Old Reliable

Rachel Levy Lesser
4 min readMar 25, 2021

I’ve had a few nicknames — none that really stuck, which was probably a good thing considering the Peppermint Patty one from college which I’d just assume forget. One nickname though that does resurface every now and then in my extended family is one I don’t ever want to forget. In fact, I need to remind myself of it more often.

The nickname is Old Reliable. It was given to me by Grandfather, Padee, which was actually a grandparent nickname of sorts that his grandchildren gave him. Padee (pronounced Pa-D) is short for Grandpa Deitz, which was the formal title he gave himself, but it never stuck.

It was fitting that he’d want such a formal title as legend has it, he was a formal man. Almost everyone I knew (except for family and a few very close friends) called him Dr. Deitz, giving props to his well respected reputation as an Orthopedic surgeon which he took much pride in. He wore a jacket and tie (bow tie so it wouldn’t get in the way of him seeing patients) nearly every day.

Padee (in his trademark bow tie!) and me, old reliable

He introduced himself to my friends as Dr. Deitz, although over time, they started to call him Padee. They couldn’t not. They couldn’t not grow to love him. Padee’s formalities slipped away later in his life. Once retired from his beloved profession, he loosened up, especially around his grandchildren. And he took so much pride in them — in us.

Padee used to tell us that he kept a file on each of us. I didn’t believe him until after he died, and I found my file. In it was the research paper I wrote on him for a college class called Recent American History. It was about how his own life was affected by the Great Depression, World War II and the Baby Boom. When I interviewed him for the paper, he recorded us with his Dictaphone which he previously used for notes on medical diagnoses. Also in my file, were old pictures, a newspaper clipping of my wedding announcement and a thank you note my husband wrote to him for a birthday present Padee had given him shortly after we were married.

I still have my file. It’s in the back of my basement in a box of old pictures and the like. I sometimes look at it, and I can hear Padee’s voice in my head as I read through it. “Old Reliable” he used to call me. I was the most reliable grandchild by his account. The other grandchildren held other worthy titles as “the most” in other categories that…