Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Grandma and the Prince - Part 12
<==Grandma El and me, one month after Grandpa Bert's death
I'm embarrassed. Very embarrassed! I knew that sooner or later I'd totally blow a blog date and this is the day.
I'm typing as fast as I can . . .
* * *
I always wondered why my Grandma El jumped from her early years in America to the time immediately after my Grandpa Bert's death but it never occurred to me to ask her.
Isn't it always that way? We never think to ask the important questions while the people we love are still alive. I thought I'd have plenty of time and, to be honest, I did. I just never suspected I was only seeing the tip of our family iceberg.
Now on to Grandma El's story, in her own words:
Mona walked out on me after Grandpa died. Just like that. My own daughter. I bought a tv and I wouldn't come out of the apartment in Forest Hills. Your mother was just three weeks away from having you and they were crowded, what with your uncle and grandfather living with them too. Three men working different shifts, four rooms, a pregnant woman. She worked hard, your mother did.
Your father saw I was failing and he took me to see Doctor Florsheim. I'll never forget it. Doctor Florsheim took my hand and he said, "You're in a bad way, Elsie. You break a leg, I can heal it. But I can't heal your heart."
[NOTE: I made some inaudible comment here.
Children are children, my dear. They can’t feel the same things you feel.
Doctor Florsheim said, "Have you got anybody you care for? Someone you can live with? You need someone who has children to help take your mind off your loss."
"My brother has five boys," I said, "but he lives in New Jersey."
"Could you ask to live with him for awhile?"
"I couldn't," I said. "They have their own troubles."
"Just ask," said the doctor. "What can it hurt?
So I did. I called up Cass and I asked. I told him and without any hesitation he said, "Why, of course, El. Come over here. You tell me when you want to come and we'll have your room ready."
"What about Arlene?" I said. "Please ask Arlene."
He laughed. "She's been wanting to invite you for months."
So I went over there without anything.
I remember when Mona walked out on me – just befor Mother’s day, a few weeks before Dad died. I had that apartment where I was paying 75 dollars. The landlady was so sorry for me that my own daughter would walk out that she cut the rent down to 65. "Why don’t you get somebody in with you?" she asked. But it wasn't my way.
I took care of your grandfather down on Beekman Street at the hospital, all alone at night with the derelicts on the floor, on the ground. Nobody was with me
So all on my own now, I put an ad in the paper and sold my dining room, two big bedroooms, fireplace, solarium, breakfast room, dining room. It was a beautiful apartment. I kept the double bed – Cass said bring the bed. I brought my double bed. They gave me a cot in the boys' room the first night – two young boys. Bobby and Tommy, they were maybe 10 and 11 then. I had the little cot; they had the double bed. Charles and Jackie in other double bed in their bedroom for me.
A few months later I went back to Queens to see Doctor Florsheim and that's when I met your mother's father. I still felt so alone. I kissed your mother goodbye and your grandpa Larry said, "I’ll walk you to the subway," and I got on that subway and I saw all these couples, husbands and wives together – I was all alone; I had no one – it was Decoration Day. Do they still have Decoration Day?
I went over there. They were very nice to me.
I was there about a week when Arlene decided seeing I’m there she’d get a job. Her sister told her to get a job at some silver place. She’d leave at half past 8 – kids all in school – while I did all the washing, hanging, cooking, ironing, cleaning.
I offered them board but they said no. I didn’t have anything then. Just Grandpa's insurance- 1000 dollars -that’s all I had to my name. At the end of the first week how fate plays a part – Arlene came home and tossed the newspaper on the table. Cass wasn’t looking at it. We were sitting there after dinner. "You know," she says, "I have to go up the street to get a couple of housedresses. Want to take a walk with me?"
This was my moment. "You know, Arlene, how about me looking for a job too? I think I’d like to get one, a part time job."
"Doing what?" she asked.
"What I used to do: a saleslady."
So we look at the paper and I see Mr. Feldman's ad for the Annette Shop. Sales lady, part time, three days a week.
Arlene's jaw drops. "That's where I'm going tonight!"
My dear, these things happen.
Note from Barbara: Just remember that nothing is quite the way it seems in Grandma El's story. Keep in mind that she was Marie Barone with an English accent with a touch of Machiavelli thrown in for good measure.
See you next month . . . on time!
Posted by Barbara Bretton at 5:57 PM