Tomorrow is the 110th anniversary of the birth of my paternal grandfather in Vienna, Austria.


That is the word that connects my eyes to my grandfather’s passport. It is the summation of the legacy he left me.

Standard forms never have an option for my eye color, which is the color of Lake Michigan on an overcast winter day. I always have to settle for blue, which is as close at it gets. But my grandfather apparently had more latitude in describing his eye color when he got his passport, because it says simply “graublau” or grey-blue (more grey than blue, I think). Perhaps this is an Austrian trait, because years ago I came across a similar, although even more specific, description in White Stallion of Lipizza (emphasis mine):

“He stood up now and put both hands on the boy’s shoulders, holding them tight. Gray eyes looked into gray eyes for a long moment. Then, “Hans,” he said, “all Viennese are proud of the Lipizzaners. Even I who have never seen them. It is something wonderful we inherit from the past. But for most of us it is a thing to admire from afar. Like stars. Or the moon when it is new.”

I like knowing that I got my eyes from my grandfather, whom I barely remember because he died when I was three. I also like knowing that they may also be a broader reflection of my ethnic heritage!