Why Your Grandparents Are Saints!


Steven Levi

There is a photograph I keep hidden in the darkest recess of my closet, a family portrait taken in October of 1973. My mother’s father had died in August and my grandmother had come to live with us until she could find her own apartment. It was bright day and the family trooped out for the obligatory family sitting. There I was, the unemployed fat slob with a MA in history wearing oblong, dark-framed glasses sitting sockless. Next to me was my youngest brother who had not had a haircut since Lyndon Johnson was President and was using the family car and lawnmower to start a landscaping business. Behind me was my father, when he still had hair, an Italian refugee happy to be out of Italy and proud to be living the American dream. Next to him was my sister, still in high school and clearly not particularly happy to be in the photo. Next to her was my in-the-process-of-discovering-he-was-gay brother with hair that was more afro than straight and dark like an Italian. My mother, with her print shirt looks exhausted and my grandmother has the look of the Depression Era survivor from Montana that she was.

As bad as it is I cannot bear to destroy this photograph. It is more than snapshot of a moment of my life; it is a symbol of what America was — and is. None of us were the beautiful people of Hollywood movies and we were not raised in wealth. We were not blessed with good lucks, had no influential friends and there were no pathways set out before us. My father had been born into a wealthy Italian Jewish family. Then came Mussolini and the family crashed from $20 million in today’s dollars in 1939 to $10,000 and a steamer trunk of clothing in New York a year later. My father joined the American army and was crushed by a tank in the Hawaiian Island. He never recovered the use of his right leg, the reason he stands oddly. After 18 months in rehabilitation, he went to college to become a psychologist and was one of the first to do research on brainwashing and the psychological effects of heroin when it was only considered the affliction of blacks who lived in the ghetto. After he retired he spent the last four decades of his life active in Amnesty International and donating his time to counseling troubled youth with drug problems. Even while raising four children my mother was on the board of her church and for the past seven decades has been active in every social issue that appeared on any local ballot — in addition to being the after-school guardian for my nephew while my brother was getting his landscaping business up and off the ground.

My youngest brother, the one seated next to me in the photo, has since cut his hair and created a multi-million dollar landscaping business. My sister earned her Ph. D. in economics and is the head of her Department. My brother with the afro earned a degree in mathematics but is now a psychological counselor specializing in LBGT youth. I am the only one in the family without a career: I’m a freelance writer and historian in Alaska.

Every person in my family came to their individual success the hard way. We all have college degrees and paid our own ways through college. None of us has had an easy path to where we are now and by American standards we are successful.

We earned that success.

But it took a very long time.

All this being said, it really does not matter where my grandmother is today. It does not matter what she thinks of the family now. What does matter is where she was on that October afternoon in 1973 when she stood tall with the freak show of the family that we were then. She was a saint.

We all have family portraits we keep hidden but those photos are the best ones to show our children. Then our wives can say, “See, George, your father was a fat slob with no future when he was 25. See how far he has come? He did get better looking too. So buck up and do what the rest of the family did. You move forward in life one day at time, one footstep at a time and for God sake, do your homework. There is no success without an education and no education comes easy. Where do you think your father would be without an education?”

And if you happen to be the grandparent in the portrait, relax. Things are going to get a lot better over time — and you are going to be remembered as a saint.

Steve Levi has more than 80 books in print or on Kindle. He specializes in books on the Alaska Gold Rush and impossible crimes. An impossible crime is one in which the detective has to solve HOW the crime was committed before he can go after the perpetrators. In the MATTER OF THE DESERTED AIRLINER, an airplane with no pilot, crew or passengers lands at Anchorage International Airport. As the authorities are pondering the circumstances of the arrival, a ransom demand is made for $25 million in diamonds and precious stones. Chief of Detectives for the Sandersonville, North Carolina, Police Department, Captain Heinz Noonan, is visiting his in-laws in Anchorage when he is called onto the case. For the next 36 hours, he pieces together the puzzle of how the crime was committed. But can he solve the crime, free the hostages and locate the perpetrators before the ransom is paid? hhttps://www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi


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