Just over 16 years ago, after battling dementia and a number of health issues, you took your last breath. Although we knew for a while that we only had a short time left with you, it didn’t ease the tremendous pain we felt when you passed. I thought I would never catch my breath. Losing you felt unfair. Knowing that you wouldn’t be there to walk me down the aisle or to meet my future children broke my heart. You were one of a kind. You were my best friend. You were funny and outgoing and everything I strived to be. You were my hero, my inspiration and you showed me what was possible if you work hard and believe in yourself.
Today, you would have celebrated your 100th birthday. I can’t help but think of all the things you would have experienced…
If You’d Lived to Be 100
In February of 2005, you would have walked me down the aisle and given me away to the man you learned to trust and love like your own grandson. The man you lovingly called “the boy with the red hat”, because your memories were fading quickly and you couldn’t remember his name most of the time. I’m so glad that we got your approval.
In May of 2005, you would have been in the audience of my college graduation, cheering and relieved that after 10 long years, in three different colleges, I finally received my bachelors degree in Visual Arts.
I remember just before you passed away, you would ask me on a daily basis when I was going to graduate. I know how badly you wanted to be there and I only wish I could have gotten my act together and finished before you passed.
I looked for you in the seats. I knew you couldn’t physically be there, but I knew you were there in spirit.
In September of 2005, you would have been there at the hospital when your first great-granddaughter, Lucia was born. You would have handed out cigars to everyone in the hallway, whether you knew them or not and called every person you’d ever met to tell them the news.
In September of 2006, you would have been there when we purchased our first home, making sure that it was the safest, best built home in the world. You’d make me promise to always have a cup of coffee and an apple waiting for you whenever you stopped by.
In August of 2007, you would have flown with us to Vermont, to celebrate your grandson Ben’s Bar Mitzvah. I’m not sure there was anything you loved more than watching your grandkids embrace Judaism. You would have been there to cut the challah, to say the prayers and to dance the night away.
In October of 2007, you would have celebrated Jeff and Diane’s 25th wedding anniversary. You would have insisted on throwing them a party and you would have invited all of your friends.
You loved a good party. Any special occasion was a reason to get friends and family together, have a big spread of food and catch up on life. You told jokes (often the same ones) and we’d laugh even though we’d heard them a million times. Your sense of humor never got old and neither did your love of family.
In May of 2009, you would have screamed with delight when we welcomed our second daughter, Iyla. You’d make room on your other knee for double horse rides and started helping me choose a Hebrew name for her.
In June of 2009, you would have been right by your grandson Jason’s side when he was diagnosed with cancer at age 25. You would have been his support system, encouraging him and making sure he had the best doctors.
Later that month, you would have watched Jennifer, graduate from high school, telling everyone around you that the shana madela (beautiful girl) on stage, was your granddaughter.
In June of 2010, you would have been relieved to know that Jason was officially cancer free. I imagine you would have thrown him a party at your house.
In August of 2011, you would have been there when your youngest granddaughter, Alyssa, became a Bat Mitzvah. You would have been so proud of her and saw what a beautiful young lady she was quickly becoming.
In November of 2012, you would have welcomed your third great-granddaughter, Falynn, and probably would have asked Nelson why he could only make girls. I know you would have challenged him to try for the boy next. You’d share stories with the girls of your childhood and how you walked uphill, both ways, barefoot, in the snow, to get to school every day. You’d plant fruit trees for each of them in the backyard and teach them how to pick the fruit. You’d take them on walks around the neighborhood and teach them to be good people.
In 2013, you would have been so proud of Jason for becoming a Siou Chef and Manager at the restaurant he was working at, after a lot of hard work and dedication. I don’t think it would have surprised you that he followed in his father’s footsteps. You’d discuss the possibility of us opening the next generation of Roth’s Deli.
In 2014, you would have helped us plan Nana’s surprise 90th birthday party. You would have greeted every single person, telling them your newest joke and catching up on life. You were always the best host. People loved to be around you because you always made everyone feel like family.
In May of 2016, you would have celebrated Ben’s college graduation. I imagine you would have made a smart remark about why your granddaughters took so long to get their degree and Ben did it in half the time. Though you secretly knew that he was incredibly smart, even as a baby.
In July of 2016, you would have been there when we lost Nana suddenly. You would have consoled us, and reminded us that the most important thing is family. You would have made sure that we made time for one another and that we didn’t let our busy lives get in the way of cherishing every moment we had together.
That same year, you would have watched your youngest granddaughter, Alyssa, graduate from high school. You wouldn’t have been surprised that she got accepted to college in NY. You’d put her in touch with all of the relatives that still live there and tell her to go and visit them every chance she got.
In February of 2017, you would have insisted on throwing another party for Cindy and Steve’s 25th wedding anniversary. Another milestone where you would have danced and celebrated along side of them, so happy to see your youngest daughter in such a solid relationship.
In June of 2017, you would have been overjoyed to watch Jennifer graduate from college. I imagine you convincing her to actually go to the ceremony so you could sit in the front row, whistling that loud, choo-choo train whistle and trying to hold back the happy tears.
In the summer of 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, you would have celebrated virtually with Alyssa when she graduated from two different colleges in NY! What a huge accomplishment!
And today, on your 100th birthday, I would have made you a cake. You would have asked me if you should pray over it, which you regularly did when I cooked for you, right before you chuckled. That mischievous laugh got me every time. We would sit around and reminisce about the years we had together and what an incredible life you’ve led. You’d look around the room, at the family you created and your eyes would fill up with tears. You weren’t always an emotional man, but you were at exactly the right times. We’d laugh with you, cry with you and make sure that you knew just how much we all loved you.
The past 16 years have been hard for us all. You’ve missed so much and we’ve missed you being a part of it all. We know that you are watching over us. We see you in the lyrics to your favorite song. We see you in the squirrels you used to chase. We see you in the rocks left around my house. We see your face in the clouds. We know you’re here with us, we just wish you hadn’t left us so soon.
I know things aren’t exactly how you would have wanted them to be, but I’d like to think you’d be proud of all of us all for who we are as people and what we’ve accomplished.
Happy 100th birthday, Papa. I hope that they are throwing you the ultimate party in heaven today and you are surrounded by your friends and family. We love you.