For Rosa Blaum

For Rosa Blaum

This is a discussion on For Rosa Blaum within the Bob & Terry's Place forums, part of the The Back Porch category; i was just sitting here, and thoughts of Rosa ambushed me just now. when i was a very small boy, living in the Bronx, there ...

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Thread: For Rosa Blaum

  1. #1
    Ex Member Array jahwarrior72's Avatar
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    For Rosa Blaum

    i was just sitting here, and thoughts of Rosa ambushed me just now.

    when i was a very small boy, living in the Bronx, there was an old woman, ancient, really, who lived two doors down from us in our building. her name was Rosa Blaum, and she lived with her grown son. she had this thick German accent, at least i think it was German. to tell the truth, at the time, i had no idea what an accent was; all i knew was that she talked funny.

    with her white, thin hair, and bleached skin, she was the oldest person i'd known at that time. i asked her once if she was the oldest lady in the whole world; she laughed and said she might be. once in awhile, she asked my parents if i could walk with her to the store. they always let me go with her, and i always scored a soda, or a candy bar, or an apple. sometimes, she'd give me a quarter, and it was the most awesomest, best feeling in the world. she kissed my head often, and told me i was a beautiful boy, with a beautiful life.

    we always held hands when we walked. even then, it felt like she was made of glass, and i took care not to to hold her hand too hard; i thought i might break it. one summer, i noticed she had a tattoo on her arm. i thought tattoos were cool, even as a kid, and i always got them from Crackerjack boxes, and i drew on myself. i asked her if tht's how she got hers. she smiled, and told me she got it a long time ago, everyone in her family had gotten them. her smile went away, and she told me about her mom and dad, and her brothers, and her sister, looking at the sky the whole time.

    later on that day, in her apartment, she showed me two old photos, one of her with her sister, another of her parents. she had none of her brothers. she told me stories of when the were kids, and used to swim in some river by their farm, and other stuff they did as kids. she stopped, and i saw she was crying, and i started to cry, too, not knowing why. i could feel this immense expanse of grief coming from her, and it washed over me in waves, huge, unbearable waves of grief. she saw me, got herself together, and said: "you should not cry, for Heaven's sake! do not cry for those who are gone, and who's time has come. they have taken their love with them, to that place we go when we leave. how can this be a sad thing? to live forever with love? no, don't cry. you have a beautiful life now, so you must be happy. show Rosa that you are happy, and i will be happy with you!" i calmed down, and smiled for her. she smiled back, and gave me a glass of milk, and some Oreos. she walked me back to my apartment, kissed my face, and reminded me to do my homework.

    she died when i was 10; my father took me to the funeral. it was the first one i'd ever been to that i remember. other than it being a funeral, i didn't get most of what happened. i wore this thing on my head, people talked in a language i didn't understand, everyone looked at us weird, and people ate eggs later on at the apartment. her son came over to me before we left, and gave me a pocketwatch, a wallet, a book, and some coins. he said that she had meant to give me those things a few weeks earlier, but when she got sick, she declined rapidly, and had no time at all.

    i guess none of us do,when it comes down to it.

    when i got older, i asked my dad about the details i didn't understand when i was smaller. i already knew about WWII by then, and the Holocaust, as much as any kid in high school should know. he filled in some of the blanks, like what camp she was in, and some of the other stuff he knew from her and her son. her family had been sent to Buchenwald, and she and one of her brothers were the only ones in her family who survived the ordeal. they were liberated by our boys, which explains why she had this love for American soldiers, like my dad; when he moved into the building, when i was a newborn, some of the other neighbors shunned him. some, because he had long hair, some because he was Puerto Rican, and some because he was a Vietnam vet.

    he told me he met her while helping her with her groceries up the stairs. she was curious about him, and asked if he was ever in the Army. he said yes, waiting for the "look", but she just hugged him, and told him how proud she was of him. according to my dad, it was the first time anyone had ever said that to him. he didn't know how to respond to it, and was a bit lost for a response. she loved our boys, and she loved this country.

