My grandfather died recently, just a shade shy of 99. His late personal renaissance, faith and service probably mean he's hanging around St. Peter's workplace, yakking it up and telling jokes.
Of course, nobody wants to say he needed the plaudits to get wings instead of a pitchfork, but to hear the old stories, he might have been puffing a cigar somewhere south of the ground if the judgment was just about interpersonal relationships.
He could be a tough guy, but I liked him.
He taught me to swim. (I was afraid of the water. His response was something like: "That's ridiculous. Get in.") He told the same stories nine times apiece, and that was just to warm up. (I do, too.) If he got a little wine (Mogen David, naturally) in him, he'd castigate the damn Nazis once more (I tend to be a little talky after the bottle, too). He had a good sense of humor, too.
In the same visit (on the occasion of my grandmother's death) this photo comes from, we were all sitting around the dinner table, the bunch of us, and the conversation had reached one of those inevitable dead spots. Grandpa was drumming his fingers on the tablecloth. He cast about us, meaningful-like, and said, "You know why I'm doing this?"
A pregnant pause. No reply.
"So you won't be able to hear the pin drop."
Yep. He could be a difficult guy, but he was one of the good guys.