Abe Gallo was worried. He knew that the Americans would be thrust into the war in Europe sooner or later – rather sooner than later. His sons were 17 and 15 in 1939 and he could not imagine them having to go off and fight in a war. But make no mistake about it – he was all for destroying Hitler and Germany even if it meant he would fight himself. But at age 48 it was not going to happen.
James was worried as well and when he said goodbye to his son the day he was commissioned to Hawaii, he felt this overwhelming sadness was an omen.
James had already lost a brother in the first war back when he was already in New York. He had received a letter from his sister, Annie telling him the grim news that Joey had died somewhere in Russia.
James had fears and the fears were genuine. War was hell and even though he had been blessed with a family and a successful business, his mother’s fear of the evil eye scared him. The fate had smiled upon him for too long and his feeling was that it was going to turn around and bite him hard.
His son, James Jr., told him not to worry that he would be alright and once he was done fighting for the United States – he would be back home and take his father to a big steak dinner at Peter Lugers.
On December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked, it was James who had carried Morris to safety from the USS Virginia to the Solace. James suffered burns and a broken arm and was sent home to recover.
James had known Morris back in Brooklyn and was surprised to see him out of all people fighting the flames. James was once in love with Morris’s wife, Gabriela, but had never had the chance to express it. James was Catholic, while Gabriela was Jewish – both religions factored immensely in their lives and within their families. Never the less – there was some kisses and some private time – but nothing more. It was when Gabriela’s father was told that there might be a relationship starting that he forced Gabriela to marry Morris.
Seeing Morris lying unconscious on the floor; he could have left him to die, leaving Gabriela prime for his love – but instead he lifted him and made sure he made it to the Navy Hospital.
When they returned to Brooklyn they were friends. Once the war ended they became business partners and opened up retail stores along the Florida beaches. Morris had left his wife and child because he knew he could not adjust to civilian life as quick as others. He was waking up and screaming on an hourly basis – sometimes remembering what had caused his scream and other times trying his best to forget.
James for his part was alive and had fallen in love with an Italian girl and drove her up to New York to introduce her to his family. At first James Sr. was upset but when his friend Abe told him to open his eyes and see how beautiful she was he looked into her eyes and remembered how scared he was for his son to go to war. He had survived, not only survived but had been a hero, come home and opened up a successful chain of businesses. It was now 13 years since the day he said goodbye – now JJ was back and had a beautiful girl by his side.
James and Morris explained to James Sr. that they had sold their stores and were going to use that money to open a chain of clothing stores in the New York area, so they can come back home.
“Are ya going to call on your wife, Morris? Ya know she still married to ya?” He spoke down to Morris because Morris had hurt the little girl of his partner – Abe.
“I don’t know what is to be Mr. Halloran – I can only tell you that my goal is to provide for them.”
“Why did you run away from her? How can you do that to the mother of your child? He is 13 years old and we are going to the temple for his manhood celebration.”
“Bar mitzvah.” Morris corrected him.
“OK. Go meet your family man.”
“I am – I will, but I am scared, to be honest. I left them and what if she is with someone now?”
“She is alone, son. She is still married to you and devoted to your son – still as beautiful as ever.”
He wanted to go to meet them, to apologize and to explain why he had left. But he decided to wait until after the bar-mitzvah. She deserved the spotlight – she deserved to enjoy her son and to feel the pride all to herself without some stranger who happened to be the boy’s biological father stepping in and grabbing the attention.
He went to the prayers and watched and listened as his son walked up to the Torah and read the words so maturely. Morris’s father and Gabriela’s father accompanied him and he felt himself begin to cry when he turned and left.
It was the next evening when Morris met Gabriela again. They began to go for coffee and after a week he joined them for Friday night dinner. Morris recited the blessings and explained to his son what had happened.
They went to Brooklyn Dodger games together, all three of them, even though Abe was a staunch Yankee fan and Dodger hater. They all had Shabbat dinners and lunches together as a family and just the three of them. It was two months of this when Morris proposed to Gabriela and they made love for the first time.
Although they were legally wed already, the proposal was one that Morris and Gabriela knew had to come from the heart – the question and the answer. They had a party and celebrated – it was just a reaffirmation of their love and commitment to each other.
It was 10 months later that Abraham was born.