Monday, April 6, 2009
Orchids, socks and long memories
Today gave both HP and me an insight into a long life.
His roommate, aged 99, that is not a typo, born January 7, 1910, suddenly felt better and asked if he could join us for a chat, which largely consisted of our listening to some fascinating accounts of his life. HP dozed off once or twice, having done a lot of rehab today, and still trying to recruit his stamina, but I knitted and listened and listened and knitted.
He examined the knitting, put the first sock on his hand, admired the work, and said I had golden hands. First wife was a world class knitter whose sweaters are still worn in the family -- in fact at the funeral home when she died, when the younger generation arrived, the people there instantly knew they must be from Fay's family, because they all wore sweaters in her honor. So the knitting was the real ice breaker.
And then we heard how his father came to the Lower East Side, of New York (RM referred to it as New York, rather than Manhattan, in the age-old way of people who started early life there), followed in 1913 by his wife and four children, from Poland.
His father was a heavy truck driver, worked until he had enough funds to send tickets for his wife and family. RM pointed out with pride that his father waited for his mother, didn't find a new partner in the US and forget his original family. This happened, he told me, more often than you might think. His mother came along with four young kids all the way from Poland, via Ellis Island.
RM eventually moved to Brooklyn, became a taxi driver, "had my medallion" he added proudly, and was married to his first wife for 57 years, until she died of breast cancer, for which he blames the doctors to this day for failing to spot it until too late. He remarried after three years.
At first in his widower days, he went to his kosher butcher and asked him to sell him the same foods his wife had always bought there, and he cooked meats every evening, but he said, after I'd cooked and eaten and wiped down the stove, it was late, I was tired, what's this about. So he switched to salads and Campbell's Soup!
And, though he'd been retired, he went back to driving a cab. went to a widows' and widowers' group in a high school adult program in Brooklyn, met his second wife, who only lived a few years after they married. But he said, I would never speak ill of her, she's dead, after all, but she was a gold digger!
And he asked us if we were Jewish, explained he uses a lot of "Jewish words" which I had figured, since the bits I didn't catch were Yiddish, true Lower East Sider, and asked HP if he would allow a Jewish prayer, which HP of course said, yes, certainly.
He recited a short prayer for HP in Hebrew, and translated for HP: may God in his great power, heal this good man. We were quite teary at this point. And he went on to say he didn't care what was wrong with HP, nor with himself, that was for doctors to think about, he preferred to talk of other things. Big Yankee fan, wearing his Yankee tshirt in celebration of Opening Day today! this is how you live to 99, very healthy attitudes!
His family was milling around as usual, and I heard them say, oh, Dad's back, he's doing better, making friends, this is how he is supposed to be. they were delighted to go off and take a break, since they figured he was doing just fine, which he was. It did HP a power of good, too, having another guy to listen to, and at a tired time of day.
His sons were teasing me that I was some kind of Martha Stewart, with all the plants and twigs and cards on HP's windowsill.
So in his honor, I'm posting the current state of the orchid and the neighboring twigs, wild cherry, wild brambles (white flowers) and dogwood, next to the orchid, now with about six blossoms and more on the way. East meets West in a way, on the windowsill.
And the sock in question, second one now under way. This is a highly secret present for a person who bought and delivered vital cat food at a time when I couldn't possibly shop for the right food, and the three cats were running seriously low.
Never billed me, so I'm retaliating with a pair of Rising Spiral socks which she will like a lot. These are tube socks, size doesn't matter, and I am modeling the first one for your delectation. It's a wonderful mathematical thing: multiple of eight pattern stitches knitted on three needles on odd number of stitches, which creates the rising spiral like magic. Very comfortable to wear, since the spiral is all on the outside, and inside is a soft indentation where the spiral comes.
Do not tell her these are on the way, you guys who know who this is.....