While Solomon wrestles with his feelings for Molly, she is dealing with her own emotional issues. Facing life after the death of her beloved husband less than a year after they stood under the chupah (wedding canopy) seems almost incomprehensible to the young widow.
In addition to portraying a touching love story, recreated is a bygone era - a time when a silk tie cost $1.60, a "comfortable house in a good neighborhood" could be purchased for $12,000, and nice Jewish boys still nervously asked the father for his daughter's hand in marriage.
|Publisher:||Living Parables of Central Florida, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.35(d)|
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Toledo, Ohio, 1962
Come in, come in! I'm so glad we're finally able to get together, I've been wanting to tell you this story for so long, but you had to go to your cousin's bar mitzvah in Cleveland, then that wedding I had to go to in California, Redlands, who knew there was even such a place. What a schlep. But a fine wedding, the reception. ... and we've both been so busy at work. But now here you are! Sit, sit! That's the most comfortable chair. You want some tea? Like they used to say, a glaz tea?
So, the story. The story about my nephew and his wife, Solomon and Molly, now already they have Rifka and Jefferson, nu, a Jewish Jefferson, these modern kids and their names. And already Molly has another twinkle in her eye, I'm thinking. ... I really love that little family.
A Jewish Jefferson ... names, it's interesting, maybe you don't know I'm one of five children. You ever wonder why I'm Emile? You might not think of Emile as a Jewish name, especially for a man born and raised in Toledo Ohio, but that's what it is. So you know we name children for those who have passed on ... it honors them and keeps their blessed memory alive. Well, it's like that. I am named for my great-grandfather, a French-Canadian, whose family came from France and settled near Montreal.
I keep interrupting myself. Anyway, the story. Such a story, about a motorcycle and such sorrow and such joy and such love. Such a love. The tea is all right? Need lemon? No? A cookie maybe? No? OK, the story.
Toledo, Ohio, 1950
Solomon Wholman stood, made sure his tie and kipoh were straight, and walked out of the office, turning towards the reception area. He signed the guest book then walked into the parlor. He had been to funerals already in his young life, but always for people in the next generation or even beyond that, people at least sixty, even a few blessed to live into their nineties. But this was for a young man, so young, dead so soon. The room was full, two generations well represented, those the age of the deceased and Solomon, and their parents, people who watched the dead man grow up only to be so suddenly taken. The sorrow was like a great, gray weight, the furniture and walls in appropriate soft beige and sand colors, the men and women in dark blue and black, their shoulders rolled down in sorrow, the heads tipped forward, the voices soft. Solomon walked into the parlor, looked at the closed, plain pine box resting on a draped table, straight-backed chairs facing the casket and the small lectern next to it. He felt suddenly awkward, not recognizing anyone. Then he saw a familiar face, a young man, and walked over to him.
"Lenny? Solomon Wohlman. B'nai Brith softball, remember?"
They shook hands. In a soft, subdued voice Lenny said "Sure I remember. How you doing, Sol?" He paused just a moment, then said "You knew my cousin?"
"Uh, no, not really, it's more that I knew about him. I was nearby, so I thought I'd pay my respects. Don't really know the family, though."
"Doesn't matter. It's good of you to come. Thanks. And come join us for shiva, we are going to need lots of company for the whole week, that's for sure. This is a rough one, a rough one." He turned, indicated with a nod of his head, not his hands. There were five people seated against the wall, almost completely obscured by clusters of people and by a slowly moving line of visitors. "Sitting there, that's my aunt and uncle, his parents, Jack and Nancy Manion. They are in shock, of course, really suffering. And between them is Molly, his widow, married ten months. At the end, that's her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Polsky, Ruth and Isadore Polsky ... everyone calls him Izzy. They live in Chicago, can you imagine the phone call? Can you imagine Molly had to call them and say come to Toledo to bury your son-in-law?" Tears filled his eyes. "Ten months ago I was dancing at his wedding and now I am at his funeral. I can't believe ... I am standing here ... doing this. And Molly! Poor Molly."
Solomon put his right hand on Lenny's shoulder, squeezed gently. "I'm really sorry about your loss, Lenny. I'll go speak to the family, and I'll see you at the house. We can talk some softball. And the Tigers, maybe Detroit can do it this year."
Lenny smiled a bit, wiped his tears away. "Sure. Thanks again for coming."
A few people had just arrived, and although it was almost time for the service the receiving line was still in front of the mourners, moving slowly. Solomon got in line, feeling the pressure on his chest, sighing, caught up in the crushing sorrow in the room. Everyone was talking softly as they moved through the line, and the sadness seemed so thick near the family that it was almost hard to breathe. He would shake the hands, get out of here, back to the company's tax problems. Maybe he would go sit shiva, probably not. This was too painful.
