Robert F. Griffin, CSC, '49 | December 22, 2018
Editor's Note: This piece is part of "12 Days of Classics," a holiday series drawn from the magazine's archives and published at magazine.nd.edu from Saturday, December 22, 2018, to Wednesday, January 2, 2019. Merry Christmas!
Simeon was a clean, respectable old gentleman who lived in a neat room next to a Catholic school on Washington Place in Greenwich Village. He loved the schoolchildren as though they were family; they adored him as the neighborhood grandfather.
Some widows he met at the market admired his politeness and manners, and they would laughingly invite him to lunch with them on bagels and rice pudding, assuming that he was Jewish. Simeon never said he was Jewish, though it was understood that his wife and children had died in a prison camp in Europe. Simeon never spoke of his griefs to anyone; he kept all his secrets to himself.
The old gentleman was good at fixing things, especially if they were toys made of wood. His hands touched woodwork so lovingly that he was believed to have made his living as a cabinetmaker of a sculptor.
But woodworking, for Simeon, was merely a hobby he was good at. Like others, I never knew if he was Jewish, but I did know what his profession had been. The first time I met him, he sat on a neighboring bench in Washington Square Park, watching me struggle through the Italian text of The Divine Comedy, with the help of an English translation.
Finally, as I was leaving, he came over to speak. “Do you like the Sinclair translation?” he asked.
I, surprised, replied: “Do you know it?”
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