This past week, I made the trek from Brooklyn to Flushing to hear my 92 year-old grandfather sing. When he turned 75, he decided he wanted to participate in his senior center’s annual recital. Imagine a recital for your 7 year-old – with the off-key singing and do-overs due to forgotten lyrics – and you get pretty much the same thing; only with grown-ups whose trousers keep inching closer to their necks.
This is my fourth or fifth time seeing him perform and I get a kick that he’s the leadoff singer…my own personal Derek Jeter. I also get a kick out of the fact that by me being there, the average age drops significantly. But really, the biggest thrill I get is knowing how happy my grandfather is that I came to see him sing.
My grandfather’s singing has become a source of pride; not because he’s talented, but because he has no fear. I guess that’s what happens when in your 20s you have to choose: German concentration camp where you’ll see your family and friends die or Russian labor camp where you’ll work till you pass out, but be alive. Barely.
When I hear his thick Hungarian accent belt out Beseme Mucho or C’est Magnifique (video below), I’m not only happy to be here – because let’s face it, if he doesn’t get out of Europe, I don’t exist – but reflective on how much he’s seen and what we can learn from our elders. I’ve written before about some of his aphorisms, but the one that always amazes me is his “hope, hope, hope.”
At times it sounds like a defeatist plea, but the more I think about it, the more I believe it’s an optimistic call. That without hope, we have nothing. That hope can be dangerous, but ultimately, is a positive light in an otherwise dark tunnel. That things are, as the lyric goes, C’est Magnifique: