The holes silence can create.
My mind scattered like a million ants swarming from their disturbed anthill. He usually didn’t attend Saturday morning services. Mr. Lodiner’s imposing figure made me nervous.
Sabbath services at the temple started at 9 am and the normal crowd began taking their seats. My great-grandfather sat in his reserved seat in the side section of Temple Israel and I sat in the aisle a section away. We recently quarreled over his behavior.
Only 12 other people attended services this Saturday leaving most of the seats in the synagogue empty. At least three hundred could fill the sanctuary for a High Holy day or bat mitzvah. Mr. Lodiner’s presence immediately filled my gut with apprehension because intuition warned me he came to see me.
The Wednesday before Saturday Morning temple services I came to our family’s business R&R Roofing to speak to my mother about my new apartment. Walking in the front door I heard gruff yelling. My great-grandfather Sam Rothenberg gave all his 93-year-old strength could give.
He stood in the doorway of my mother’s office screaming at her. Drool and spittle flew from his mouth and words in an unrestrained rage. I watched him for a moment and noticed my mother crying as he berated her.
The scene stunned me but I could not stand there watching my mother taking abuse. Grabbing my great-grandfather in a bear hug, I lifted him and walked him out into R&R’s general office area.
“Leave her alone. Don’t you yell at my mother,” I screamed, “I wish you were my age because I’d knock you through the wall right now.”
Great-grandpa was shocked and just stared at me confused at my actions. He didn’t speak a word to me, turned around, and used his walker to go back in his office.
After consoling my mother I looked in on my great-grandfather but he wouldn’t look or speak to me. I left R&R Roofing feeling good having stood up for my mother but also disturbed about leaving great-grandpa in an aggressive abrupt manner.
Sam Rothenberg enjoyed a respected stature in our community and he always found favor with me. He was the patriarch of our family and me his first great-grandchild.
Being his first great-grandchild, Sam doted on me and later when I became a teenager I spent many Saturdays with him.
He didn’t drive much after the age of 90. I drove him to temple and then we shared early Saturday afternoons together having a nosh.
Often we drove down the beach, spent time at the local mall, or tried betting at the Dog Track (Great-grandpa snuck me in and got me running bets for him to the window. The thrill of betting left me long ago and I regret taking any part in the abusive nature on the dogs used for racing.)
We shared a deep familial connection and love for one another.
He tapped me on the shoulder. I felt his fingers pressing hard through my suit jacket. Mr. Lodiner motioned with his head to come over and speak with him in the aisle between the rows of seats in the synagogue.
Glaring down at me he said, “I heard what happened with you and your great-grandfather. If I ever hear about anything like that again you’ll have to deal with me.”
Then Lodiner reached out with his right hand. I hesitated. My eyes began to water. I shook his hand and looked over at Sam Rothenberg. GG stared at me before turning away when my eyes met his. I didn’t say a word to Mr. Lodiner and walked of the synagogue.
Emotions boiled in my gut. My intense anger over Lodiner getting involved in my family business stung. Indignation and hurt wrapped over my feelings knowing my great-grandfather, who spoke to me many times about family loyalty, had betrayed me.
And, I had said nothing to Lodiner.
Moments later saying something to Mr. Lodiner wasn’t what I had in mind. I wanted to hit him over the head with a shovel and bury him behind the temple.
However, the temple wasn’t a place for violence and since I didn’t want to end up with a murder charge I decided to leave until Sabbath services concluded. I had to drive my great-grandfather home.
I never spoke another word to Sam Rothenberg after I drove him home. He ceased to be my family that day. All the years we shared together turned to dust. He taught me that kind of thinking. He reaped what he had sewn in me.
Sam Rothenberg didn’t speak to his brother for 20 years until his death. Sam Rothenberg showed me how he turned his back on anyone he couldn’t stand or who had betrayed him.
I regret learning the trait of silent chastisement Sam Rothenberg taught me. I miss my great-grandfather for his giving and hearty spirit, for his love of family, and for his strength of character.
Mr. Lodiner taught me something too. I learned the important lesson to speak when I’m offended and not let outsiders intrude on family affairs ever again.
If I could have the moment back to tell Mr. Lodiner, “Mind your own business! And, stay out of my family affairs!” I would. He died many years ago but the memory of the day in the temple he threatened me still replays in my thoughts. I’m not the kind of person to be bullied or pushed around anymore.
I’m thankful to Mr. Lodiner and my great-grandfather for instructing me on how not to live: Not to keep hate and grudges but to forgive; Not to threaten another with implied violence outside of defending myself; And, not to interfere in another families business.
I’m still glad I stopped Sam Rothenberg abusing my mother, but I wish my great-grandfather and I could have talked about my reasoning.