These are the People ...
Harold Grossman: My Stepfather
He relished telling the story of how his mother would hang kosher salamis
to dry them out on the back porch, but that he and his brother Jack would
invariably eat them before they ever finished aging.
Harold Grossman was a gutte neshuma, a good soul. He was my mother’s
second husband and a good provider under whose roof I lived for a longer
period of time than I had with my dad.
Of his many attributes, there was one in particular that left me
with an abiding affection. Harold never sought to usurp my father's
role. Even though I lived in Harold’s house together with my brother Ron and
my mom for more than ten years, he respected the fact my dad was
just a short drive away in Chicago and with whom my brother and I maintained
a close relationship. Though I do not know what child support arrangements my
dad and mom had worked out, I do know that Harold supported me in countless
ways over the years.
He was a generous man by nature, soft-spoken and very dignified.
What Yiddish I know I owe to Harold. Of greater importance
than the words I have retained is the appreciation for the colorful
expressiveness of the mamaloschen Harold imparted to
me. What he remembered from his boyhood he recalled with genuine
glee and gladly shared with me.
Harold, his brother Jack, sisters Dorothy and Jane were blessed with
beautiful and wonderful parents: Morris and Eva Grossman, truly lovely and
gracious people, whom I was privileged to know as a boy. A tiny twosome,
Mr. and Mrs. Grossman were a handsome couple-one might even
describe them as “quaint”- each crowned with snow white hair. Their language
was a dialect of “Yinglish,” neither Galician nor Litvish. They sounded like
Myron Cohen. (Do you remember him from the Ed Sullivan Show?) It was exceedingly
difficult not to love them.
I believe it was Erev Shabbos when Harold, my mom and I stopped by to visit
the Grossmans in their apartment on Briscoe Court. The hour was after sundown when
we arrived. Harold’s parents would not have answered the phone had we called
them or, I suspect, invited us over that night because-much to our dismay-
their apartment was enveloped in pitch darkness.
Naturally curious why all their lights were out, we noticed them sitting quite
comfortably on their plastic cover-fitted sofa as if nothing were amiss. Not one
ray of light could be had. To this day some forty years later, I do not know if
the Grossmans had their lights on timers but had neglected to set them in time
before sundown or forgotten to turn on their Sabbath lights, but a fond albeit
befuddled memory it remains to this day!
"Pa," said Harold, always the dutiful son but who had forsworn observance
when he enlisted in the Navy after Pearl Harbor, "you're ‘gonna’ sit here in the
dark?! Just lemme tu ..."
"Zol zein shtil, Herschele! 'Don' touch!” barked Zayde who did not
pronounce the 't' in ‘don't’.
"But, but ... " Harold blurted out.
"But, but 'nuting'! Shah!" Zayde let forth.
"Ma!?" pled the son.
"It'll be fine tatele. Listen to your father," she counseled.
"Mom, why are we sitting in the dark?" I asked.
"Shah! Listen to Bubbe."
If only Mel Brooks had seen this.
We did not stay much longer. Leaving behind the magical, albeit dark
wonderment of Erev Shabbos in the apartment of Morris and Eve Grossman, we
returned home to a Friday night, however well-lighted.
Harold and his brother Jack were fine men, founders and owners of Jarold
Manufacturing in St. Louis, Missouri, who provided steady employment to many
men over thirty years in business. I worked there too during summer vacation
and came to know many of the employees whom I knew to be sincere in their
devotion to Harold as a man and employer.
It was my privilege to memorialize Harold. We are diminished now that he’s
gone, but the world is a far better place for his having been here!
"Zichron l'vrocha" ... May his memory be for a blessing!
Alan D. Busch