My grandfather passed away a few hours ago. It wasn’t exactly sudden – he had a gradually worsening heart condition, and we’d known the end was nigh for several months. As he regularly told us, he’d had a good life and was not afraid of death. (He wasn’t boasting; he was just content.)
I last saw him in Israel in May. I flew out there to spend a couple of days with him on the advice of my parents. (He got rather suspicious at the sudden influx of relatives wanting to spend time with him.) It had been a while since I’d seen him. In the previous year we made occasional outings together to Kenwood, walking and talking, getting breakfast in the café. At the start of 2002, the family held several parties for his 90th birthday; it was the first time in over a decade that all his children and grandchildren had been in the same place together.
I have tapes of our conversations from that last visit. There’s not much there but it’s something. I’d taken a book of the Jewish East End out there to talk to him about, but he wasn’t terribly interested; he was far more keen on my copy of Wired. Whenever we sat down to talk, he always wanted to know about the latest technological developments. While his mind had slowed down somewhat in the last couple of years, it was still fully functional. I don’t know how many ninety-year-olds can happily engage in conversations about cross-media ownership and remote-controlled military hardware.
There’s much more to write about him, and maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but I can’t write it now. My mother and I are taking a standby El Al flight on Saturday night, and while I’ll miss the levaya, I’ll be there for the shiva.
He was an exceptionally warm and giving man. He was smart, subtle, good-humoured and optimistic. The only regret I know he had was not being able to see the future that fascinated him so. His fifty grandchildren and great-grandchildren will miss him deeply.
Thank you for everything you gave me, Pampa Leo. I’ll make sure to pass it on.