We Don’t Steal. We Know How To Ask.

TL;DR: My Dede was a fascinating character.  While he was a profoundly flawed individual, my Mother and I loved him with boundless devotion.  The lessons he passed down continue to shape the way we look at the world, and remind us who we are.

I am a mutt.

On my Father’s side I am mostly German.  Mostly.

But on my Mother’s side, I am pure Turk.  My Mother and her two sisters were born to a Turkish doctor and member of the aristocracy, who secretly married his decidedly non-aristocratic nurse.

Indeed, my Grandfather (he was Dede to me, pronounced deh-deh) was a truly formidable man.  He was kind, and generous beyond all expectations.  He was an inveterate drinker, gambler, and philanderer.  He was a brilliant doctor and had infinite patience and compassion for those in his care.  He lost his temper and terrorized the three innocent little girls who loved and depended on him most of all.  He was uncompromisingly honest and his integrity was renowned among friends, colleagues, and business associates alike.  He lived a life of relative luxury, while his family went through (not infrequent) periods of abject poverty.

He was complex, and full of human frailty.  He was tragically, beautifully human.  I inherited from him my dark, unflinching sense of humour, my love of fine things, my ceaseless curiosity, and my protuberant hind quarters.

But above all else, my Dede was the embodiment of class.  And while he was perfectly at ease sitting in a hole-in-the-wall tea garden, smoking cigarettes and playing backgammon with the local simit vendor; he was just as comfortable in the finest restaurants Istanbul, or New York, or Montreal, or wherever he happened to be had to offer.

On one occasion when my Mother was a little girl, he took her and her eldest sister to dinner with him at one such a fine establishment.  The food was incredible, which is just as to be expected.  But it was the tableware that really awed the girls.  Their desserts were served in these stunning crystal dishes that shimmered so brightly they almost seemed to glow.

After much discussion of how neither of these little girls had ever seen anything more beautiful than those two crystal dishes, it was ventured by the eldest that maybe they should just steal them.

“Why Honey, who do you think you are?”  Dede said.  I’m told he sounded almost amused, “We don’t steal in this family.”

He then hailed the waiter, saying, “Garçon, excuse me.  You see these two dishes?  They broke.”

The waiter smiled, “Of course, Sir.”  Then he took the dishes away, and that was that.

The meal continued (as Turkish meals are wont to do) and my Dede drank and caroused, and much merriment was had.  At the end of the night, as the guests were getting ready to leave, the waiter came back to the table, carrying with him a package wrapped in paper and tied with string.  He handed it to my Grandfather and they exchanged courteous (or conspiratorial) smiles, though neither said a word.

My Dede waited until his daughters were settled into the back seat of the gigantic Crown Vic that he drove before passing them back the package.  In it (of course), delicately wrapped in tissue paper, were the two gleaming crystal dessert dishes.