When I first started REBEL8 I didn't want to create a business that was personal to me. I was originally looking to create a company that I could remain emotionally disconnected from and focus solely on its financial objectives. However quite early on, not even 365-days in, things changed; I got emotionally invested, personally connected, and incredibly dedicated to REBEL8. And after almost 11 years now since this REBEL8 thing began, I'm more comfortable around you than some friends I've known for my entire life. So after careful thought I decided to blog these very personal photos and stories. Because after all, my REBEL8 family, is my family.
About 4 months ago on my Instagram I posted the below photo with these words:
"Super sad to walk the very boardwalk I did countless times as a kid without her. For the passed few years my grandma has become less and less talkative. Our last conversations, before she was hospitalized, would just be her asking how's my health, how's business, and after I replied great two times, she'd end with an I love you. Unfortunately, now she doesn't really speak, at all. So in the nursing home I held her hand, told her I loved her, said I was healthy, and said business was great. She didn't say a thing. But she slowly lifted my hand to her mouth, kissed it three times and just stared at me. Tears filled my eyes, but I refused to let them fall down to my cheeks. I don't know what is or isn't going through her mind, nor do the doctors. I just knew at that moment I wanted to be strong for her. Today was rough."
What I didn't say previously, that I'll now add is that once I left her room, I slowly walked down the long stretch of hallway. I shakily pressed the call-bottom on the elevator, and then without sound, sadly waited. When the bell chimed suddenly and the doors opened, I couldn't take a step forward. I froze up. In what I can only describe as an explosion of emotion, I sprinted all the way back to her room, grabbed her hands, kissed her on her forward and told her, "I love you. I'll never forget you. I love you. I'll never forget you. I love you. I'll never forget you." Needless to say, upon leaving her room for the second time, I wept.
I'm glad I did go back, because those were the last words I ever spoke to my grandma. I can only hope those were the last words she'd have wanted me to tell her.
I never met my grandpa, George Shapiro. He died years before I was born. Like my grandma he was born on the Lower East Side into a large immigrant family before moving to Brooklyn in the 1940s to start one of his own. He was a bus driver, then a taxi cab driver, and finally a bartender. He never made a lot of money and barely made enough, but he did his best to provide for his family. And while the Shapiro's would move from apartment to apartment after getting pushed out due to rent increases (yeah, displacement of poor people is nothing new), they still made time to vacation on Coney Island. George's last home was Apartment 1G.
I spent a few hours last night going through old black & white photos with my mom. In not a single photo is he not smiling or looking like life is anything less than absolutely perfect. Ultimately George was a simple, hardworking, loving husband and nurturing father. I only wish I could have gotten a chance to know him myself.
This was actually the first time I've ever been to his grave. It really tripped me out that the day I met him, was also the day I buried my grandma. RIP George. Rest in peace Jean. You two are finally back together and will forever live in my heart.
Thanks for reading.