Danielle Tcholakian | Longreads | August 2017 | 23 minutes (5,681 words)
A few years ago, my middle brother and I were in Boca Raton, Fla. for Thanksgiving, visiting my mother’s parents. We’re very close with my grandparents, and one of the things I appreciate about my grandfather is that he has taken me — us — seriously for as long as I can remember. I spent every summer with him and my grandmother out on Long Island from when I was born into my teenage years, and I still can’t recall a time when I didn’t feel entitled to vigorously share my opinion with my grandfather, regardless of whether he would agree with it. When he would include me on forwarded political or (debatably) humorous e-mails with his Boca Raton pals — mostly politically conservative, Jewish guys like him — I would reply-all to any I found false or offensive in any way, lecturing men at least half a century older than me. He never yelled at me for telling off his friends and never took me off the email list for those forwards.
During the 2008 presidential election, I was in college, and I convinced him and my grandmother to vote for Barack Obama. It was the first time in our relationship, as far as I can recall, when my opinion wasn’t only given consideration, but prompted real change. I vividly remember running out to my friend’s Chicago porch after watching the vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin to call my grandpa and crow, “Who you gonna vote for now, Papa?” And I remember his good-natured laugh, his heavy sigh, his admission that yes, I was right. He was going to vote for my guy — in Florida, where it mattered.
Another thing I love about my grandfather is how he’s open-minded in a way that’s unusual among men of his generation. He’s no free-love hippie: This is a man who will drink at least one Coca-Cola a day for the rest of his life; who wears his socks pulled up so tautly, I don’t understand how they never fall; who worked hard for every dime he earned; who to this day insists Costco hot dogs are a great lunch; who plays tennis six days a week and pickle ball the seventh; and who spends a good two to three hours every day reading the paper. My grandfather lived through segregation, quietly. He is not a rabble rouser. But he has always been tickled by the rabble rouser in me, always willing to hear my liberal side out. After I worked as a journalist for Metro New York covering Mike Bloomberg as mayor of New York City, the things I learned of Bloomberg from his staff reminded me of my grandpa in that way. Make a convincing argument, and he’ll listen to it.