Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Spirits of my Grandparents

This is going to be very difficult to explain, in the way in which I experienced, but here goes nothing! 

I have to preface this story with the fact that I have a hard time understanding the metaphysicality of the universe! I am not denouncing spirituality, quite the opposite in fact. A higher power has always been something I could never grasp. I was always jealous of my mother, who has complete faith in her higher power. Organized religion has always made very little sense to me. My friend Wallace and I speak about this quite often. Yes I am Jewish, but I have rather created my own level of observance. There are customs that I hold onto such as Tashlich where we throw crumbs into a flowing source of water, which represents casting away our transgressions or building a hut, surrounding yourself with family, food and the birds and the bees; that also makes sense, but other aspects of organized religion have troubled me. But the one thing I treasure about being Jewish is the ability to ask questions, and seek your own answers. It is almost demanded that we ask questions and seek answers. And this is what happened to me on Friday night, although I was unaware of this 

     Before I go any further I need to explain a few things. First of all I need to say that I have no idea what happens after you die, other then decomposition, but as of NOW, I know there is something. I also need to explain that my girlfriend’s brother is a psychic and a medium, but not a charlatan. Prior to meeting Thomas John, I though this was complete and utter lunacy! I am a man of science. I mean I work in a hospital during the day and I bake bread at night. Science and understanding facts and making diagnoses based on specific and critical criteria is a big part of my life. On the other hand, I am what would would consider the crunchy/granola type, I bake sourdough bread; I embrace bright colors, sunshine and love to all. So when you take these two sides of me and pose the question "Dave, what happens after you die" I am troubled. On one, hand nothing and on the other anything and everything. But after Friday night, I can assure you its something. 

Thomas John
Next, I need to tell you about two people, Harold (Hal) and Charlotte (Shanie), my grandparents. My grandparents met and fell in love all in the course of 30 seconds on a Sunday morning on a stoop in Boston. My grandfather was a ravishing young man of close to six feet tall (at the age of 12 or 13) and my grandmother, was barely sixty inches in height. They were married before 20. My grandfather went to Europe to fight in the Second World War, where he lost all his teeth from a grenade blast in the Battle of The Bulge, watched his hostage get blown to bits in a mine field. He was actually given a mazuzah neckless prior to going overseas for the war and he never took it off until the day he passed it down to me, I have not taken in off either. 

Needless to say, he came home a completely different person and finally met his first son, Phillip. My grandfather worked countless jobs to keep his family of seven afloat. He was a plumber, a carpenter, a butcher, a handy man and eventually a cabbie in Boston. My grandmother, along with her disabled veteran husband held the family down at home, while also doing her crafts and selling them as she could. They never fell out of love, always holding hands and being intimate all the way even until their last days. I remember my mother Judy, Hal and Shanie’s only daughter telling me that when they brought her home from the hospital, after having three boys, my grandfather checked to make sure it was true, that she did not have a penis. He was funny like that. I also remember my mom telling me that her friends thought that it was so weird that her parents were still in love and intimate in their thirties, and forties and even into their seventies. They were a hoot!

Bottom row: my sister Gabrille, My mom Judy, Shanie, Uncle Barry (editor of,
Top row: Cousin Ben (Barry's son), Uncle Steve and Uncle Harve

My grandfather passed ten years before his counterpart. During this process, my grandmother lost her mind, got psychotic, nearly went off the deep-end. During this time, she thought everyone was trying to poison her, so I had to taste her food to prove to her that they were safe to eat. I must have been 12, and my temple had a program teaching men how to make kugel and she tasted my kugel and what is the first thing out of her mouth “You forgot the salt”…She was a tough cookie. Grammy just was not ready to lose her soul mate. Phil, their oldest son eventually had to tell his father that that his wife, Shanie had been committed to a mental hospital. And Grampy said “I have faith; one day your mother will love you again”. He had so much wisdom!

