Feb 29, 2020 was a sad day for my family as my grandfather passed away, being 101 years, 1 month and one day old. And he smoke a lot for about 50 of them, also enjoying, before most meals, a shot of tzuica, a plum based double distilled liquor.
Yeah, he was pretty old and he reached a point where he did not see the old age as gift and more of a burden. Seeing all those from your generation going away before you is not a pleasure. At some point he told me that most of his pupils (he was a teacher for some time) from his class where already dead, probably all by now.
I will always remember how he showed me how to use a pocket knife to cut wood, distinguish between different types of wood, identify them by their look or even leaf shapes, build a bow and arrows. Two years ago I build my own office table from solid oak. I know that his father was a wood worker and he also loved working wood. Somehow I am pleased that this passion was not fully lost. And yes, I am sure he would have being proud so see it.
I think that the childhood years spend at the countryside, were those when I learned to appreciate the nature around us, something I would have never learned as a city boy. I am happy though that we skipped the training part about how to sacrifice a farm animal like a rabbit or a chicken, something that was common those days. I think I will survive even without these skills. On the other hand, the skills about how to brew and distill my own prune based alcohol could prove handy if I want to go duty free.
I will remember his world war II stories, when he had to fight for both sides, first for Germans and later for allies. Romania had an unfortunate political position, being engaged with both sides but still being treated as a loosing side at the end, loosing some territories and getting the Russian protection, which had the bad habit of coming as a guest that misbehaves and never leaves.
I do remember that he was supposed to receive the black cross decoration from Germans for discovering and capturing a big mobile bridge unit, the ones that allows you to setup a bridge over a river. Things changed and he never received it.
I also remember him telling me about the Russian front, where it was so cold that you would effectively piss marbles, the water would freeze before hitting ground. I do remember him saying that the Russians where far worse than the germans, but who can blame him, as he did also have to go to prison when the communists took the power, thankfully it was not for a very long time like others did.
I had the inspiration of not asking him sensitive questions about the war, I guess that even as a kid I knew that there where stuff that maybe he does not want to share, the army is not known to get the best out of people.
I was his fist grandchild and, as I had difficulty speaking, I managed to nickname him as Cubu and my grandmother as Cuba. Since that happened the entire family addressed them with the same nicknames. I guess that may explain why I made a passion for renaming variables later.
He is now gone but parts of him will live in each of us as trite as that might sound. I know he was proud about his children, grandchildren, and even grand-grand children.