Veterans Day and November 17th cannot pass without remembering my grandfather, a WWII Veteran and what would have been his 104th birthday. I must say Happy Birthday aloud to my beautiful Grandfather who passed away on January 10th this past year.
He didn’t die from Covid. He died because he was 103 and it was just time to go. To finish what he started, to say good bye to a well lived life.
I have written endlessly about my grandparents. Their presence in my life was epic and they have always been my role models, my cheerleaders, and my accountability partners.
When my Grandmother died in August 2013, my Grandfather found himself living solo for the first time in 71 years. Outliving my Grandmother wasn’t the plan for this very plan oriented man; their plan was that he was supposed to go first. Plans often happen, though, when you are busy making other ones and because of this the entire family had the opportunity to get to know this man who found himself absent of the dynamic presence of his wife, Isabelle, by his side.
And get to know him, we did. He was strong willed and no nonsense. He was direct sometimes to a fault.
Alayne, you put on a little weight since the last time I saw you, he would say on those times that I did.
Herbert Harold Horowitz was a force. I imagine that there are a lot of grandchildren who can say that about their grandparents. I am one of the lucky ones too who get to sing the praises of a man who taught me how to be a better human.
Herbie owned a textile mill along with his brother, Bernie, in Fall River, Massachusetts for many years. My entire childhood was spent going in and out of the factory on 18 Pocasset Street, called Darwood Manufacturing- a factory that made little boys and men’s suits.
It warmed my heart in a weird way when I did a quick google search for Darwood and instead of historical info about the building and the business, endless obituaries came up. Darwood was listed at one of the first places many of the Portuguese immigrants worked when they came to America and found themselves in Fall River, Mass.
I think my Grandfather told me that at one time they employed over three hundred people. I wish I could ask him, but the problem with death is that all of the juicy curious questions often come up after they have left us. I wish I had asked him more questions and recorded more answers especially about his life in the earlier days.
I can hear him saying,
Ehh, I don’t remember and you’re too sentimental. What difference does it make?
In some ways he was right. After taking in the sky’s crescent moon and the proximity of Venus next to it like I could reach out to touch this planet twenty five million miles away, we really are just specks. All of this history gathering, thinking about our importance in the world is pretty insignificant in the much bigger picture.
But while I am here and now, I find myself longing for my grandparents. Their comfort, their grounding force, the feeling of safety and deep love I had in their presence— no matter what. I never took that for granted, I always, especially in my later years, appreciated it deeply.
But I miss my Grandfather a lot. I miss his house, his kindness, his generous spirit, his greeting,
Alayne, How are ya?
Great, Grandpa, how are you?
Faaan-Tastic he would reply. Always.
He was a magnificent soul in my life- in all of my family’s lives.
He brought the entire family together as the main event. He went to everyone’s everything. Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, funerals, birthday gatherings, anniversaries. He was a social creature and people wanted to be around him until they couldn’t. His neighbors were his family and they cared for him deeply.
The caregivers he paid dearly for the last three years of his life loved him like he was a relative too. Without their presence in his life and our lives, we wouldn’t have had the pure enjoyment of him when we had the privilege of visiting.
He made it that way. He wanted our visits to be like they always were. Like visits and pleasure, not work and fraught with worry.
At least for the grandchildren. My Uncle Bob took on the role of head honcho when it came to all things Herbie in these last years and I know he misses him a lot too.
There is not a lot to say that I haven’t already endlessly written about. He heard everything we all had to say. This is a blessing.
We didn’t get to have a big gathering after Herbie died. It was January 2021 and travel and funerals, even in Florida, weren’t back in full force. I don’t feel bad about this though. Frankly I was a little concerned about coming up with an innovative and poignant eulogy for him. Having a grandfather around until 103 for my almost 56 years of life gave me the unique opportunity to say everything aloud right to him.
Before my father died, we had something he and I called an awake wake. He didn’t have much longer to live so we concocted a huge party and celebration while he was alive. Much to their chagrin about this wacky idea, my grandparents attended. They spoke. They cried. This was their second major loss, my brother Michael first, then their son, my father. It just didn’t seem right in the order of things, but Herbie would say, It is what it is, and plow through.
My father got to hear all of the wonderful comments; the impacts he had on random people, love. Like all of us who attended, we were all moved. My grandparents were sold on this crazy idea that their son and granddaughter had created. My grandmother talked about this over and over again for the remaining three years of her life.
Having someone around for as long as I did with my grandfather was an honor. There will never be another Herbie Horowitz. The best part of post Herbie is knowing that he knew how we all felt because we told him. It is so important to tell people while they are with us not only that we love them, but what impact they have had on us, what they have taught us, how their presence in our lives made a difference. So important.
I will likely never have a year pass where I don’t acknowledge his magnificent presence in my life and nothing gives me greater pleasure than sharing him with anyone who will listen.
Herbie Horowitz - November 17, 1917 - January 10, 2021