|Herman and his granddaughter Stacey|
How Harriet and Herman Met
Harriet had nothing to do that evening, when her friends prepared to go out to a dance party. So she agreed to tag along.
It was toward the end of World War II; the dance hall was filled with servicemen of all types, handsome in their dress uniforms. Harriet and her friends danced and rested, then danced some more. As they left the dance floor to rest their tired feet, she noticed that all the chairs were taken.
With a clear sense of purpose but perhaps a twinkle in her eye, Harriet looked over all the servicemen sitting in their seats. She picked out one, the safest looking, who was handsome nonetheless. Approaching him, she asked if she could sit on his lap. Herman said, “Yes.”
They were married 3 months later.
People said it wouldn’t last. That was 46 years ago.
I buried Herman last week, on an overcast day, between drizzling and downpours. Though the day was dreary, the stories about Herman and Harriet were uplifting. Especially this one about how they met.
It is not hard to imagine Harriet approaching Herman or the romance that ensued. Harriet still has that twinkle in her eye, even amidst the sadness of mourning.
More than Just “Old People”
Like Harriet and Herman, in the stories of our own Bubies and Zaydes we are reminded that our current travails, challenges, joys and dreams are simultaneously intensely immediate and timelessly universal. More than just being “old people,” or the deceased being merely names on a page, they point to warm-blooded living, loving, struggling people. Like our Biblical ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, our loved ones sought good times, good fun, comfort in community, and perhaps meaning in a relationship with God.
They Were All Once Young
Sometimes we forget that our older relatives were once young, that those who anchor our families’ histories once laughed and played and were just plain silly. We seemingly ignore the fact that like each of us each of them enjoyed young love, recklessly pursued thrills, and defied the safe for the fun. Our Nanas and Papas, Zaydes and Bubies have seen so much of history and experienced as much and more than any of us have.
Well Herman has returned to the Source of All Life, so his memory carries on in the stories his family tells about him. And his beloved, now 90 years old, still has that same twinkle in her eye and perhaps even the chutzpahdik fire in her belly, that gave her the guts, 46 years ago, to sit down on that serviceman’s lap.
Thinking about Herman and Harriet
Maybe that’s why I keep thinking about Herman and Harriet. Because in the story of these two great grandparents, I see not old people but young vibrant individuals who grew up. May each of us retain those qualities which made us fun when we were young, even as we grow older. And may Herman’s memory be for a blessing, and the memory of their meeting serve as an inspiration.