You know how every once in a while I decide to do a Weekly Feature? Past Weekly Features included Porn Sunday and Mortification Monday. Well, now I’m adding The Grandpa Chronicles, where I will regale of you with stories about my grandfather. He is the grandparent that I’d spent the most time with, both as a child in the Soviet Union and in NY, as an adult. Mostly because he was the only grandparent that lived in New York because my other grandparents were dead at the time and I am not Shirley McLaine. My grandfather died several years ago, and recently I’ve been thinking about him and wondering how to best exploit him for this blog. What? We all mourn in different ways.
When my grandfather came over from the Soviet Union in the mid-1990s, he settled into a community of Russian immigrants in New York. Visiting him was like visiting the former Soviet Union, if the former Soviet Union consisted of 70something bachelor and bachelorettes whose favorite pastime seemed to be finding some inequity in this so called land of freedom and opportunity and then commenting that “not even under Stalin were things this bad.” The abuses that these brave souls endured in this home of the free and land of the brave included the local A&P running out of advertised specials and the synogogue’s Senior lunch serving inadequate portions. No one was spared their wrath, I often thought that people working with refugees in labor camps could get their training among my grandfather’s group.
“I don’t understand,” my grandfather would lay out his notes in front of me. “I have all the documentation right here, and yet my lawyer is asking for something more.” He was in the midst of applying for his U.S. citizenship and although the “something more” required making a photocopy of some nonsense, he stood on principle that it wasn’t necessary because according to his wizened interpretation of the law, the file was complete. I was certain that his lawyer was in the process of making a noose for himself after dealing with my grandfather and I wondered who to contact to put him on suicide watch. Lest you think that my grandfather didn’t want to comply with the additional copying requirement out of laziness let me disabuse you of that notion. Because the way that my grandfather decided to get aropund this copying nonsense was to enlist Clinton’s assistance. You know, Bill Clinton.
“I need you to send a fax for me,” he told me one day when he came over. “I wrote it out in Russian, so you;ll need to translate, although some of the more meaningful parts I wrote in English myself,” he looked at me, implying that my grasp of English could be trusted with stock phrases but not eloquent appeals to the soul.
The gist of the letter was that my grandfather understood the unfortunate meddlings of the legal system into “man’s private business” all too well, so he and Bill had a lot in common in that regard. Because of this kinship, my grandfather implored the President to intercede on his behalf with his attorney and regretted to inform him that the INS would probably have to be involved as well, He thanked him in advance and reminded him that he was a proud member of the Soviet army in World War II and therefore a hero.
I have to remind you that at that time, normal people didn’t have fax machines, so I had to go to my local stationary store to fax this. the reason that I didn’t just toss it and pretend I sent it (i.e. lie) was because I knew that there would be follow up letters to the President with this letter as exhibit A of a million and I was worried about my mental capaity to keep so much shit straight. Clearly Madoff never sought me out as an assistant.
Clinton responded with a family photograph of himself, Hillary and Chelsea.
“What is this?” my grandfather asked. He held the photo away from him with disdain as though it were Monica’s sperm enriched dress.
His correspondence with the President proved to be unsatisfactory and became a stanza in the “not even in the former Soviet Union” tirade. Because apparently in the former Soviet Union he and Stalin were penpals.
Next week on The Grandpa Chronicles: Grandpa Gets Married.