Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Great Grandfather Borya

Dear Samantha,

I am writing this from San Francisco. Your Great Grandfather, Boruch Grinberg (I used to call him Dedushka Borya) passed away. You never got to meet him, so I wanted to tell you about this great man.

The thing I remember the most about Dedushka Borya is his smile. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing him without it. He could see humor in every situation. How else could one go through World War II, get an education while bringing up 2 children, move to the other part of the world in his seventies, and stay in a difficult marriage without losing his dignity?

Another thing I remember so well about Dedushka Borya is his camera. The first one he got as a teenager was the one he made himself. Just like his smile, it was almost another part of his body -- completely inseparable from him. Dedushka had a bottomless curiosity about the world. He wanted to take everything apart and understand how things worked. He saw beauty everywhere he went and wanted to commit it all to memory with his camera.

Your Great Grandpa loved to travel as close as the other part of his city and as far as the other part of the world. If you could get there by foot, he walked. I spent the summer with him and Grandma in Lvov when I was 11. He gave me a map of the city and told me to go exploring. Every morning I set out on a new expedition. Maybe that's how I got the walking bug; maybe it's genes. I thank him for it every time I get somewhere on my own two feet. Transporting yourself with your own body is one of the biggest joys of being alive. Who knows -- you might be a great walker one day. At your ripe age of 19 months, you refuse to sit in the stroller and walked 1/4 mile the other day.

Last and most important thing I want to tell you about your Great Grandpa -- he saw the good in every person, and loved unconditionally. He taught me that life is not a game of settling scores. It's an opportunity to see the humanity in others. He thought of himself as a rich man because he had so much to give. He did so for 92 years, till his last day.

Even though the two of you have never met, he thought about you since the day you were born, and loved you very much. Part of him is in you, in me, and in everyone his life touched.

Love you very much,


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