Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Farewell My Dead Sergeant: Sayonara / Shalom / Goodbye…by Robert M. Katzman

By Robert M. Katzman © September 12, 2015  

(Revised: Memorial Day May 31, 2021)


My Father fought the Japanese

Born before the Navahos were citizens

Born before women could vote

Before Hirohito, Yamamoto and Tojo

Before Meir, Dayan and Herzl

Before Eisenhower, Patton and FDR

Were names on anyone’s lips


Packed into trains of troop ships

Crossing the Pacific Ocean

To avenge Pearl Harbor treachery

To kill people he didn’t know

Bombed sending messages by telegraph

He died with steel shrapnel

Still in his body

Half a century later

(Read on …)

1958: Chicago Grass-Cutting Story…by Robert M. Katzman

Robert M. Katzman’s Amazing Story:  http://www.differentslants.com/?p=355

© February 2, 2012  (Groundhog Day) 

(Note: An old friend reminded me about this story, unwittingly, since there were no other witnesses to the pivotal incident with my father.  I sometimes imagine my memory as a house with a million closets, each holding a moment, a girl, an emotion, a terror.  The doors all look the same.  I don’t know what’s behind them.  I wish I knew which doors not to open.
This story just fell out of one of those closets, all 1,153 words. I wrote all there was to say and not a word more.  Now that closet’s empty. I can turn out the light and shut the door. How many more doors will there be for me to open before my own light gets turned out? 
Funny what you can forget.) 

In the summer of ’58, my father told me to mow the lawn, front and back, at my house on 8616 S. Bennett, where  all the fruit trees were. We lived on the South Side of Chicago in a Jewish/Irish neighborhood.

My grandfather, Nathan, who came from Minsk, Belorussia in 1914, planted them.  He loved trees and kept a small Lemon tree as a “pet” in his house.

I would visit him when I was a child and I was amazed by the heavy, fragrant, grapefruit-sized lemons that his pet tree produced. When he grew too old to keep living in his large house and had to leave the, by then, really large tree that managed to fill most of his basement, he cried bitterly.  His three middle-aged children, including my mother, were shocked by this.  I later overheard them whispering to each other that they thought “he loved that damn Lemon tree” more than he loved them.

Jealous of a tree.

A hard thing for me to understand.  Adults were strange.

I had already learned that I was severely allergic to newly cut grass, a situation so unbelievable at a time when Dwight Eisenhower was president of the United States and allergies were still not well understood,  that my telling my father a story like that was too ridiculous for him to take seriously.

I was also allergic to all the fresh fruit growing in the back yard, but that was never a subject leading to conflict. But my gradually discovering, one by one: all the fruits, vegetables, pollens, animals, kinds of fabric and molds– exactly what I was unable to eat, or be near, was a nightmare.  It took years for me to learn them all.  And then, shockingly, that allergies can mutate. That something I could eat with no problem would one day become toxic to me.

People who are blessed without allergies won’t understand any of this.  How could they?

Knowing what I knew about newly cut grass, however, gave me good reason to resist my father’s insistent instructions, and resist I did, leading to a loud and threatening argument. He lost his temper and I took off down the block to 85th St. and then west toward Caldwell School, my red-brick public grammar school.

I could run like a son-of-a-bitch. My father couldn’t catch me.  I was certain of that.  In the summer of 1958 he was forty-five years old, an age which was considered pretty old back then.

We both kept running.

After three blocks, I began to worry that he might suffer a heart attack because of how far we had run and I was very concerned about him, even at eight years old.  I had a real conflict going on within me.

(Read on …)