Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Yesterday In New York...

Yesterday, in New York, they buried my Uncle Herman. He lived a full and long life and left behind wonderful children and grandchildren.

Yesterday in New York, for probably the last time, the first and second generations of what was known years ago as the "House Of Gross" met. There were some absences to be sure. None intended. None that meant anything that would force one to think there is ill will here. Distances could not be traversed by some of the nephews and cousins (myself included).

Yesterday in New York, in a small parcel of land in Queens, in a plot of land bought so many years ago, as one man was buried next to his brothers, an end came to a whole generation.

Yesterday in New York the Gross family watched and participated in a the "end" and then looked around and saw the seeds of its rebirth.

There was the man, the husband, the father, the grandfather, the Uncle the friend. Of that person I will not discuss on a blog. It is for those who knew him and are sitting now shiva for him to tell of his kindness, compassion, smile, wisdom and love.

Then there was the brother. One of six. The fifth one in birth the last one to die. It was with him that the "House Of Gross" was truly laid to rest. He was my father's brother. My father was number two. They started out in life as Jess, Harold, Nathan, Seymour, Herman and Aaron. Their own father, my grandfather, did not live many years. They set out, these brothers did, to take care of their mother. That was their goal and they accomplished it. They made it through the depression with scars to be sure, but they made it through. The made it through World War Two, some serving in the armed forces including my father. They built a family business.They never forgot to take care of their own mother. They remained close these brothers did. They, I am sure went through periods of anger. They sometimes perhaps did not talk to one another. But they remained close. Six brothers who together and alone established families and dug their roots deep. The respect and honor they showed their own mother was legendary. I still read and hear of it, even today. They married, had their own children. The Gross family, this Gross family grew. Cousins grew up. Some stayed close. Others, such as myself, drifted far away following the beat of a different drummer. But being born into this family left one with memories and values.

Values. That is the word I am searching for. Values in a world so cynical and so egocentric, the brothers taught their children values. Secular and religious values. Each according to their own belief. Values. What a strange word to place up on the Internet at times. Values. Compassion, kindness, love, understanding. Respect. All those words which we the third and fourth generation seem to find so hard to accept and keep. For them it was simple. Values. Yet they managed to teach us, these brothers did. They managed to teach us values and respect. The ingrained it so deep in our personalities that we would rather die than betray their legacy.

There is something incredibly sad about the death of Uncle Herman that goes beyond the sadness his immediate family and grandchildren feel. There is a loss that has taken place that is beyond just that of a good human being being laid to rest after a long and fruitful life. It is the end of an era for our family. The end of a foundation and a hope, represented in all ways by the symbol of the "House Of Gross" - a farmer shaking hands with a soldier while pointing up to the white dove of peace. The House of Gross, that first generation is now gone. Three of my aunts are still with us. They are also part of that dynasty and in their own right part of their own families and their own dynasties as well.

And so as a middle aged boy I look back and try to understand with the perspective that my wise father, Pop, would show and give to others with such ease. I look back and try to see this all from a perspective of time and distance. It saddens me to know that this era is over. It saddens me to know that those Passover Seders and Hanukah parties are all but faint memories of a long lost past.

The era is over. And yet it has begun again. Perhaps the best legacy those six brothers could have left us was always there. In every word and thought. Perhaps it took time and learning to truly understand. Perhaps it is just part of life and living and learning. Perhaps this is what they call understanding with wisdom.

My father was the kindest, most compassionate and wisest man I have ever known. After being on the road to hell a few times in my life I have come, as a middle-aged boy, to appreciate his wisdom. This is what he taught me. When you see someone else who is more fortunate than you are, and jealousy takes over, try to always remember that everyone has their own package of woes and troubles. And when you see someone less fortunate, always remember, 'If not but for the grace of God, there goes I'.

That is wise and sound advice. Best you can get.

That wisdom is what six brothers left us. It is something I would kill for today. To possess their values and wisdom.

From the early 1900's when the six brothers began to be born until today is approximately 100 years. There are children, grand children and great grand-children. There are families. The Gross family in 150 years came from Russia, to the United States and some have made home in Israel. Spread out we all are. And yet yesterday, for that one day, in honor of the values, in honor of the person, in honor of their awesome wisdom, the Gross family mourned together once again.

Yesterday in New York while Uncle Herman was eulogized a great many tears were shed.

Yesterday in New York while the body was lowered into the ground, hearts were filled with pain.

Yesterday in New York, after the Kadish was recited over the mound of earth that would forever be Uncle Herman's resting place, a new generation was born.

Yesterday in New York this new generation set out bereft of guidance but ingrained with the wisdom and values that would forever keep the legacy of these six brothers alive.

May the soul of Uncle Herman and all his brothers be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.

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1 comment:

Simran said...

This is a beautiful tribute to your Uncle Herman, Teddy.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this trialsome time.