Gloomy, grey, very wet – ah, spring. Good for the flowers, but your faithful correspondent is not going out today. Yesterday, spent more time delving into the boxes of paper in my office and discovered that what I thought was my British grandmother’s diary was in fact my grandfather’s. There is definitely a diary-keeping gene, and I inherited it from Percy Leadbeater; he never stopped chronicling. One I found broke my heart: in 1980, after my mother had brought her parents, who were in their mid-eighties, from London to Ottawa and installed them eventually in a longterm care facility where they shared a room, my grandmother was taken to hospital one day. Two days later, Pa wrote MARION DIED.
And then continued with what he was watching, eating, doing. Life must go on. They’d been married 62 years.
And more tears – found a tiny daytimer kept by my mother in 1944, hardly filled out; my mother emphatically did NOT inherit the diary gene. But on Wednesday November 29, along with what I assume are her Bletchley shift times – ” 4-12″ – she wrote one word: “Kap,” her nickname for Private J. Gordin Kaplan, whom she’d met the Saturday before. On Wednesday, they got together again, and with that one tiny word, my hope of life began.
Amazing, no, to have this light into the past? A blessing, but overwhelming too.
Speaking of shining light, one of my favourite shows is PBS’s Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, an impishly warm and wise man. This week it was Audra McDonald and the wonderful Mandy Patinkin, who wept on learning how much of his family had been wiped out in the Holocaust, something he hadn’t known. And he passed on a saying: “As long as one person remembers you, it’s not over.” He said he was going to treasure the memory of his family, even those he did not know.
Mandy was performing his Yiddish songs in Toronto some years ago; the concert was expensive so I didn’t go, but I did go to the Stage Door and leave a gift for him: my book Finding the Jewish Shakespeare. I wanted him to play my great-grandfather in the Spielberg film adaptation of the book. My great-grandfather died aged 56, so it’s a little late now.
Great cheer however: I watched the last 20 minutes of Biden’s speech last night with my mouth hanging open. Did he use a teleprompter at all, or did he simply pour out one marvellous ambitious project after another? The man, I texted my family, is a fucking miracle.
As long as one person remembers you, it’s not over.