On this Memorial Day I wanted to share one of my favorite stories about my Dad, written by his eldest sister, my Aunt Edee and was published by a local Chicago paper in May of 2001.
I love you Dad!
Story by Edith Golde
Remembering My Brother's WWII Service
I never thought I'd see him again. Although World War II was over in Europe, it was rumored that soldiers were needed in the South Pacific. Even those with a sufficient number of "points" earned to go home would end up in Japan or on one of the islands. It wasn't fair.
I was too scared to ask questions. I didn't want to know too much about my big brother fighting that terrible war in Germany. I thought I heard he was with the 78th Division: The Lightning Division.
My Dad & My Grandma Belle
I also thought I heard he was a rear gunner. I didn't ask Mom and Dad who were worried sick as it was, but I did read the newspaper and I did read his letters. He was right there, where everything bad was happening. The Battle of the Bulge - the fighting, the wounded, the sick, the dying. I would shut my eyes very tight, cover my ears with the palms of my hands and run out to the safe streets of Good Humor trucks and street lights. I pretended Shelly was with me.
I heard they sent him to the French Riviera where the wounded and fatigued went for rest and relaxation only to return to a postwar war-torn Germany, stationed amid the populace and living in squalor. The animals shared the living quarters with the people. The stench alone made you sick. Would shelly see Mom's bleached white sheets with the clean fresh air blowing through them along the clothespinned line? Would he ever sleep safely nestled between Mom's starched white linens with perfectly folded corners? I really didn't think so.
Would we share another bowl of chili at Cooper & Cooper all night diner after leaving our respective dates at 2 a.m. to cure the world's ills and talk about our dates? I doubted it. It really wasn't fair. My brother Shelly didn't have a mean bone in his body. He wasn't a coward. He just never wanted to hurt anybody, and he didn't want to fight a war.
Shelly began real work at about age 9. He helped Dad out in business even before that and was stuck taking care of me after school, as Mom helped in the business. What glorious days those were for me; Shelly and Stash and Jay and Benji and Hubbie and sometimes even Edgar Samuel Segar. They taught me how to smoke the green cigars that hung from the catalpa trees, how to cross the damn under the bridge at Eugene Field Park without falling in the river, how to skip stones, play marbles, buck buck, baby in the hole and a whole lot of four letter words which I used in profusion, without the foggiest idea as to their meaning. I was the luckiest and proudest kid sister in the entire world.
Shelly learned to drive at an early age: that way he could help Dad with deliveries. By the time I was 14, Shelly, without breathing a word to our parents, taught me how to drive a stick shift truck. Who had a brother like that?
Shelly was a great swimmer and a terrific basketball player. The high school coaches knew this, but he couldn't go out for practice after school. He had to go work. Mom and Dad weren't mean. Times were really tough. We had to eat. If it meant Cream of Wheat in the morning and a 10 cent soup bone and 10 cents worth of soup greens in the evening, we didn't go hungry. We all worked very hard.
Dad and his sister Edith (Aunt Edee)
I wondered then if Shelly resented it. I still don't know. What I do know is this- there wasn't a girl in high school who wasn't nice to me, because they were "in love" with my older brother. Not only was he handsome and macho, but he always had the girls believing he really understood them.
There was this sensitivity about him. However, there is only so much even a kid sister could swallow.
When he skipped classes in high school, I always had a male voice cover for him, since attendance was taken with an oral "here" in response to your name being called. I did this often, since ditching classes was fun time for him.
When he came home drunk, I waited up, so he wouldn't wake our folks or kill himself before he found his way safely, quietly and without shoes to bed.
When he received his notice of induction, I wanted to burn it. When he was assigned to infantry, I knew he'd do whatever was required of him. General Patton knew. He said courage was taking hard knocks like a man when occasion calls. Shelly was home, family, neighborhood and now he had to go fight in unfamiliar countries, in an unfamiliar war, that became much
too familiar, and much too personal.
When he came home on his final furlough, before leaving for his P.O.E. to go overseas, I thought I would never see him again. We didn't hear from Shelly for quite a while.
The Passover Seders where celebrated at Grandma and Grandpa's basement apartment on Eastwood Avenue every year. As always, there was the salvation of the Jewish people, the wonderful traditions, the great food an above all, the love our families shared. As was customary, near the end of our traditional service, the door is opened to invite Elija (the Jewish Messiah) into our homes, our lives, and our hearts.
As one of the children flung the door open, there was a split second of silent disbelief. He stood there, that same sweet smile, unassuming pose, duffle bag slung over his shoulder, handsome head cocked to one side and simply said, "Hi." He truly was our Elija. Shelly was home.
There were shrieks of joy, laughter, hugs and kisses and forced feeding of every traditional food in amounts to make up for the entire duration of his Army life.
There were rumors of Shelly's coming home, but no specifics. After the stunning moment of seeing him alive and apparently okay, I hung back and left the room for the privacy of Uncle Phil's bedroom. Then (although I really didn't want to be seen) I cried. You see, I really didn't think I would see him again... and selfishly, there was so much more Shelly had to do for his kid sister... and he did.