That shrug and smile carried my father further in one lifetime than you might think it possible for any human being to go. His optimism always made the best of everything … even a looming nuclear war. During the Cuban missile crisis of 1963, my father purchased a painting he could not then prudently afford. He thought, “If we’re going to die, let’s at least die with great art on the walls.”
In 1938, a loan from relatives enabled Saul and Rivka Frum to buy the property at 488 College Street that would become their store and their home. My father and his beloved grandmother slept on two sofas in a room directly behind the store. Bedding cost money, and so instead of pillowcases, the Frum family laid their heads upon the soft sacks in which sugar was shipped in those days. The elder grandchildren have each received one of those sacks framed for display. Bea and Ellie will each receive a sack of their own at their bat mitvzahs – a message never to forget where you came from, and who carried you there.
Never, ever did my father forget. At an auction, my father got into a furious – and costly – duel over a pair of Solomon Island combs. The man bidding against my father had been Lord Sainsbury, heir to the largest grocery chain in the United Kingdom. As my father explained afterward to my mother: “That grocer’s son isn’t going to beat this grocer’s son.”
Read the whole thing. It’s worth it. The elder Frum sounds like a character in a Robertson Davies novel. This eloquent and moving speech by his son David makes me think that the mark of a good eulogy is that it makes you feel that you really know something about the character of the deceased, and, more importantly, it makes you regret that you didn’t know him in life. May Murray Frum’s memory be eternal.