Oh wow. I read the entry and I’m still weeping. It’s the kind of thing you hope you’re doing in this life, the kind of thing you hope is done…
Around the Holidays, he and I would embark on our ‘secret mission.’ We would take the bus (streetcar’ as he would say) to the East End, where our plans were to be executed.
He carried with him a list, pulled from his breast pocket, behind his handkerchief. On that carefully folded piece of paper, were names and addresses. We would go to the corner where he would wait, ‘under the lamp, because that’s where senior agents wait,’ as I went off to the address he would write on a small, manila coin envelope. I was to ring the bell and give the envelope to the lady of the house and then walk away. For each envelope I delivered, I was given 25 cents, a princely sum, indeed.
After a year or two, I understood what was in the envelope. My grandfather, a wealthy man, made sure that his factory workers had enough money for the holidays. Our ‘mission,’ was always in the middle of the day, while the workers were at their machines. He wanted to make sure that the wives and mothers knew they were not forgotten. We both knew the truth of course, as to what was is those envelopes, but I dutifully delivered them as he stood under those street lamps. I returned after delivering that small manila coin envelope and upon my return, my grandfather would pay me. After a few years, he gave me a dollar for each one. On the day he told me that is was time he take one of the younger grandchildren in my place, it was if a knife was thrust into my heart. That was the first time in my young life I was to know the confluence of pride, pain and gratitude. On that ride home, he put his arm around me. I can still feel that warmth, not to be duplicated until the day I held my daughter for the first time and then again, when I held her as she cried when she didn’t get the part in the play she had worked so hard for.
There is more and it is phenomenal.
Shoe shining as an act of love.