When our grandson, Dakota, was 13 years old, he had to write a biography for a school project. He picked me as his subject, and I thought I'd share it with you.



My Grandfather

by Dakota in February 2003


            Our family has lived in Pennsylvania forever. My paternal ancestors are from Hawaii, and my maternal ancestors are from Russia. I have chosen to write about maternal grandfather, Yale, because he is surprising and has worked on many interesting projects in his career as a computer programmer. Another reason I chose my grandfather is he helps me out a lot and shows me cool things like how to work on computers. My grandfather is Jewish and the word for grandfather in Jewish is Zeyda, so I will be referring to him throughout this paper as Zeyda.

The night before my Zeyda was born, there was an unexpected heavy snowstorm in Hazleton, PA.  His mother was out playing cards.  As she rode home from a nearby town with three other women, the car stalled on a dark, deserted road. Her friends were afraid that she would give birth that night right there in the car. But they got safely home, thanks to a passing telephone repairman who gave them a ride, and my grandfather was born at 4 p.m. the next afternoon, April 5, 1944, in Hazelton State Hospital. Zeyda weighed 8 pounds and 6 ounces.

Life at home was like any other home is. Zeyda’s family was just he, his sister, his mom, and dad. When Zeyda was 3 ˝ years old he contracted rheumatic fever and for a year he was not allowed to walk. He passed the time by listening to children's programs on the radio and by listening to records that taught him safety, health, and good manners.  His family did not have a lot of money like other families.  The house he lived in looked something like a boarding house with a small back yard.  Later his family moved to a newer house.  This was stuck to another house and it kept on going so all the houses on the block were attached to each other.

            He had lots of memories of his pet dogs. They all died by rat poisoning or got hit by a car. Another memory would be when he was showing his dog a trick he landed on the dog's legs and the dog bite him in the lip.  Another memory was he would help his dad wash windows and he would get 50 cents for helping his father. One memory was when he moved there was a kid that had a bike and he ask to ride it and his sister got to and he got mad so he said I hope she falls off and she did and she broke her leg.

            School was fun for him. When he was in first grade, he met a girl and they went in the closet and started to kiss each other. His favorite subject was math. In 4th grade Zeyda asked his math teacher why he became a math teacher.  His teacher said,  “Because I like to work with figures.”  High school was much bigger then the middle school. At the high school if you got there early and you were a freshman there was a gang called the vocational boys and they would throw you off a ten foot high step and you would hopefully land in the grass.

            Some of the activities Zeyda took part in were bowling, dancing, baseball, tennis, basketball, board games, riding bikes, and roller-skating. Zeyda would ride his bike everywhere especially to the Stockton mine disaster and to a creak that smelled like poop. He played baseball on a football field and they would play something like homerun derby.  When he played tennis doubles, he would play the net because he had long arms. Bowling cost 20 cents a game and Zeyda would set up pins for 2 cents a game to earn money so he could bowl.

            Teenage years were fun he helped his dad wash windows and helped his Bubby at her grocery store. He went to dances and at one time he and his friends sang a song from a rock group at a school dance and everyone thought it was funny. He and his cousin were good dancers and they would go to dances together and do competitions. When Zeyda went to his high school prom, a lot of things went wrong.  His girlfriend was an Orthodox Jew and she did not eat anything that wasn’t kosher.  So it turned out that they couldn’t eat any thing. After the dance there was a party and his girlfriend was not allowed to ride after the Sabbath, so they had to walk there.

            The college he went to was Temple University where he majored in mathematics. In college he would do plays and go to drama club and dance. He tried out for sports but he was not as good as everybody else. He was the best student in his class in mathematics. He would argue with his math teacher about how there is an easier way to solve the problems that he was learning.

            Zeyda’s first job was at Boeing, a computer company. The way he got the job was his math skill and the guy that was interviewing told him if his major was in math he is good enough. He did a big project there with his company.  He installed the system for NASA. His company gave him the Programmer of the Year award.  He earned around $7,500.  His job paid a fair amount of money and he helped people that did not know what they were doing. The Boeing job gave him draft deferment during the Vietnam War.

            While Zeyda went to college, he often visited his Aunt Shirley.  His aunt told him about her girl friend, Nina, whose husband died and left her a widow with five children.  One day, Aunt Shirley asked Zeyda to come over and cheer up Nina.  Zeyda went along even though he figured his aunt’s girl friend would probably look like the “Little Old Lady who lived in a shoe.”  But when they got there, Nina came outside in her bathing suit.  Zeyda was pleasantly surprised.  After that visit, Zeyda didn’t mind going to visit Nina even without Aunt Shirley coming along.  Nina and Zeyda started out as good friends, but after a while they realized they were falling in love.  Because of the big age difference and the “ready made” family of five kids, Zeyda’s parents were opposed to their relationship.  But Nina and Zeyda decided true love would see them through the difficulties so after about two years they got married.

            A funny thing happened early in their relationship when Zeyda first met the kids.  It was on Halloween night.  Zeyda dressed up in a mummy costume but he also put a pumpkin head over his mummy wrapped head.  When he got to Nina’s house, he knocked on the door and my Aunt Kate answered the door.  She looked out and saw the pumpkin head and said, “Who are you?”  Instead of answering, Zeyda slowly removed the pumpkin head.  Kate was expecting to see someone she’d recognize.  Instead she saw a MUMMY!  (Click here to see what she saw.)  She screamed and ran into the house.  That’s how Kate first met her mom’s boyfriend.

Soon after Grandma and Zeyda were married they moved into a new house.  This was the first of many homes they would fix up and sell and move on again.  This first house had five bedrooms.  My Aunt Kate and my mother Mona each had their own room on the third floor.  On the second floor Uncle Ray and Uncle Adam shared one bedroom and Uncle David and Uncle Michael shared another.

Grandma was a phenomenal cook and baker.  Her recipes were not so much a secret; she just wouldn't allow anyone to help her in the kitchen.  When we were first married, Zeyda told Grandma that he didn't want to get stuck with the same meals over and over.  So they agreed that every Wednesday night for dinner Grandma would serve something new, something they had never had before.  Even though young kids are often reluctant to taste new foods, they looked forward to our Wednesday night meal.

As for vacations, their best vacation was their first vacation as a family.  They all went to Cape May and rented a place by the beach.  All the kids played together and had a great time.  They took turns watching Michael and all had great fun.  Even though they tried to do the same thing the very next year, it was never as much fun as the first time.

In terms of holidays, Thanksgiving was their special holiday.  As the children got older, got married, and had their own families, they made it a rule that Grandma and Zeyda would always host a family Thanksgiving dinner.  Now, even though Grandma has passed away, we still keep up that tradition.

Our family now includes nine grandchildren.  And Zeyda thinks there are more to come.  Zeyda says, “Since Grandma died, everything has changed.  There’s no fun left in the world for me.  You see, I’ve lost my true love and now I can’t live without her.”

While doing this project, I’ve learned a lot in the past few months especially about computers and how to write better.  And I got to know my grandfather a lot better. 




Copyright © Dakota, 2003