Hopefully, when you reach your final destination, whatever that is, you'll remember me. And remember that I love you very much. and that I admire you, for how smart you were, and I will never, ever forget the Kaplan side of me. Thank you so much for everything, for giving me apples when I was little, for watching me while my parents worked, for giving me Hanukkah gelt every year, even if it wasn't much, thank you for always telling me stories, stories that I can take with me and tell to my future kids, and tell them "this is what I am. This is what I came from."
And thank you for caring so much about my future. When I was a little kid you hardly knew, you started to give me a future. Because of your planning, I can go to college, pursue an education and a dream. You made it possible.
Thank you so much. I was selfish, and I couldn't be by your side when you needed me, and you forgot me in the end...but thank you.
This is something I wrote right after I got the phone call that he had passed.
I was studying for finals, finishing my second year of college at UH, both my parents and my boyfriend respectively 3,000 miles away, me all alone.
I got the phone call from my mom. I thought I still had time, that he would hang on in hospice for just a couple more weeks until I got there. I burst into tears, and my parents hung up on me instead of staying with me so we could talk through our grief together. That night Yasushi stayed on the phone with me for several hours as I cried, talked through my happy memories with my Poppy, and feelings of grief, regret, and sadness at his disease and the time we couldn't have together, and what he lost.
I couldn't go to the funeral, and when I got back, there was no mention of my grief or efforts to give me closure. However, although I still was not sure at that point, now that I have truly been able to explore and affirm my own spiritual beliefs, I do not need any of that.
Enough about his death.
My grandfather, Max Kaplan was born into a Russian Jewish family, and he was born at home because "that's how they did things back then", however there was a discrepancy on what date he was actually born, and a while after he had become an adult, he learned that his birthday was actually August 8th, and not August 9th like he had always been told. Being from a strict Jewish family, he spoke fluent Yiddish and was raised on a Kosher diet and celebrated all the Jewish holidays complete with all those prayers and stuff in Hebrew. He had a finesse for languages and became fluent in Spanish and also knew how to speak several other Romance languages competently, which came in handy when he travelled to Europe. He worked as an Investigator for the City of Philadelphia and was named the "Ace of Investigators" for all the funds he recovered for the city. He also loved Jazz and wrote the book on jazz collecting, literally. He was invited to join MENSA but declined because he didn't want to pay the membership dues.
He loved collection. He would write celebrities and ask for their autographed pictures, and he has several albums full of them, not just for himself, but made out to his daughter and grandchildren. In his safe deposit box, he also had signatures of past Presidents and historical figures. He also loved to collect rare colored diamonds. His job with the City didn't pay a very high salary, but he always budgeted strictly to make sure he had money to invest in both monetary assets and his collections, with enough to take a budget trip to Europe every so often. When he cut corners to save money, it was mostly from his own personal budget first. He took any free sample or commodity he could and was a couponer decades before it was cool. He wore clothes and shoes until they had so many holes they could not be repaired any more. And he did not spoil his children, or even his grandchildren, with useless material things like fashionable clothes and accessories, video games or junky plastic toys. He gave them the bare minimum at birthdays and holidays, and the rest, he saved for them in bank accounts, and when his daughter got married for the second time and wanted to buy a house, he made the downpayment so his future granddaughter would have a home to live in. He did the same later, when they moved to the suburbs, he paid the rest of their mortgage so they wouldn't have to worry about it. He always told his daughter that he didn't need his money, that he only saved it so his children and grandchildren could live a good life.
Poppy also loved cats. He always had a cat in the house. He met his wife, my grandmother, via a pen-pal service. She was from Cuba and wanted to learn English. They married, she moved to America, and had my mother. Unfortunately the marriage ended and Poppy never remarried, although he did have a very kind-hearted lady-friend named Lucille who became like a grandmother to me.
Poppy used to love to play checkers with me and my brother, and we would watch TV together and he always told stories peppered with Yiddish phrases. I wish I could remember more of them, but my mind is blocking out a lot of my memories from those years because of the negative associations. We went to visit him in his assisted-living home, but all I remember is my parents laughing at him when he repeated the same story over and over because of his disease and then ignoring him and talking over him for an hour and then leaving, their obligatory visit done.
After his Alzheimer's progressed, he would say "they will find a cure for it...the day I die!", he talked and even retained his Spanish through the advanced stages of the disease. His brain was so strong.
I was so lucky to know him for the short time I did, and I will do my best to live my life while remembering all the things he taught me. I already started a bank account for Chinami, and although the cost of living is high and our salaries are modest, I am saving up all I can to buy us a home someday. We won't have many material things, all of that is nothing with nothing anyway, but we will have a good life, like Poppy would have wanted, and we will ALWAYS go in good health, and come back in good health.