A Different Chanukah Celebration

Five years ago I wrote a letter to my children about having to say goodbye to their great-grandfather, my grandfather.

We went to see him a day or two before he died, knowing full well that his light was dimming and about to go out…forever.

He was like  A Flickering Candle, a week or so before my son and I had taken him with us to the tux shop to be fitted for my sister’s wedding.

When my son tried on his tux, grandpa grabbed my hand and squeezed it, he smiled at me and told me how proud I should be.

We both smiled and then when my son complained about the tie, grandpa and I laughed together and that was when I knew he would never make it to the wedding.

I didn’t know for certain that he was going to die, but when he told me again that grandma should be there with us I knew his strength and will were fading.

What I didn’t Know Then

The list of what I didn’t know then but know now could fill two libraries, assuming I figured out how to articulate it and say what I have learned in a way that people could understand.

But I don’t think I could do so, even if I wanted to and I don’t want to.

Not because it is filled with some very painful moments but because I don’t think I would ever be satisfied with the quality of my explanation and that would bother me.

In part because the reality is the boy and the man that my grandfather knew is gone. The fires I walked and danced my way through changed me and though I see and hear echoes of that other guy, they are just memories.

Now the echoes I pay attention to are sonar like pings of the future I am walking into.

But if I had to try to tell you something about that time I would say I had no idea that it would take as long as it did for me to feel like I knew what direction I was heading in.

I’d tell you that the chaos really started around the day of my other grandfather’s funeral, back in 2006.

If you flip back through the pages here you’d find a post that talked about how my boss fired me that day.

Yeah, he fired me the day of my grandfather’s funeral knowing full well what day it was and that set our world on fire, but I didn’t have a clue as to how severe it would be.

Truth is by the time of my other grandfather’s funeral I thought I had figured things out…more or less.

But I hadn’t.

A Different Chanukah Celebration

This year is the first Chanukah in a number of years that I feel relaxed and good about celebrating it.

It is the first in forever where I feel like a real person again and like we are celebrating on terms that don’t upset or embarrass me.

Chanukah 2014 was tough because I wasn’t employed.

I had been, I had a great job and was earning real money but the contract expired and wasn’t renewed.

By the time Chanukah 2014 rolled around I hadn’t been out of work very long at all but unexpected bills rolled through and life happened all around me so I had virtually nothing.

If my kids didn’t have generous grandparents and family they would have gotten the equivalent of underwear and socks.

Every day was a fight and a struggle just to pay normal bills and find a way to get through, so gifts weren’t a priority and don’t talk to me about smiles and cheer.

But we made it through and a year later things are a thousand percent better.

A thousand percent better and I gave them a gift I had promised to come up with three years ago.

To be clear it wasn’t something I failed to follow through on three years ago, it was something I said would come when Steiner the minor hit high school.

It was important to me to deliver, not so much because I had told him three years ago that I would but because last year it felt impossible.

It wasn’t.


Maybe those moments I shared and other experiences from life are part of why I smile now when I see the words below.

Useful pain

Maybe they are part of why I nod my head when I read these words too.

“When people say “there are other fish in the sea” I say “fuck you, she was my sea.”― Jen Faulkner

Steiner the minor asks me how I can be so damned stubborn and relentless about things.

His question is in reference to how I can walk into his room and instantly spot whatever he hasn’t done that I have asked him to do.

I tell him he comes from a long line of men that have all had that gift and explain it is something my dad and grandfathers did too.

He asks me if it is useful to be able to spot a pair of dirty socks or an empty water bottle on the floor.

I smile and tell him life is filled with parts and pieces and that big victories are built upon small.

He shakes his head at me and I share some specific examples about group projects and how the successful ones worked because one or two of us were willing to do the dirty work.

“Dad, how does this relate to my socks?”

Successful people don’t cry about picking up their socks or spend time moaning about what is fair. They just pick them up and keep going.”

He shakes his head and looks at me again, but he picks up his socks and takes them to the hamper.

the successful ones worked because one or two of us were willing to do the dirty work.Click To Tweet


I can still feel grandpa squeezing my hand and here him telling me how proud he was. I can see his smile and hear him say he talks to grandma every night and he’ll tell her about this.

“You are going to be ok Jack, you just keep walking forward and you are going to be ok.”

“I did and I am grandpa, I keep going. It is what I learned and what I do.”

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  1. Jamie December 17, 2015 at 6:04 am

    Yay! What a great message. I’m trying to relax more this Christmas season. I haven’t written at all (not even started on the compulsory Christmas letter) in hopes of slowing down. Seems like I’ve just crammed other stuff in. :/

    But as this post so beautifully illustrates, it all comes down to relationship. The one with your grandfather, with your children. With the help you received in the getting gifts that year you were struggling. I’m as vain as the average 21st Century American woman but one of the great things age gives (rather than moaning all that it takes) is that it softens us. Life wears away our rough spots and allows us to receive help and in turn give more freely. Just like your grandfather and why seeing you as a man and dad meant everything to him. Cause in the end that’s it.

    • Jack Steiner December 18, 2015 at 10:25 am

      Hi Jamie,

      Age does soften us in so many ways, I look at my father as the prime example of that in my life. That man is so different, loved him in all of his incarnations but this version is much easier to work and get along with. 🙂

      The slowing down this time of year is important, doesn’t happen often enough, but slowing down to catch our breath is so important.

  2. Janine Huldie December 10, 2015 at 4:18 am

    Aw, Jack I am so happy this is a better year for you and definitely think your grandfather is smiling down on you and also so very proud of you, too!

  3. Larry December 9, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Glad you are in a better position this year.

  4. Brian Sorrell December 9, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Beautiful reflections Jack. I’m glad 2015 turned around for you and that your voice remains strong as ever.

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