Needless to say my grandfather was always my hero, in the war he received a bronze star for bravery which he never even spoke of, in fact he did not even speak about the war till he only had a few days left. And when the man spoke you listened. He was never proud of what he had to do overseas during the War. He was understanding, bold, intelligent, strong, and humble and Shanie is the reason that I am a cook today. Everything that she made was amazing: pies, fudge, damn good challah, soup, turkey, brisket, meatballs. She was incredible! It is no wonder we are big eaters!

Friday night, my friends Wallace, Trudi, myself and Kelly attended one of Thomas' events which was in the Philadelphia area. Thomas, as mentioned earlier, is a psychic. There were about 30 people in the audience. There were a lot of spirits that came through, I would say close to twenty. At one point Thomas had to push several of them away so he could focus. Anyways, Shanie came through and my grandfather was with her.

Left to right: Wallace, (George the dog), my sisters boyfriend Darren, My sister Gabrielle,  myself,  my girlfriend Kelly, and Trudi

Thomas said something to the effect, I am seeing someone’s grandmother on their mothers side, name 'sh, sha, she a short lady…", I raised my hand and said, "yes, my grandmothers name was Shanie, on my mothers side". There is now a tall man with her, they seem attached at the hip. I knew that was Hal, my grandfather. As a kid I remember them being very good and romantic dancers. And when Thomas told me that they were showing him a radio, I could not help but start crying. Both my grandparents, especially my grandfather were ham Radio operators. They loved it. His call name was WN1TKD. I remember as a kid watching them and thinking that it was so cool. They also showed to Thomas that they saw me building a house, which I believe to be a metaphor for my life with Kelly, but it could mean a number of things. I knew my grandparents would adore her! But this also may relate to my goals in my career and my recent promotions at work. My grandfather emphasized that they wanted me to keep on building. Thomas also noted that "My grandmother was sending me butterflies". I can not quite figure out this one, but my grandmother was very much into nature. She always had a love for birds and other gentle creatures like bunnies. She always had those terribly annoying clocks that sing the birds call every hour. Gosh, that thing made such a racket. But I can see her sending me butterflies; they match her aura so well.  I see this as a sign of peace, tranquility and freedom.

He also saw my grandmother’s younger sister Minnie, who is now passed and used to love to hold me as a baby. I have no memories of her as I was so young, but it was an incredible experience. My grandfather also showed Thomas the image of teeth, I later remembered that as I a kid I would take his teeth out of their glass in the bathroom and I would run around with them making chewing sounds and moving them up and down in a chomping gesture. Also the connection with my grandfather’s experience in the war, losing his teeth from a grenade and I recently had oral surgery about six months ago.....Crazy! Thomas suggested that I see a dentist :)

I know this all sounds crazy, but it is so comforting to know that they are in a safe place, looking out for me in some way. I do not suggest that all these people are real, but Thomas John has an incredible gift, and if you are in need of support in this plane, and everything else has not panned out, you might find much comfort in what is out there for you. 

I do not want to know what my future holds, I have a picture in my head and I will continue to strive to make that happen but to know that my childhood heroes are up there rooting for me is so comforting! 

Now I will include a speech delivered by my grandfather in memorial of Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated while running for the office of President of the United States. This was written during the year while my grandfather was Commander for the State of Massachusetts’ Jewish War Veterans. At the the same time, my grandmother was President of the State of Massachusetts Woman's Auxiliary for the Jewish War Veterans. He always knew what to say! 

Tonight, Ladies and Gentleman, I have given up whatever time that has been allocated to me as your Department Commander so that we may eulogize the Late Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Whatever political opinion each and every one of us may have does not enter into the event leading to what happened a short few days ago.
We have had to live together in an era of corrupt selfishness.
President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and now Robert F. Kennedy.
Young, vigorous men who believed in God, who believed in their country and yes, who believed in you the people of the United States of America.
What price must man continuously have to pay as he devotes his being to we the followers.

We must in essence, Ladies and Gentlemen, stand up and be counted as Robert did for whatever we believe in but we must do it together with sincerity and without violence and malice.

There is an answer to all problems – faith in human nature, everything cannot happen now – it must take time.

