“Hold the elevator please,” a feeble voice with a Polish accent I could barely hear beckoned as the heavy door had almost shut. As he shuffled in slowly with a wobbly grip on his cane, the man and I exchanged pleasantries and discussed how bitterly cold the weather had suddenly become compared to yesterday’s balmy 10 degrees Celsius.
We both got off on the lower lobby level. I was en route to the management office of the building I am moving into after checking on the latest renos that were done to my new apartment.
Morris introduced himself to me when I discovered that he was going in the same direction as me. He wasn’t able to keep pace with my hurried steps so I slowed to walk along side him as we continued to converse. He began to tell me that it had been two years since he hadn’t gone down south for the winter because he could no longer afford the enormous $20,000 insurance cost to cover out of town medical coverage for five months a year, even though he’s been fine for the past few years after surgery.
“I have a place down in Miami,” Morris told me with his still Yiddish/Polish accent. “I rent it out now and can’t bring myself to sell it.”
He then asked me to guess his age. I could tell by his posture and weakness and the worn look on his face that he was well into his eighties, but I told him he looks seventy-eight. His eyes twinkled with pride as he announced that he was ninety-one years old.
The walk was long through the corridor to the adjoining building where the management office was, so we continued to chat. I told Morris that I was also concerned about when the day would come that my own husband wouldn’t be able to get health coverage for travel with all its stipulations. He asked me with gleaming curiosity how old my husband was because he couldn’t fathom that someone my age would have those concerns yet. I told him my husband is seventy-six.
When I told him how good he looks, he began to tell me bits about his long life and about how much he has seen of the world. And then he told me that he was a holocaust survivor.
I had already acquired a soft spot for this gentle man, but when he told me that he had survived the camps, it struck a deep chord within me. I had studied many books on WWII and the dehumanization of the Jews and being born one myself, when I speak with people who have survived such atrocities, it always boggles my mind how miraculous it is for any Jew to survive that reign of terror.
Morris told me a few stories about where he used to work before he retired, quickly abandoning the brief mentioning of the holocaust. I found him to be meek and humble. I told him that perhaps he should write a book about his eventful life. He retorted, “I don’t think I have the patience to write my whole life, besides, there’s lots that I forget.” I didn’t ask him, but wondered if he really forgot things because of his age, or if he just chose not to remember.
When we reached the management office, I told him it was lovely to meet him and and hoped to see him again when I moved in. He smiled with his aged eyes again and thanked me for the chat and said he looked forward to seeing me around soon.