Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.
These are the words I hear in my mind as I am trying to stop a panic attack.
I am in the middle of midterms and completely unprepared. Some may say "this is so unlike you." This is true. I am usually BEYOND prepared. However, right now my mind is elsewhere. My mind is with family. My grandfather is finally at his end. To watch someone you love die, slowly, has got to be one of the most painful things on earth.
My mind is with my grandmother who would be celebrating 60+ years with my grandfather on March 14. My mind is with my mother who has had to deal with her father dying for quite a few years. My mind is with my sisters' children who never really got to know their Papa - and instead are left with memories of a man that I barely know. My mind is also lost somewhere within myself because I went from enjoying the time I had left with my Papa, to wishing g-d would take him so he's not in any more pain.
For the past few months, my grandfather has taken time to tell me stories. I heard about how my mother reminds him of his mother. I heard stories of how he courted my grandmother in Hungary after World War II. We also figured out that his family is not just Hungarian- but likely Spanish as well. I learned my great-grandmother's last name was Naftoli. I heard his stories of what life was like during World War II - and will have a chance to share his story during my World Wars class.
I came back from Israel thinking I was coming back on vacation. G-d had a different plan for me. I learned how to enjoy life a little bit more thanks to my Papa. I enjoyed the time I had with him. He is the man who used to take me to the Henry Ford Museum just so I could learn American history. He helped me become the young Republican that I am today. He made me proud to be an American.
My Papa told me to find the love of my life in Israel. He told me to find my dreams and grab onto them. He helped me realize I belong in Israel. He wanted the best for me and now I want the best for him. It is heartbreaking to see what he has become. I promised him that I wouldn't remember him this way but rather as the strong Papa who used to pay me to read to him. When I would get sick as a kid, he would make me watch "Crossfire" with him. He taught me how to count to 21 by teaching me to play blackjack. This is the kind of man he was.
He never believed in g-d but encouraged me to find my Judaic soul. He told me to seek out who I am and where I fit into Judaism. He wasn't surprised when I came home from Israel and shoved Judaism into everyone's face. While he wasn't thrilled that I kept a more strict version of Kashrut - he was proud of me for finding my place.
I love my Papa for everything he is and everything he was. Now, I just wait for the other shoe to drop...