Passover approaches like a returning visitor bringing melting snow and sunshiny Sunday afternoons to clean your car in the driveway. Every year it marches forward steadily, predictably. The smells of Passover coming: frying onions, potato starch cakes, hard-boiled eggs.

I can’t not think of my grandfather. My zaidy is Passover. I wonder, now, how many Seders we did or didn’t spend at his home in the Bronx; it doesn’t matter. What matters is his rich baritone voice cantorially sending forth the sweet notes of The Songs.

Zaidy’s songs of the Seder were, to me, his magna opus. Not that he composed them, but he made them. He made them special. At this very moment as I type this my eyes fill with tears remembering sitting at his table on Barnes Avenue, the simplest and most beautiful home in the world. He was larger than life, his smile, his laugh, his voice. The songs came forth in their predictable Hebrew playlist.

We plowed straight through the Haggadah, no shortcuts. We stopped often for kids and adults alike to share insights on the Haggadah that had been studied at school or independently. My grandmother, an Auschwitz survivor, lovingly interjected intermittent comments about children with “groise oigen” (“your eyes are bigger than your stomach”) and admonitions to not drink so much before bed.

When I was a child a song came out that always made me cry:

And zaidy made us laugh/and zaidy made us sing
And zaidy made us kiddush Friday night
Zaidy, oh my zaidy, how I loved him so
And zaidy used to teach us wrong from right…

I never did like that last line. Too prosaic.
It never really seems the right time to start running your own Seder. Who ever feels old enough? But the day comes and it’s time. And you do, and you wonder: Am I giving my kids what my zaidy gave me? The smile? The laugh? Most importantly, that metasensory high from The Songs? Somehow it feels like I won’t ever get it right.

Did my zaidy wonder if he was doing it right? Did he ever feel like the imposter, the understudy, to his charismatic and beloved father whom I never knew? Did he make sure to sing all his tunes all the way through till Chad Gadya while the children dropped off and everyone yawned their way through?

Passover approaches and I wonder about the marching of years and the revolving door of generations. The song ends:

Who will be the zaidies of our children/who will be their zaidies if not we?

My zaidy would be turning 89 had he lived. 89 is not old, right? 89 is still young and fresh and vibrant. 89 is the perfect age to sit around the Seder table with five generations together and sing Chad Gadya while everyone yawns and jokes and pretends to want to go to sleep. 89 is beautiful.

So Passover approaches with its memories and smells and changing weather. And the Seder will again be conducted not quite without my zaidy. He’ll be there: larger than life, cheering us on, singing his songs right along with us, as we pretend to be him.