Links are under construction. In the meantime, you might enjoy this prose poem, which appears in my recent book, Ah, Men.
for Peter M. Blau
In the summer of 1941 a young man with a thick accent came to our door and asked to speak to my father. He was desperate to find someone to sign for his fiancée to rescue her from the Nazis. At the time this twenty-something Jewish student was enrolled at the local seminary after having made his way across Europe to board a ship to America. The ship was delayed and, while waiting, he met an American who knew about a scholarship for a refuge, and it turned out the seminary was in our hometown.
After he graduated, the young man left to pursue his education elsewhere. Years later, I was a student at the University of Chicago in need of a part-time job and he was already a distinguished professor seeking someone to transcribe dictation tapes for his new book—just this between us until the day I stood in the doorway to his office and explained that I couldn’t come in for a few days because I had to go home. He asked where I lived and was moved to find out
who I was and told me how grateful he’d been for my father’s help, but was dismayed to hear that my father had recently died so he thanked my mother instead. She told me how my father arranged for another family to hire the fiancée, a lovely blonde and fine seamstress, but she married a different man and moved away and nobody could remember what happened to the man who asked for help to bring her to America.
The professor took a personal interest in me because I was still grieving my father’s untimely death. I had no plans after graduation just a few months off, so it happened over lo mein in a Chinese restaurant that the professor asked if I wanted to go to Stanford with him for the summer; he’d arrange for the University to hire me as his assistant. Then one evening he invited me for dinner where I met a young man with a post-doctoral fellowship. Within weeks, I moved in with him and the marriage lasted for twenty-three years.
Now years later, I decided to surf the Internet for news of the professor who died in 2002; impressive list of accomplishments–books, papers, and awards. Two marriages. During the war, his capture and torture by the Nazis, details of his daring escape across Europe, his sister saved on a Kindertransport, his parents dying in Auschwitz, his enlistment in the U.S. Army and return to Europe where he served as an interpreter, but what I do know first-hand is the dinner and conversation we shared one spring evening on Chicago’s South Side and the offer that propelled me on a trajectory setting the course for the rest of my life.