Grandpa Izzy

I do not choose to follow your death, but to follow your life.

Over six decades ago, you walked out of the garden apartment where you lived with Grandma in Hollywood, walked around the corner, crossed the street, somehow climbed to the top of the tallest building on the block, and fell to your death on the sidewalk below. You never saw it, but the newspaper reported the next day:
Mary Kiviat went out to look for her husband yesterday when she found he had disappeared from their home. He was ill, she said, and had told of planning to take his own life. A short distance from her home, she saw a crowd gathered and went to see what had happened. On the sidewalk was her husband’s body. Isadore Kiviat, 71, her husband, had leaped to his death from the top of a seven-story building, police told her.

You also never knew that your little grandson, who played ball in your courtyard, discovered your books on Communist Anarchism years later, which helped him make some sense of the crazy world of the late Sixties. Despite the great pain it caused the family, I try not to judge you by the way you chose to die, but by the way you chose to live. Just weeks after your death, my Mom went into labor with my sister Sharon. For each death, there is a new life.

I know your life was hard. Orphaned at twelve and left to take care of your siblings, you looked for a better world, and found it in Anarchism. You were sent to Siberia by the Czar at sixteen, for participating in the 1905 Revolt in Russia. I don’t know how you got out, how you made your way through Europe and eventually to America, but somehow you found Grandma Mary in New York. You always lived for others, dedicated to the Anarchist credo:

From each according to ability; To each according to need.

My Mom thought that was why you did it. Debilitated by a series of strokes, you not only were unable to care for others, but depended on others to care for you, which hurt your pride more than the physical pain.

So I do not choose to follow your death, but to follow your life. Posthumously, you inspired the course of my life.

Isadore Kiviat:

September 15, 1888 —

October 8, 1959



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