A love story – part 3

As an answer to his mock but unstated question, my grandmother continued to point her finger at him and, without blinking an eye, said “Yes you,” as she turned and marched off, leaving no one to doubt that my grandfather was expected to follow her, wherever she might lead. For his part, having no inclination to do otherwise, he did as was expected.

That evening they went for a long walk, talking for hours. According to my grandfather, he was very respectful of her, which, at that time, meant no kissing. He claims that his only interest was in getting her to consent to seeing him again. He was successful at this endeavor and the game that had been set in place that day was in motion. All players knew their roles and were faithful to them evermore.

The next evening my grandmother was feeling better and she and her sister went out to meet the gang for a cook-out on the beach. My grandfather, as arranged the evening before, was there to meet her. They spoke with one another the whole evening, eventually finding themselves leaning against each other as they sat on a beached log strategically placed in front of the bonfire that was slowly turning to embers. Finally, the fire died and the August night air became too frigid for even the most diehard lovebirds to make excuses for staying in the open air.

As luck would have it, my grandmother’s sister asked my grandfather to give my grandmother a lift home: she was going to get a lift with a friend who only had one free spot. He willingly agreed and the two set off.

At this point I should give a little context to the situation on my grandfather’s side. It was purely by chance that he found himself in the Catskills at all that weekend. Unlike the men my grandmother was accustomed to dating, he was as poor as a church mouse. His father was a Russian immigrant who had bribed his way into Canada, eventually settling in Montreal where he set up a furniture store that catered to other newly arrived immigrant families. In other words, his life revolved around a petit bourgeois clientele. But, my grandfather was smart. He was university educated and was accepted to McGill University when quotas for Jews were still applied. Despite his love of medicine, and its seeming love of him, as he approached the hallowed halls that promised no end of rewards, he stood directly in front of the main door on the first day of classes and said to himself “If I open these doors I’ll have patients with a T. Otherwise, I’ll need patience with a C.” Without ever looking back, he turned and walked away. As the oldest son, he felt  that he could do no  less than fill his ailing father’s shoes by caring for the family and taking responsibility  for the store. As he put it, one of the younger boys would fulfill his dreams instead.

Consequently, used to working every day and unaccustomed to real holidays, he was overjoyed when his cousin offered to take him to the Catskills for a long-weekend. They drove up in his cousin’s old beater and stayed five miles away from the resort since it was the only affordable place they could find. However, it didn’t matter to them. They were on vacation, enjoying the full implications of freedom. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on whose perspective you adopt, his cousin fell sick and stayed back at the motel that starlit evening. Therefore, it was just my grandmother and my grandfather, alone, on the open road.

On the way back to the resort, they ran out of gas. It wasn’t until five in the morning that someone passed by and rescued them. While this was the 1940s and the state of New York was, most likely, not very developed, this lack of passers-by seems like a very fortunate happenstance indeed. And, while both claim that nothing happened that night (and by that we are left to mean that nary a kiss took place) I find that a little hard to believe. However, whenever asked over the years, both have always maintained that this is the truth. Although I’m suspicious of this account, I’ll let it pass without marring the story as legend currently has it. Whether or not a leak in the gas tank became their cover-up story or was in fact the truth of the matter we will never know. Fifty-seven years of living on one’s own lies tends to make them more real than the truth anyway.

After that, they began a correspondence that took some of my grandmother’s time away from her courting admirers. Although Gershwin remained a faithful suitor, his fate was doomed by the end of the year. That Christmas holiday, my grandmother went, again with a group of her friends to Vermont where my grandfather was supposed to meet her. But, business was not going terribly well at the store and it turned out that he was unable to leave Montreal. He called my grandmother at the Lodge to explain the situation to her and, instead, wound up inviting her to come, by train, to visit him in Montreal. She was somewhat hesitant, but after he assured her that he would book her a nice hotel near the station and take her about, she agreed on the condition of parental consent.