The Cutting of Aunt Lill’s Rose Bush Story
Written in 2010 and rewritten 02/04/2016 unedited
Written with information from my Aunt Lillian and my Cousin Allen
This true story happened in 1959, when I was 21 years old and living in Westville, Connecticut. Westville being a suburb of New Haven.
In the early 1950’s my mother’s parents, Eddie, and Molly Lazaroff had already moved down to south Florida. I think it was sometimes after 1952 when my grandfather retired from selling insurance for Metropolitan Life. He had told me that he “Carried a book”, which meant he knocked on peoples doors every month to collect payment on their life insurance policy.
I can remember that we went down to Florida to visit them. The first time we visited they were living in a small wooden rental cottage somewhere on Miami Beach.
One of the few thing I remember about that cottage was that it had a screened in front porch, and as you walked in, on the left side, Grandpa Eddie kept his fruit juicing machine. When I saw the juicer, there were big bugs crawling all over it, and I had never seen such big bugs before, later I heard people called them palmetto bugs, but that was the first time I ever saw them. And I thank god grandpa never offered me any fruit juice while we were visiting him.
I remember when we all went to Miami to visit them again, it was in 1955, and that’s when grandpa bought a small one family house in Perrine Florida. Grandpa Eddie told us that he had paid four thousand dollars for it.
I loved that 1955 trip to Florida because my father rented a new 1955 Ford convertible, which he let me drive.
At the time, Perrine was just farmers land, no speed limit signs anywhere, so here I was, 16 years old with a brand new1955 Ford convertible, and driving as fast as I wanted to.
Now there were two other outstanding things I remember about going to grandpa’s new house in Perrine, one was that when you were standing inside the house and looked at the ceiling where the roof attached to the houses walls, you could see the daylight.
The other thing I remember was, that there were very few neighbors, and right across the street was just native Florida pine woodlands, and palmetto bushes. I’m sure there are probably condominiums there now.
One day while we were visiting, grandpa took me to his local Post office which was in a town called Naranja Florida. When I entered the old post office building with him, it had creaking wood floors and I thought I was in some kind of old time western movie set.
Grandpa, eventually told he had made a big mistake moving to Perrine, he said the new house was just too remote and he missed the action of always having free music and dancing that was available to him on Miami Beach.
So the next year when we visited grandpa had sold their tiny house in Perrine and bought a nice modern condominium on 5th Street and Collins Avenue on Miami Beach. It was in a two story cement building with around twenty units down stairs and twenty units upstairs, he said that he paid $8,000.00 for it. It was a nice modern building for 1955, and it was still standing there the last time I went by it in 2015, and my grandparents unit was on the second floor on the far left side.
Not far from their condominium, and right around the corner located on Ocean Drive, was a big bandstand that had free live music and dancing several nights a week.
Once my Grandma Molly passed away, the dancing became grandpa’s main form of entertainment besides arguing with his neighbors.
My aunt Lillian, who was my mother’s sister, and my grandparents youngest daughter told me that grandpa and grandma came back to New Haven to visit for two weeks every summer. She said that they rented a house on Sherman Avenue. I think that I was probably too young to pay much attention to their comings and goings back then.
This story, regarding my Aunt Lillian’s rose bushes took place when Grandma Molly was in a nursing home on Miami Beach in Florida and my grandfather was living alone in their condominium on Miami Beach.
That year Grandpa Eddie came to New Haven by himself, and he stayed in a small bedroom that we had in the attic of our two family house in Westville.
The story really begins when Grandpa Eddie first moved to Florida in the 1950’s, the entire
Lazaroff family said he was crazy. They all said he was dragging his poor wife Molly down to a horrible place, as everyone in New Haven knew that Miami Beach was nothing more than a hot swamp land, loaded with mosquitoes.
They were probably right about the mosquitoes, but by time my grandfather went to Florida, all the swamp land was already being filled in and houses were being built.
I always had to listen to the negative stuff everyone in the family said, but I later came to realize that my Grandpa Eddie, was really a visionary, he had always referred to Florida as the land of milk and honey just like in the bible. It just happens that Grandpa Eddie had moved to Florida a long time before it became the popular thing to do.
There was no question that Florida was indeed very hot, especially in the summer, and back in the 1950’s there was little or no air conditioning available anywhere. It was certainly true there were lots of mosquitoes, and bugs.
Despite all of that, Grandpa Eddie was always adamant regarding his opinion of Florida. He said, “In Florida, the fruit grows everywhere, and it’s practically free for the taking, and he said, and if you wanted to you could listen to live music or go dancing almost every night.
But everyone he spoke to in New Haven, thought that Grandpa Eddie was a little crazy, and I know he knew it. So for Grandpa Eddie to try and show everyone just how wonderful Florida really was, he started bringing a suitcase full of assorted fruits, when he came to New Haven.
Most of the fruit was stuff that none of us in New Haven had ever seen before, and grandpa would lay them all out on our kitchen table for every ones inspection. Then he would cut them up for us to taste. He said they were Papaya, Mango, baby bananas, Coco Nuts and lots of other fruits that we never heard of.