The bride, the wife of only ten months, was sitting between her mother and mother-inlaw. The three women were dressed all in black, small black hats with veils. The men, the fathers, were dressed alike, dark suits, slightly rumpled, white shirts, one wearing a blue tie, the other a tie of gray and black. The men had their ties pulled tight, their collars buttoned, their faces grim. The women had faces with red eyes, sad mouths. Except when they looked at the person immediately before them their spines were bent, their heads now and then dipping down, crushed by a weight that might never lift. Such a picture.
As Solomon approached the man's parents, the Manions, Solomon could hear the people just ahead of him – "So sorry ... May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem..... Anything we can do ... Such a shame ... May He grant you strength in the days to come ..." – and then it was Solomon's turn. First he came to the father, Jack Manion, and Solomon bent over and said "I'm so very sorry" getting a firm handshake from a strong, work-roughened hand. He moved next to the mother and repeated the same words. To his surprise he felt tears starting to form; although these were strangers the sorrow was contagious. Nancy Manion looked at him a moment, took his hand in a brief shake, said "Thank you." Solomon moved a bit to be in front of the widow. She did not seem to see him, although she raised her face a bit her eyes were unfocused, as red as possible, tears spilling.
She was wonderfully beautiful.
Solomon almost gasped, stunned for a tiny moment. By the time her unfocused eyes met his he was again completely sober. Molly Manion blindly lifted her right hand, and he barely, gently touched it, lightly holding her fingers more than her hand. He softly said "I am so sorry." Molly barely nodded her head, looking at him without focus, with no light in her eyes. Solomon slowly opened his hand and took a step to be in front of her mother. "Mrs. Polsky, I am so very sorry for your loss." She took his hand, held it, patted it gently with her other hand. "Thank you for being here." Finally, her father. They shook hands.
"I am so sorry, Sir."
"Thank you. Thank you for coming."
Solomon reflected he had not started out that day expecting to be part of such heartbreak. In fact, it was a beautiful day in early summer when he turned his four-door 1942 Chevrolet Fleetline Sportmaster into the driveway of the Wickstein-Abramson- Zimmer Funeral Home on Jefferson Avenue. As usual, he was wearing a dark suit. He had a young face, looked younger than his twenty-five years, and he thought the dark suits would help people feel comfortable with him as their accountant, watching over their money. Always a white shirt. Always a dark tie.
A few other cars were pulling in at the same time, the last of the visitors, the small parking lot already almost full of Chevrolets and Fords, Packards, DeSotos, Dodges. The only Cadillacs were those of the funeral home, the limousine for the family and the hearse, their motors idling, waiting, about ten cars lined up behind. Halfway up the driveway a member of the funeral staff stopped the car in front of Solomon's, spoke briefly to the driver, then pointed and the car moved slowly to the back of the line. Solomon let out the clutch, the car rolling forward.
"Sir, are you going to the cemetery?"
"I'm sorry, I'm here to see your bookkeeper, business meeting. Where should I park?"
"May I ask you go around the far side of the building, just past the service doors? I'm sorry, but we need to keep the driveway open, not get anyone blocked in."
"Of course. Thank you."
Solomon moved his car gently around the arriving cars and the people getting out of them, noticing how many young people there were, people his age. He got to the far side of the building, parking close so as to leave as much maneuvering space as possible for the funeral procession. He picked up his briefcase from the seat next to him, got out and tried the building's service door. It was open. He reached in his pocket, took out a black kipoh and put it on, then entered the building through the service door, choosing not to mix with the mourners. He walked down a small corridor and turned into a business office.
Sheila Guytzen looked up from her paperwork. She was a woman with thinning red hair and a gently softening frame. Every day of her life she wore a Star of David on a necklace, a wedding ring, and several bracelets. On her desk were pictures of her with a man her age, with her grown children, and a few baby pictures. A nameplate on her desk said SHEILA GUYTZEN, Bookkeeper and Chief Worrier.
"Solomon, mine accountant, how glad I am to see you." She reached over and picked up a small stack of letters bound with a red rubber band. "I need you should unscramble this mess, the state wants more payroll withholding. I think they are farmisht beyond help, but maybe you can make some sense of this."
"That's why I'm here, Sheila. We will straighten out the state."
"I admire your optimism. Such a bunch of nudnics. So how is your mother?"
"Very well, thank you. And Bob? And your children and grandchildren?"
"All fine, all just fine, kineahora, knock wood." Sheila knocked hard on her large wooden desk three times. She pointed to a picture. "This one, Beverly's Amelia, mine Amy, she just turned one and suddenly she runs everywhere, I have to follow after like a protecting angel, she is into everything."
"You don't mind so much being a protecting angel."
Sheila smiled proudly. "I don't mind so much. So, you ready to start? You can use Stanley's desk."
Solomon took the government letters from Sheila, put them on the adjoining desk, put his briefcase on the floor next to it. "Sheila, who is the funeral for? There are so many young people......"
Sheila got a stricken look on her face, held both hands over her heart. "Oy, Solly, it's that poor boy, Darren Manion, you must have read about it, killed on his motorcycle, married not even a year and dead. His family is ... I've seen a lot of funerals, a lot of grief, but these people are just ... I don't know what to call it ... ... drowning. Drowning."
