strong. Like a good Buick.”
    Thanks, I think…

    🙂 Wishing you peace and love on this day.

  10. That’s a beautiful post, it must be a really fun to have Nat as a grandfather. For something to laugh, I can’t remember any except for the guy I saw chasing his dog around the block, when he finally caught it, it bit his shorts down, his face went red as he pull up his shorts.

  11. I am so very sorry for your loss.
    A funny story that might make you smile:

    My friend’s four year-old son came into her bedroom one morning crying and complaining that he hurt his toe. He crawled into bed with her and she kissed it better. Then he said that he hurt his knee as well. His mom remarked that He was in rough shape. He replied, through snivels and tears,”Yes! I’m in a rectangle!”

    Best wishes for you and your family.

    1. Wonderful! Thank you everyone.

      I told my parents that you were all leaving funny stories in memory of Nate and they agreed, it’s exactly what he would have wanted.

  12. My son’s report card arrived in the mail today. The comment that stood out, “He has a fondness for the games with dice.”
    He’s five!!

  13. my deepest condolences.

    on saturday, i moved the end table to plug in my new lamp, and managed to get my head stuck behind the couch. bonus: i managed to not knock anything over in my flailing for freedom. i am SOOOOO coordinated.

  14. BIG HUGS, heard you speak at Type-A and I am sorry for your loss. Sending hugs to you and yours during this time!

  15. Sorry Liz. You painted a perfect picture of a very nice man.

  16. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    A funny grandmother story, of which I have hundreds. We were having Thanksgiving at my brothers one year and he lived in a sketchy part of town. On the way in you were greeted by a bunch of “working girls”. At some point in the afternoon, my grandmother took a lull in the conversation to announce to the whole table, “you know, my sister was a hooker”. Dead silence, so I had to ask, “what are you talking about?” And she said that when her sister would come to town, she never stayed at the house, she always stayed in a hotel so she could see gentlemen callers. I asked if she got paid from these callers and she said, “of course not.” So I said, “well Grammy that makes her a girl out for a good time, not a hooker.”

    If you need more, I can tell you about the Easter she decided to make sure all of us grandkids knew how to use a condom properly. It even involved props.

  17. My daughter had been very excited about losing a tooth. But suddenly she ran into the room crying because Pepper (the cat) had swallowed the tooth. After some hugs I asked how exactly Pepper got the tooth in her mouth. Turns out she had put it in the cats mouth pretending the cat had lost a tooth too!

  18. Grandparents are priceless. My paternal grandmother was the epitome of a grandma. Short, petite, white hair, glasses, sweetness and spice. She was born in 1899 and her family was the first in her area to get one of those newfangled contraptions that we call cars. After her brothers and father mastered the new toy, they put Grandma in it and showed her the basics. They let her out of the family farm gate and she drove around for a while before heading home. Where the gate was now closed. Grandma completely panicked and forgot how to stop it. So she pulled on the steering wheel and yelled “whoa!” as she crashed into the gate.

    Grandma never drove again until after Grandpa died and she got her first ever drivers license at age 77 and moved cross country from CO to VA to be near my family. And I’m glad because I got to hear the story above, over and over.

  19. Yes, yes, yes. He would love this! Thanks all for the jokes and funnies! Thanks Liz and friends.
    I do believe , however, he is up there with my Mom…

  20. Indeed a beautifully written tribute. My sincerest condolences to your family.

    Something that made me laugh this week was my daughter, who tirelessly sings with matching choreography, the Chipettes version of Katy Perry’s song ‘Hot & Cold’ on Chipmunks movie…doing it over and over and over! 🙂

  21. So, so sorry, Liz. Nat sounds like a lovely man. Lots of things are making me laugh these days…my daughter describing earwigs as “misunderstood creatures” being one of them.

    When all else fails, there’s always Jon Stewart.

  22. I’m sorry for your loss, Liz. Losing a (step)grandparent is miserable, no matter what age they or we are. In honor of grandparents, I’ll give you two laughs from each end of the multigenerational scale.

    My husband’s grandmother’s favorite joke (she died a few years ago at 104) – must tell in an old Jewish woman voice: “I know a man who sleeps with cats. Ask me who?” “Who?” “Mrs. Katz. And sometimes Mrs. Nussbaum.”

    From my nearly 3-year old son:” What’s brown and sticky?” “What?” “A stick.” My 91-year old grandmother loves that one.

  23. My sister had this as her facebook status and I thought it was hysterical (since I could totally picture my nephew saying it): They were driving past some soccer fields and she was saying that it looked like a soccer camp was going on kind of like the ones they were in for tennis and track. Her oldest boy (10) said, “Oh yeah, those camps are like concentration camps except you aren’t killed at the end.”

  24. I’m sorry for your loss, Liz.

    When my Gran’mama was 89, she had to have surgery for some reason I can’t recall. No one warned her that she wouldn’t be able to speak right away when she woke up, so she frantically gestured to the OR orderly, trying to get help & information. He was a big, burly man, and he walked over and pushed her gesturing arm down onto the bed.

    Without missing a beat, Gran’mama punched him in the jaw with her other hand. Hard enough to whack his head back and make him let go.

    The next time she had surgery, a few years later, I said, “Now Gran’mama, please don’t hit anyone while you’re in the hospital!” She grinned and answered, “Honey, I can’t promise that. I am a Texas Redhead.”

    1. How amazing is your Gran’mama!
      Just the fact that you call her Gran’mama…that would be enough.

  25. I’m sorry for your loss. Nat will be in your heart forever.

    My best friend and I recalled a long ago memory from when we were teenagers recently. My best friend, Emily, got a call from her mother. Emily had recently gotten her licence and her mother was a “tad” drunk. She requested that Emily come get her and drive her and her car home. The car was a standard, which Emily had never driven. When Emily got in the car she said, “Okay. How do I do it?” And her quite well tuned mother says, “whadoyameeean ow do ya do it? JUST DOOO IT.” Yeah. Needless to say, Emily stalled 6 times in the driveway alone. Fun ride home that was.

  26. I’m so sorry for your loss. He sounds like a great man.

    Not sure about a laugh – but definitely a smile: mini learned to ride a bike today! Never thought the nervous child would do it 🙂

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