Monday, June 18, 2012

Roommates: My Grandfather’s Story by Max Apple 1994

"The bare facts seem to bespeak yet another Jewish family comedy of interference and smothering, but Max Apple's affection for the old man tells another story entirely." from a review in the New York Times by Andrew Bergman, June 19,1994

In this enjoyable and moving memoir, Max Apple (b. 1941) recreates his younger self. He grew up in a home in Grand Rapids, Michigan that included his immediate family and his immigrant maternal grandparents. Apple’s grandfather, nicknamed Rocky, lived a life that was totally entwined in that of his only grandson. In some ways it was a mutual admiration society, but it involved constant battles.

Max Apple and his sisters grew up speaking Yiddish in a home full of the tension between the Old World and the new. The family observed Kashrut, getting their meat monthly from Detroit, and they never ate out. According to Rocky, a truly educated Jewish boy learned Hebrew and studied the Talmud, a copy of which Rocky seemed to always have with him for his own study. Rocky was devoted to the local synagogue minyan but could only get Max to go to synagogue with him on Saturdays. Max edged toward assimilation by becoming absorbed in baseball and the intricacies of the game.

Rocky lived until he was well over 100, and because he outlived his wife, his son, and his son-in-law, his grandson encouraged him to come live with him. They were roommates for a time in Ann Arbor and then when the author, already married, went to work in Houston, Rocky and the author’s mother moved into a home close by.

Their last verbal exchange, as his grandfather lay dying in a hospital bed in 1982, was in Yiddish, a language that encompassed the Old World of his grandfather and the world of the author’s childhood – the language of home. And after his death, at the burial, Apple was proud to be able to refuse the prayer book the rabbi handed him and to say Kaddish from memory.

To read an interview with Max Apple about the writing of Roommates, click here.

People
Herman (Yerachmiel) Goodstein – married Gootie
    Max Goodstein – son of Herman and Gootie
    Bashy Goodstein – daughter of Herman and Gootie; married to Sam Apple
        Bailey Apple – daughter of Bashy and Sam
        Maxine Apple – daughter of Bashy and Sam
        Max Apple – son of Bashy and Sam; married Debby; author
            Jessica and Sam – children of Max and Debby

Joe – Gootie’s brother
Mamie – a cousin of author’s mother

Friends and Acquaintances
Joel Kerner
Harry Zeff
Alan Perlis

Places
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Detroit, Michigan
Muskegon – Michigan

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