In the last few years, I have written extensively about my dad's father, my grandpa Mike. I spent a lot of time with him when I was growing up, and the mystery around his missing family and his piece of a larger piece of history always made me feel closer to him. I have traveled back to his hometown, spent money on genealogical researchers to dig through the archives, and attempted to do my own research. I wrote essays, a chapbook, and a novel in progress about him. But I had another grandfather.
Grandpa Ruby was an interesting person, but overshadowed by my other grandfather's outsized charisma and the sense of unknown. His mother came from somewhere in Russia (I have tried to figure this out with not much luck, but there are some wonderful photos of her as a young woman), and Grandpa Ruby and his brother Mac were first generation Americans. Like any striving immigrant, my great grandma wanted her sons to be educated. However, right before he graduated from high school, Grandpa Ruby dropped out to become a bicycle racer. This did not go over well with his parents, but he persisted.
Anyway, not long after that, the US entered World War II, and of course my grandpa joined the army. He was sent down to Biloxi for training. Many of the men in his unit had never met a Jewish person before. Some of them were not very interested in meeting Jews, either. Grandpa and the other Jewish guys stuck together, though. And of course, not every non-Jew was an anti-Semitic piece of shit.
They went over to Europe and eventually my grandfather was wounded in battle. I don't know all of the details (and if I get them wrong, I am sure that my mom and aunt will present the facts in the comments - thanks in advance!), but I believe he had shrapnel in his legs. He was sent to England to recuperate. He was also awarded a Purple Heart.
When he returned to the US, Grandpa Ruby became a glazier. He eventually owned his own glass shop, and installed glass at some very fancy hotels and homes. He was extremely generous, helping friends, family, and neighbors without every expecting anything in return. Unfortunately, that is more or less what he got, but he was not bitter.
Eventually Grandpa Ruby developed multiple sclerosis, and by the time I was old enough to really know him, he was confined to a wheelchair and understandably not so happy about the circumstances. My aunt and my mother always tell me that they wished I could have known him before that. I can see from his photos and home movies what an amazing person he was - his smile demonstrates a zest for life.
Grandpa Ruby passed away in 2001. This Veteran's Day, I am honoring him, and thanking him for everything he did for our family and for his country. He is always missed.