What a childish poem! I must have been ten or eleven when I wrote it. And yet, despite the amateurish rhymes, it made my mother and aunt cry.
Grandpa, I came to get acquainted
You died before I could
But I’m sure if I had known you
We’d have gotten along real good.
O Grandpa I wish you could tell me
Just all about your life
How you left your home and came here
With three small children and a young wife.
And Grandma- was she pretty?
What kind of a wife was she?
I wish that I had known her, too
I’m sure that friends we’d be.
Grandpa, can you tell me
Just what you think and feel
When you look down at your children?
Are you so proud of them still?
What would you say if you were here now?
Or would you just leave them alone?
Mama says they’re big now
And have families of their own.
Grandpa, are you happy here
Next to Grandma and Molly?
Or do you wish you could come back
And help your family.
My aunt and mother cried, not from the beauty of the verses, but because they shared my pain that prompted me to write them. That pain came from the revelation that two of my relatives did not speak to each other. I remember being shocked when my older cousin shared her information with me. Suddenly, it became clear why we no longer had family gatherings with all the family in attendance.
As time went on, if by some mistake they both came to the same event, they would stay in different rooms. Meanwhile, they rest of us would hold our breaths praying that they would finally have a reconciliation. It didn’t happen. Every Yom Kippur they would sit just a couple of rows apart. No matter what sermon the rabbi gave about forgiveness it did not move them. They continued with their stony silence.
And then, thirty years after they stopped speaking, a miracle happened. They were at their sister’s funeral and her husband asked them to make-up. Lo and behold they shook hands. Not only did they shake hands but it was as if the thirty years of bitterness had never happened. Once close siblings, they became closer than ever.
We are taught that the ten days leading up to Yom Kippur are the most appropriate to asking for and giving forgiveness between G-d, our fellowman and, even ourselves. For some reason, forgiveness between family members is often the hardest to obtain. And yet, if we cannot get along within our families how will we ever get along with the world?
My relatives were fortunate. HaShem gave them more than ten years to compensate for all the lost time. They used that time well. Yom Kippur is behind us now, but it is never too late to make peace with a family member.