My grandfather fought in the Second World War. He came back with medals of bravery. In some ways, he never came back from that war.
He lived to be 96. When a few months ago he started to feel weak, he said he would only go to the doctor if they hid the truth about his age. He was afraid the doctor would say ”Hey, you lived enough, old man, what more do you want?” He was half joking, half serious about it.
The way you see him there, in the photograph from his marriage with my grandmother, he was to remain for the rest of his life: strong, tall, straight and decisive.
“Don’t start Tetea talking about the war. He won’t stop for hours,” there was always the warning. We called him Tetea. My father was the youngest of his six children. We are 17 grandchildren, and between us quite a few great-grandchildren too.
Summers in Umbraresti, with all my cousins, are memories I will always cherish.
Tetea passed away.
I’ll always remember him using a barber’s razor and soap for shaving in front of the mirror on the windowsill.
I’ll remember Tetea telling us stories–Piparus Petru (Peter Pepper) and the sheep story, which used to start promising but always ended with an enormous row of sheep passing a bridge. They passed the bridge one by one, until we all fell asleep.
He had a sack of stories up in the attic. He also had a magic wireless phone there (it was sheer magic twenty something years ago, when even landlines where a rarity). Tetea could use the magic wireless phone to call our parents when we didn’t behave.
I’ll remember how on Sundays he used to go to the church, on his bicycle, and at home he would read from a Bible so old that it looked like it had been through the war. Maybe it had.
He had great admiration for “the Americans”. I will never forget what he told me in the eve of my moving to the US: “Be proud. Don’t be afraid of anything. Show those Americans what we too can do.”