Grandma was born in 1921, so her stance on minorities was not what one could call progressive. She was not Ku Klux Klan racist. She might have even voted for Obama, but when she she saw a roommate of mine of who was Black walking around the apartment she would wait until we left and ask in an exaggerated stage whisper, “Who’s the Schvartze?” She grew up in a time when Blacks were not only forced to attend different schools, but also drink from different water fountains. So there was a definite otherness to them from her perspective.
In this context it is hard to see it as only coincidence that the driver of the car who killed her was Black, but so was the good Samaritan who witnessed the accident and got in the car to comfort her before the paramedics and Valkyries came to take her away.
The retirement gulag in Pembroke Pines, Florida that she and many of the “Greatest Generation” called home had like the public schools and Oval office integrated. What was once a community of Jewish golfers who fought in World War 2 and canasta players who bet with pennies because they remembered a Great Depression when that was a risky sum now lived amongst fellow shuffleboarders who survived the repression of Jim Crow.
This past week as I helped sell off Grandma’s furniture before new tennants moved into her unit I couldn’t help but find cosmic humor that the major buyer of her living room furniture was a 30 year-old Black man named Gary.
Gary was a giant of a man. Six foot five inches and when he went to shake my hand it was awkward as the base of my palm only went up to where his thumb started. He expressed his condolences over my Grandma’s death and immediately asked the price of every item that was still available including the cable box. He asked if it was basic cable or had premium stations. When I admitted ignorance he moved on to the ornamental vase. “Your Grandma had some good taste.”
Gary came back with a U-haul truck, his brother, and a woman he described as his, “so-called girlfriend”. I didn’t ask if she was so-called because she cheated on him or he cheated on her. Gary finally settled on the sofabed, easy chair, two different lamps, and a dresser in the closet that used to house her photographs and had been there as long as my memory. After clumsily getting the heavy items into his vehicle the furniture was driven off to a new owner which will be part of new memories.