Glancing at my sixth grade autograph album, I was not
surprised to see the name of my paternal grandfather, John Wolfsohn,
listed opposite the category my hero. For the past fifty-five years
this name has been synonymous with my hero, most influential person
in my life etc. He was not large in stature, had no particular aura
that was noticeable, and held no position which entitled him to sallies
of admiration or to a passel of sycophants, yet the respect he received
from well known politicians to next door neighbors never wavered.
John Wolfsohn, unlike many friends’ grandfathers, was born in
America. I have never been sure about his upbringing and do not know
much about his parents, but I am eternally connected to my paternal
great grandfather, Tobias, hence my middle name.
My earliest non-recollection of my grandfather was a family tale of
his seizing possession of me, an infant, when one of my parents accidentally
let my foot drop into a cup of hot liquid. As always, he must have
been dressed in white shirt, separate collar, and a tie. Whether he
was attending a wedding or painting the house, his daily attire did
not change. Obviously, he must have been dressed in a similar fashion
when he took apart the family piano to fulfill my request for a sand
box and a swing. These he constructed at his home in Bensonhurst,
Brooklyn, which was a one-minute walk from the one bedroom apartment
we inhabited on the next block.
His home, where he lived with my beautiful grand mother, Sadie, and
my Aunt Helen, a prominent attorney, was a haven for me whenever my
sea of life became tempestuous. Even my Dad, a formidable figure indeed,
would not confront my hero at these times. Extradition was not a factor
when I opened the gate and entered the property at 1901 82nd Street.
There I basked in the sunlight of unconditional love and acceptance,
which only grandparents can generate.
Throughout twenty-one years never did I hear a harsh word or profanity
from Grandpa John. I now believe not only was it not his nature, but
he knew that I would be subjected to more than my share of acrimony
from the rest of the world. His respect and devotion to my grandmother
were of similar ilk. Indeed he would have loved life in these mountains