    this explained a lot to me, and it made sense. my dad lost his mother when he was young, and when they became friends, he looked at her as a son looks to a mother, and she reciprocated the feeling. i really believed my dad loved her that way. as long as i could remember, he was always stopping in to check on her, even though she had a grown son living with her. it was hard for me to understand their relationship; on the outside, it was a strange thing to see an elderly Jewish woman and a young Puerto Rican man being such good friends. once i saw the inside of things, it was beautiful to see, and understand.

    every Fourth of July, our neighborhood had a block party. she'd always find me, and make sure i had a fistful of those sparklers to hold, and she held her son's hand, and mine, watching the fireworks. and every Veteran's Day, she'd bring my dad some flowers, which always made him turn red. have you ever seen a dark skinned Puerto Rican turn red? it's not easy to do, and it's always hysterical.

    her son died a few years later. after she passed, he went into a decline, and by the end, he never left the apartment. my dad tried dozens of times to get him to come out, to get help, but never could do it. i never saw anyone else ever try. when he died, my dad brought an old trunk from their apartment. i never got to see what was in it. all i know is, my father was a quiet man for days afterwards. i never saw, and i never asked.

    the reason i'm writing this is becasue earlier today, i stopped and talked to my next door neighbor. i never knew her name until today; it's Janet. she's an elderly woman, in her late 70's; she lives alone, with a cat or two. i didn't mean to stop and talk to her, but when she began, she didn't stop. she just seemed hungry for a conversation, and her accent reminded my slightly of Rosa. i ended up being late for an appointment, about 30 minutes late. i didn't mind. later on, on the bus, i thought of Rosa again.

    i hate it when i get weepy in front of a bus full of people.

    i still think about her, from time to time, and sometimes i feel tears well up, but i remember what she told me, and i smile for her instead. she'd survived such a horror, a horror no one alive today can imagine, and still had the strength, the indomitable will, to smile at life. to cry now would dishonor her, i think.

    smile for your loved ones, all of you. smile now, because you might not be able to later.


  2. #2
    VIP Member Array rottkeeper's Avatar
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    As soon as you mentioned the tattoo I knew where the story was going, somewhat. Every now and then a special person will touch our lives forever, cherish your memories of Rosa and smile. That's what she would want.

    I have seen many documentaries on the Holocaust and get sickened each time I think of the evil cruelties wrought on innocent humans. It is unfathomable to even try to place myself in their shoes without being gripped with raw fear.

    A touching story, thanks for sharing. I'm sure you and your father brought much joy to the ''little old lady''.
    For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the son of man be. Mathew 24:27

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    VIP Member Array dukalmighty's Avatar
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    I think most people have that one special person in their lives that made them who they are today
    "Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,"
    --Mayor Marion Barry, Washington , DC .

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    Senior Member Array Snowman23's Avatar
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    You express your memories in writing well. I too had an idea of where this was going when you mentioned the tattoo. It seems she was a positive influence on your life. Getting advice from people like that can be good for perspective on life's problems.....not many things could be worse than what she had to endure. We all need to remember that when we complain about the small stuff. Thanks for posting....I enjoyed reading it.

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    VIP Member Array wmhawth's Avatar
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    Very well written Jahwarrior72. You were lucky to have known Rosa Blaum.
    I have seen many documentaries on the Holocaust and get sickened each time I think of the evil cruelties wrought on innocent humans. It is unfathomable to even try to place myself in their shoes without being gripped with raw fear.
    Elie Wiesel's book *Night* choked me up a bit when I first read it some 20 years ago. It's a worthwhile read for anyone who hasn't already.
    Elie Wiesel Bio

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    VIP Member Array First Sgt's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing a part of your heart.
    Sometimes in life you have to stand your ground. It's a hard lesson to learn and even most adults don't get it, but in the end only I can be responsible for my life. If faced with any type of adversity, only I can overcome it. Waiting for someone else to take responsibility is a long fruitless wait.

  7. #7
    pax
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    Senior Member Array pax's Avatar
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    jahwarrior,

    What a beautiful, terrible story. Thank you for having the courage to share it. May you be richly blessed for it!

    pax
    Kathy Jackson
    My website: Cornered Cat

  8. #8
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    Rosa Blum is a well known holocaust survivor. She wrote many accounts of her life prior to her death last year. Most history buffs know of her.

    Interesting story none the less.
    "Just blame Sixto"

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