Our young people of today must learn that in order to maintain the America that has given us so much we must give it much. We must strengthen the laws of respect, not take them away as our higher courts have done. 
Look back and remember your own childhood, the respect for the parent, respect for the home. 

We know that our children are good; they are far more intelligent then we were at their age, but experience in life takes time, it takes longevity, it must be lived. 

It’s a sad world now but men such as Robert F. Kennedy, as they pass through, leave us with a little bit of respect. Remember, we must respect him for his courage of his own convictions. Respect him because he was a man and had the right to die a natural death.

My heart is heavy, and in behalf of our entire membership, I extend to the Kennedy Family our sorrow – grief for a comrade who died in a different kind of battlefield. The Jewish War Veterans in Massachusetts will fly their flag through out our state at half-mast for 30 days, a little longer than President Johnson has decreed, so that we will not forget so soon.
Everybody please rise, we will have a moment of silence and individual prayer in memory of Robert F. Kennedy, Senator.

May His Soul Rest in Peace.
May He Have Not Died In Vain.

And a teaching given by a local Jewish congregant, who knew my grandfather in his later years. 

I was especially touched today when I received the leader's book for our Chuvrah service. While I have led our small library service many times before, as have several of us, I have not seen a name on our Yarzheit list as I did today. For the first time it was a name of one of us. 
The name was added on at the bottom, in green pen, by Ellenjane and simply said under "within last 30 days". "12/15 Harold Alman"  

Harold meant so much to many of us in many different ways. To me, he was a survivor, which was so indicative of his generation, of his larger-than-life era. His was a generation that did what they had to do without complaint! Theirs was the generation that fought to keep our world safe, and our people-free to live and believe as we wish.

It struck me as such a contrast to the Bible's Numbers 11, which we read this Shabbat.

Here Moses needed help from God, who assigned 70 or 72 elders to support him. The "600,000" people are complaining about the difficulty of life in the wilderness, kvetching that things were so much easier when they were in Egypt. Their cries are so shrill that even God loses his temper. 

We talk about the slave mentality, that this generation isn't ready for freedom. That Moses will now be slowly giving way to new leadership, as he ages and is prohibited from entering the Holy Land in mortal form. 

As we leave the Chavrah, still discussing what Numbers 11 means, what a prophet is, what the role of the towering Moses must be, and what the nature of the wilderness expereince is for our people, Jane asks me THE question "I wonder if Harold understands this all now". At another level of consciousness, I answer, I am sure he does...

Men like Harold didn't complain. They fought a war that allowed my baby boomer generation and our children to grow up in a land of freedom. They gave all they had-without which our people may have been totally exterminated from this earth.

They returned home-older, many married and with children. And they didn't even ask for anything in return. After all, they were just doing what had to be done. They didn't ask for meaningful work. They didn't demand a recount for the years lost. 

No, they simply wanted a good job, any job that paid well so they could support their families. Duty to country. Duty to family. Duty to God. That’s what they knew. That's how they lived.

Harold exemplifies that generation. Five children raised by Shanie and a disabled veteran, who had many other ongoing health problems from a serious accident. But Harold Alman was never one to complain. 
Instead, he brought us joy. He filled his family with love and support. And he left many of us a touch better by his presence, his wisdom and his affection. As a 12-year old boy once told me, "when we die, we break up into thousands of pieces and enter the bodies of those people we have touched. That is how we live on and that is how love continues."
I can feel that piece of Harold in me today.
 Especially today.

While we won't be able to talk with Harold on his Ham radio, while we won't see him again in our Chavrah family, we will still talk with him, and liken him to our Moses who did what he had to do. As he was called. As a man who led a life of integrity, duty and deeds of loving kindness,


1 comment :

  1. I have tears running down my face as I read your words about Grammy and Grampy. Of course, I am rather prejudiced...they were my parents and you are my son! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings and sharing with others the enormity of what the past can give us in the present. Who knows what happens after death but I would like to believe that what I do on this earth can make a difference.