Our Unexpected Passover Guest
Nobody expected my grandfather to show up at my apartment for Passover—two months after he died
As Passover approached just a couple months later, I wondered what the holiday would be like. Grandpa’s Seders had always opened a door to a magical reality, completely distinct from the quotidian world I inhabited the rest of the year.
We had always read the service all the way through from my grandparents’ art deco Union Haggadahs. With a booming voice, Grandpa had told the story of the slaves in Egypt as though it were his own personal drama. My young mind never once questioned the miracles of the Exodus—their reality had been handed down to me by my grandfather, who’d received it from his, and so on for more than 3,000 years.
Year after year, Grandpa had hidden the afikomen, undetected. His sleight of hand was worthy of Doug Henning. By the time the gefilte fish arrived on its china plate, Grandpa would have me on the edge of my seat, wondering where he’d hidden the matzoh.
In our youth, my sister and I balked when we were sent to the front door late in the Seder to invite in Elijah the Prophet. To us, Elijah the Prophet could be no one but the Boogey Man. After all, hadn’t Grandpa told us that the Boogey Man lingered by the front door at night?
As a child, I was greatly relieved when Elijah would fail to appear. Now, as an adult, I grieve.
Twelve years have passed since Grandpa died. My husband and I still live in the same tiny apartment, now (thank G-d) crammed with kids. When I begin to prepare for Passover, I inevitably think of my grandfather, who never met my children and would have taken such pleasure in them. Nevertheless, my husband and I try to make our Seders as magical as possible for them. I don’t think we have quite the same flair as Grandpa, but the kids look forward to Passover with as much anticipation as I did.
I don’t expect Grandpa to visit us again this year. When he appeared to us that first Passover, he knew we needed him. Today, we still miss him. We still wish he were here. But we no longer need reassurances of his unconditional love. His one final visit gave that to us.
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