"Yes, I did read about it. Oy is right. Terrible, just terrible."
"You know, I tell my children, my grandchildren, watch out for strangers, make sure the car doors are locked, eat your spinach. So this means in addition I have to warn about motorcycles. I tell them 'You see, a young man with a new bride dead because he wants to ride a motorcycle like a hoodlum. Without a helmet yet. Better he should drive a car like a real person.'
That goes for you too!"
Solomon held out his hands, his palms up toward her, a gesture of total surrender. "Never." He sat down, fussed with the papers a minute, then looked up. "Sheila, I must know some of the people in there, went to school with them or know their families ... He was about my age, right? I have to go pay my respects. I'll be right back."
Sheila smiled her approval. "Such a good boy you are, Solomon. Your mother is proud."
When he saw the rabbi and cantor enter the parlor and start to greet a few people, Solomon moved toward the parlor entrance, not wanting to exit once the service was starting. He walked down the hall towards Sheila's office but stopped to wipe his eyes and blow his nose, then he stepped into her office. Sheila Guytzen looked up from her paperwork. Solomon just shook his head sadly, as did she. Then he took off his jacket, hung it on the clothes tree behind the door, and sat down to start wrestling with state tax withholding forms. He worked quickly and effectively, dealing with ledger sheets, payroll records, and tax returns from previous years. He was lost in the work until the sound of the prayer offered at such solemn moments began, the cantor with his clear voice singing El Mal'e Rachamim so as to break your heart in a million pieces. Solomon raised his head, listened, met Sheila's eyes, then they both shook their heads again and returned to their work.CHAPTER 2
Solomon Wohlman waited two days to visit the Manion's home. It was a wood frame two story house in a middle class neighborhood of similar houses, single-family and duplexes, most of them on small lots. In the back and side yards of almost all the houses were gardens yielding flowers, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers for pickling. A clean, well-tended neighborhood.
Solomon drove slowly up the street with many parked cars, unusual for a working day afternoon. He found a spot a half-block away and pulled in. He turned off the motor, then reached on the seat next to him, not for his briefcase but this time for a bottle of Manischewitz kosher wine, blackberry. Holding it cradled in his arms he shut the car door and walked to the sidewalk and toward the house. He saw a few others coming, a few going, everyone dressed appropriately, all the men in suits or sport coats, all the women in dresses. All those arriving were carrying something, a tray or a basket or a covered dish. Solomon hoped his being single would be sufficient excuse for bringing wine rather than something prepared at home. As did the others, Solomon did not knock or ring the bell but just quietly opened the front door and entered.
Inside the house were about twenty-five people, the conversation constant but in soft voices. All the mirrors were covered with cloths or small towels. As at the funeral home, the room was divided between people in their mid or late twenties and people fifty to sixty. Jack Manion was talking to three of the younger men, a small circle in the middle of the living room.
Solomon looked around quickly but did not see Lenny and paused for a moment, feeling awkward. Still cradling the wine bottle he walked through an alcove into the dining room. As he did so he passed Molly sitting with four women in a small circle of chairs, but he gave only the briefest of glances and kept right on walking.
The dining room was full of food, the large rectangular table loaded with bread, challah, potatoes in several forms, brisket, corned beef, sliced turkey, several cheeses, tuna and lettuce salads. Also dill pickles - the real ones - olives, chopped liver, pickled herring, blintzes, sour cream, applesauce, iced tea, hot tea, coffee. Paper plates and plastic utensils were on the table along with silverware and china plates. On a side table were several wine bottles, Johnny Walker and Seagram's whiskeys. Solomon added his bottle to the table, wadding up the paper bag in his hand. He stepped into the kitchen where several women were washing dishes and being busy in the refrigerator and at the stove and with the large coffee urn borrowed from one of the synagogues. They looked at him with curiosity, he asked where he could throw the bag away, they showed him the trash container under the sink and returned to their chores.
Solomon went back to the dining room, trying not to look lost and uncomfortable. He hoped it wasn't obvious that he didn't know anyone in the house, was afraid of someone asking him why he had come. He really didn't know what he would say, didn't even know himself why he was there except that he had to see that face again, that wondrous, beautiful sad face. Solomon picked up a plate, stood uncertainly, then noticed a young man about his age also acting hesitant and unsure. The man had orange-red hair and freckles, and the phrase "map of Ireland" occurred to Solomon. Then the man spoke.
"Excuse me, Sir, are you Jewish?"
"Yes. And I'll bet you aren't ... how can I help you?"
The Irishman looked greatly relieved. "Hey, thanks. Got some questions." He offered his large hand to shake, freckles and sandy hair on the back. "Murphy O'Geenan, Irish Catholic. I worked with Darren. What a mess, what a mess. I really liked him, we worked together the last six months. Gone. Just like that. Gone. You never know, do you? Was he a relative of yours?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Solomon The Accountant"
Copyright © 2018 Edward M. Krauss.
Excerpted by permission of EABooks Publishing.
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