My Grandpa Wrote Back – Supporting a Vegan Lifestyle, Even If You Do Not Follow


“Dear Jen—-First of all—-thank you, thank you for your kind thoughts and writings regarding Poppy’s memorandum pertaining to his children and grandchildren.  I had given some thought to expressing my admiration and pride for the next generation and as one gets older, we see the inner characteristics of our off spring in a different light than when I was younger and that is why I sat down with my thoughts and wrote from my inner heart felt view point.  And now for the main purpose of this note.  Jen, you revealed your inner most thoughts and soul with the way that you expressed yourself in answering my concerns and questions —Why go to California on the behalf of >Animal Rights” ?  Your quick response to my concerns makes me realize that you have a plan for your life and that you are determined to live up to these plans and expectations.  BRAVO Jen  In any event, I will wish you the best with your endeavors and spirit to leave a footprint in the sands of our world.  An old Navy command to the helmsman at the wheel—>Stay The Course”—meaning, your plans for the present and the future—will be as you want them to be.  You have determination for living your life with he same compassion as your old great grandmother Liza Eglit Liepin  So keep us informed about your travels and meeting up with people who have similar  views as you—-or will have them after listening to your views.  Lots of Luck and “Fair Winds” with you travels.  
Love as Always.   Joan and Poppy.”

It felt so good to read this last night. As much as my grandpa is proud of me and some of my differences from him, I am proud of him for over time becoming a more open person. He has slowly come to terms with my “throw caution to the wind” attitude over the years as I have:

  • chosen not to enter a Master’s teaching or school counseling program, despite admission
  • dropped out of law school
  • purchased an apartment with a boyfriend that I broke up with 3 months after the purchase 
  • eloped my husband sans wedding ceremony
  • left a burgeoning tutoring company that I built up from scratch when I tired of a management role
  • purchased multiple properties in Jersey City with no intention of living in them
  • began roaming from one apartment to another – “professionally homeless” – instead of setting up a home with my husband and becoming a more traditional, “proper” wife
  • bucked one steady career path & chose not to climb any ladders

It is mere insanity for my grandpa, Poppy, to watch me make seemingly reckless decisions, as he grew up poor over the course of much of his life and would have been grateful to have all the opportunity that has landed in my lap. My great great grandmother, his grandmother that he references in his letter, immigrated to the U.S. from Latvia a century ago and paved the path for our Liepin family. My grandpa grew up in the Bronx in the 1920s, top floor of a 6 floor walkup in which he had to schlep water and coal up 6 flights every day. Their apartment was small and life meagre, but my grandpa learned at a young age to strive,and by the time he was of age to serve, he had joined the navy with a plan to serve, marry, and come home and start a family after taking advantage of a college education, courtesy of the G.I. Bill. After attending SUNY Maritime, he worked very hard selling air conditioning units house to house, business to business – loading his car up with his sales supplies and hitting the load for long spells in order to support his wife and two children.

Poppy put food on the table and ensured my father and my aunt had everything they needed to get their starts in life. When my father chose to marry his penpal from Japan, my mother, my grandparents were there to help them put a down payment on their first home and help my mother – someone who spoke very little English – find her first job. When my parents divorced, and neither of my parents could financially support my brother and me year round, Poppy took me and my brother in over the summers and taught us what it was like to grow up in a normal family with two parents – himself and my step grandmother, Joan. They taught us simple things – like table manners and nutrition – and he taught us the value of hard work, putting us to task in his garden pulling up weeds and tilling the soil. We resented spending summers there without TV, save breakfast when we watched the oh-so-boring-to-us Regis and Kathie Lee, and lunch when we could occasionally watch an episode of I Love Lucy. My only leisure came from reading books we borrowed from the local library, so I spent hours every day locked in my room reading and resenting the “strict” lifestyle we experienced, in comparison to living with my single mother, who allowed my brother and me to roam the apartment complex all hours of the night, from age 8.

My Poppy shaped my brother and me in so many positive ways that we still cannot yet fully understand, and as a result, when he gives me advice, even that which I cannot completely grasp, I listen. I listen, and I self-reflect, and I try not to doubt choices that I have made that seem full of positive intention – because if he does not see this, maybe I need to re-examine my approach. I try not to rise immediately to anger and to understand that everything he says is with love.

Reading this last questioning probe from him was a great exercise for me to think how do I most tactfully, and with love, explain to him what I am trying to accomplish with my Tour Operator position. While transition from a career I am successful in, working with families that I love, blessed with a doting and supportive husband, to a life on the road living in a van. Although I had written a thorough appeal for the Tour Operator position in my cover letter for this position, it was mere artifice compared to speaking to someone who I love about this “radical” change.

Why do this? Why leave security behind?

In an ever changing world, to be “present,” to understand my fellow man and woman, I do not think that for me I can serve as one every present, never changing, reliable cog in the gears of our society. I have so much respect for those that spend their who life in one career, spread across and loyal to one or two companies; we need experts with years of experience to manage all the ever moving parts created by wanderers likes myself. However, as we wanderers wander, we pick up different thoughts, habits, traditions, and proclivities.

One day the amalgamation of the skills I have picked up from my 30+ odd jobs – that spread as far across as teaching in low-income communities in Newark and West Philadelphia to working as a costumed character for the Times Square Toys R US to driving around the Monster Energy Truck in parades and across the Jersey Shore to living in different people’s homes providing lots of care to their pets to organizing a 4-month move of the world’s first graphic design office from one location to another to sponge bathing one of my client’s aging and housebound mothers in the last 6 months of her life – will pay off in some beautiful flourish of skills – and until then my wide spans of experience will come into play as I spend the next 4 months of my life fighting off climate change, world poverty and a looming food shortage, cruel and inhumane treatment of farm animals – in my own way, reaching out person by person and teaching them about the choices they can make to improve our world throughout their lifetime by pledging to eat less meat and dairy in their lives. 

I will make you proud Poppy. It is not readily apparent to someone of your generation, the issues that people of my generation reflect on. I was able to find financial security at a young age with my real estate investments, and now it is my time to learn to live a more selfless life while finding which way is best to make my dent on improving this world. I have kept my last name, and I will make sure, as will my brother in teaching role, to ensure our family name presses forward by touching one life at a time with the service I plan to commit to this world. I love you and Joan dearly and cannot thank you enough for helping me to find fulfillment in such a way of life. You mean so much to me, and your are an inspiration to all who happen to hold you in their lives.

Love, Jen