My Pop, the beloved Victor Henschel, died 29 years ago today on Valentine’s Day. The irony of losing the sweetest grandfather/father on earth is not lost on his grandchildren/children. For years we did not celebrate this day in the usual jovial way, even if it is a made up commercial holiday. For years just hearing the date was way too painful to get happy. However, our Pop would not have been happy with us being sad thinking about him. He was a man who loved life, and loved his family with all that he was worth.
A few memories are really fitting today. When we asked him how he was, he always said “super!”. He was afflicted with severe psoriasis but although this disease was at times unmanageable and debilitating for him, his sunny and bright disposition was never affected. As a grandchild this man represented love in its purest form. He never raised his voice, he always laughed, and told us funny stuff (dirty jokes when we were too young to get them), took us shopping for a treat and made you feel like you were the most special child in the world. Memories of going to a Knick game, sitting near the organ player, and getting a blue sweatshirt with an orange felt basketball stay in my mind.
I used to love when he would see his siblings. He would cry so hard; he never felt emasculated by his emotions. He wrote the greatest birthday cards on 5×7 index cards in all caps. I still have one and it’s kept in my safety deposit box with all of my other valuables.
I share some special memories about my Pop with my cousin Andy. We are only a year apart and we grew up more like brother and sister. He and I went shopping with Pop in both NY and Florida. Pop always kept things even among his grandchildren. Every once in a while you would get a check in the mail and you would know that some other grandchild got something and you were getting your “true up”. Andy and I still talk about those shopping times, particularly the one day where Pop had rented a white camaro, took us shoe shopping, and told us stories about when he dated our Nana. “Priceless” doesn’t even come close.
This man had great expressions for things. Anything that went wrong that was a lesson for you to learn, he said it “built c-h-a-r-a-c-t-e-r”. It wasn’t exactly spelled out by him but more of an emphasis on the wrong syllable to be cute. He used to tell us when we were kids “nicht mit a hent” (don’t know how to spell in Yiddish) which means “not with your hands”, so we wouldn’t hit each other. There are five of us grandkids and when we would get together, it could get a little crazy. I say it to my kids and I know my cousins do too. He said it with warmth, never with anger. I miss him so much. We all do. We all wish he could see us living close together, loving and taking care of each other. And the kids, damn do I wish he could see all of his great grandkids. There just would not be enough tissues for all of the happy tears!
I do like to think he watches over Bryan. Who else would guide such nice people to rescue him in the woods of South Carolina. And Jason…. he has that sweetness, that pure empathy that personified my Pop. Happy Valentine’s Day. XXX