Miriam Biderman

My Grandfather

I am both excited and nervous as I ring the doorbell of the boarding house where my grandfather lives.  Excited because I want to introduce my fiancé to him, and nervous because I know how forthright he can be.

I clutch Ervin's hand tightly as the door is opened and we are shown to grandfather's living quarters; it is naturally grossly overcrowded with possessions too precious to discard, our nostrils are assailed by the smell of memories of yesteryear enveloped in mothballs, soap and disinfectant; held together with a fine covering of dust.

'Hello Grandpa,' I stammer.

'Vell! Vot brinks you here all of a sudden?' he booms out before I can give any reason or explanation.  I have an instant recall of how he used to bellow at me when I was a child. In his grocery store I would try to snatch a sweet or a biscuit but he would be on top of me in a flash 'You should esk; you can't just take vitout esking first. Now put it bek and esk first next time.'  His heavy Russian accent added to his formidable physique was enough to frighten the boots off anyone.

'Grandpa,' I stammer, almost apologetically, 'I want to introduce you to my fiancé, Ervin. We are engaged and intend getting married early next year' I wait for his response.

He puffs out his chest and peers over his glasses, taking a little while before he utters a word.  To me it seemed like an hour.  Then smacking his clean shaven cheeks with both hands his mouth curls down at the corners and he shakes his head.  In a parental, almost condescending manner he repeats my words, 'So you are engaged and you vont to marry this young boy?  Vot nonsense are you talking!  He should grow up a little first…get an education…earn a living…then you can come back and tell me your plans.'

I feel Ervin cringing beside me.  I squeeze his hand tightly to stop him from responding.

'But Grandpa, you don't understand…'

'Vot are you saying? You are pregnant perhaps and have to get married? It is important to be respectable!'

'But Grandpa you must listen. No, I am not pregnant. Let me tell you about him.  He is not such a young boy even though he looks much younger than his age.  He is actually 25 years old and he has completed his university studies.  He is an electrical engineer and working for a big company in town!'

'Pshah!' he splutters. 'I don't believe… hev you got proof…are you sure?'

Ervin can not contain himself any longer 'Sir,' he says'I can bring my degree to show you.  On the certificate it is clearly shown what my qualifications are!'

I hear the agitation in his voice.  We are all getting a bit edgy, so I end the conversation with a promise to return the next day with the necessary documents.

We did as had been promised.  Grandfather glanced at the official document; grunting something about it being written in Latin.  He told us to leave it with him and come back in a few days and we can then have a full discussion on the matter.

A week later we again stood on his doorstep.
'Come in and sit!' he commanded. 'I vont to vish you a heppy marriage.  Dis is all in order.'  Tapping the side of his nose with his finger, he winked at me and said 'You hev a very clever man, he should make a good husband for you.  I took the degree to the library and sat with the Latin dictionary and translated all the vords.  I am impressed; even Cum Laude – with distinction!'  He stood up, an indication to us that the interview was over.  He put his arms around our shoulders and ushered us out with 'and ven is dis heppy day? I vill sit at your table ven you get merried.'


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