Creampuffs and Other Diet Foods
By Dolly Reisman
One morning my father caught my grandfather eating a cream puff.
"Pa," my father said, "what are you eating? The doctor wants you to lose weight. You're supposed to be on a diet."
My grandfather placed the last morsel of cream puff in the palm of his hand, bounced it up and down a few times and said, "How much can it weigh altogether?"
My father shook his head. He was speechless.
That evening my grandfather fell backwards. He hit the ground with a thud.
I was sure it was his large belly that unbalanced the chair and tilted it past the point of no return when he leaned back.
My father was the first one to reach him.
"Pa," he said.
"What," my grandfather, splayed out on the mint-green wall-to-wall broadloom that inhabited every inch of floor space in our house, answered.
"Don't move, Pa."
"Move! How could I move? I'm stuck here like a cockroach."
"We'll call an ambulance."
"What, are you crazy?"
" I'm not crazy, Pa. What if you're hurt?"
My grandfather's face turned red. "I didn't come all the way from Russia, through the pogroms, almost dying on the boat from sickness to die like a cockroach in Canada. Don't worry, I'll be fine."
My father ran his hand through his hair to buy time and think. Then he ordered my brother Harvey to go to the store and get ice. Harvey hopped in the car and squealed out of the driveway. My father sat beside my grandfather and asked him questions so as to keep him occupied and to assess his cognitive abilities.
"Pa, what's your name?"
My grandfather looked at my father suspiciously.
"Yossi, are you meshugenah. Your whole life you've been my son and suddenly now you don't know me!"
My grandfather lay there like a wounded animal, groaning every now and then. It was the same sound he'd make in the middle of the night when he had his nightmares. He could never be roused from his sleep while he was having them, and in the morning, he could never remember what he had dreamed.
After a few minutes, my grandfather wanted to get up.
"Pa, don't be crazy."
"I'm not crazy, I just want to get up, and dat's all."
"Let's wait for the ice."
"Ice! Yossi, either you'll help me or you won't."
And with that pronouncement my grandfather rolled over onto his knees. He rested, and breathed in deeply three or four times. With a big grunt, he rose shakily to his feet. My father stood beside him prepared to catch him should he topple. My grandfather brushed off his pants and smoothed down his shirt.
"Maybe a shtickle herring," he said to my father.
"Herring?" my father protested. "Pa, your diet," he reminded him. "And herring will make you sick."
"Yossi," he said. "I'm eighty-nine. I have to die of something. Let it be herring."
from the December 2007 Chanukah Edition of the Jewish Magazine