Unfortunately, by the time grandpa got to New Haven, most of the fruit had usually already over ripened inside his hot suitcase. Because the fruit was already starting to rot, people said that grandpa probably found the fruit in someone’s garbage.
Poor grandpa, I can now understand his frustration, he wanted everyone to see the bounty he had available to him in Florida. But all of the dumbbells in New Haven just couldn’t see it, and everyone made fun of him behind his back.
It was only much later in life, that I realized that most of the tropical fruits grown in Florida have a very short shelf life, they rot quickly after ripening, it wasn’t my grandfather’s fault at all that the fruit was over ripe. So I’m sorry no one listened to you Grandpa Eddie, please accept my apologies where ever you are.
When Grandpa Eddie came to New Haven without Granma Molly, he stayed in an attic room in our house in Westville, and he usually used a bicycle get around and visit the other family members. Aunt Lillian says that grandpa always came by bike to visit her at her home.
My Aunt Lil, was grandpa’s youngest daughter, she was born in New Haven and now lived with her husband Norman and two sons Paul and Rodger in a one family home on Belden Road in Hamden Connecticut.
Grandpa’s riding to Lillian’s on a bicycle was quite a trip from our home in Westville, it was probably 10 miles, so when Grandpa Eddie visited her, he usually stayed at her house for at least a couple of days.
Both my Aunt Lillian and my Uncle Norman worked every day, so I think it was a little boring for Grandpa Eddie to just hang around the house and do nothing. So to keep busy Grandpa Eddie decided to do something nice for Lillian, he thought he could do some yard work for her.
My Uncle Norman who worked for the Post Office came home early one day and Grandpa Eddie told Norman his intentions were to trim the shrubbery around the house. Norman who was an easy going guy said, “Sure pop do whatever you want”.
My Grandpa Eddie went out and trimmed all the rose bushes that were around the house. These were rose bushes Aunt Lillian had planted many years ago. Grandpa Eddie thought, that just like in Florida, the roses would quickly grow back in around thirty days.
When Lillian returned home, she was very tired from working all day, and guess what the first thing she saw was, it was her beautiful rose bushes cut down to a nubbin. She was horrified, she said that after all her many years of hard work growing those roses, everything was now gone, and boy, she was mad at grandpa.
Grandpa Eddie was mystified, he didn't see that he had done anything wrong, and no matter what he said to her, Lillian screamed louder at him, nothing would appease her.
That night Grandpa Eddie took his bike and went to a neighbor’s home where he slept outside on the lawn under a statue of the Virgin Mary. In the morning he returned to Lillian’s house and tried to talk to her again, he apologized, but it did no good, Lillian just wouldn’t stop yelling, so Grandpa got on his bicycle, and rode it all the way back to our house in Westville.
By the time he arrived at our house, Grandpa didn't look so good, he was pale, and sweating profusely, and he wouldn’t eat or drink anything.
Mom, who was a registered nurse, became very concerned, she thought grandpa might be having a heart attack or possibly on the verge of dying.
I wasn’t home at the time but Lillian later said that my mother called an ambulance and they took grandpa to the Grace New Haven Hospital emergency room.
Aunt Lillian later told me,that by the time Grandpa Eddie was put in the ambulance he was acting delirious and singing songs.
By the time I got home that evening, they had returned from the hospital and Grandpa Eddie was asleep in my Mom and Dad’s bedroom. Mom being a nurse was diligently checking on Grandpa every few minutes, but by the second day my grandfather was no better, and he just kept asking everyone to take him back home to Florida.
I could see this was becoming a serious dilemma, I heard my mother on the phone, she felt that grandpa might die any minute. She felt because Grandpa was in our house, she would be held responsible.
That evening, Mom, Pop and I, sat in the kitchen and they discussed what to do with my grandfather, he was looking so bad, and he was certainly in no condition to be traveling to Florida by himself. They knew that returning him to Florida was no easy task, it meant driving him seventy miles to the airport in New York, or he would have to take the limo service. After that he would have to get a ticket on the night owl flight to Miami, and then how would he ever get to his home on Miami Beach.
The whole situation was becoming very complicated, and everyone thought Grandpa would die at any moment. My mother and father didn’t know what the right thing to do was, and my Grandpa kept pleading for us to let him go home.
That’s when my Mother asked me if I would take grandpa home to Florida, she said, “Grandpa needs someone to be with him, and help him, and the way he looked, it was possible he might die on the trip home”. What could I say, so I said yes, but I was afraid if something would happen on the way to Florida, but Mom told me, that if something should happen to grandpa on the way to Florida, I shouldn't be scared she said, “Just tell the stewardess and they would know what to do”, so what could I say, I agreed to do it.
That night we packed all Grandpa's suitcases up, and I helped him down the stairs and into our car. Dad drove us to the airport in New York, and my Mom had already confirmed by phone that the sixty nine dollar night owl tickets to Florida were available.
Grandpa and I boarded the night owl plane, and I was more than a little scared.
As the plane was nearly empty, we took seats over a wing with my Grandpa sitting next to a window, and me sitting next to him.
For the first hour of the flight, Grandpa said little or nothing, every so often I looked at him, he looked terrible. After about an hour and a half, Grandpa turned to me and he said, “I smell Florida”, that was when I got real scared, I thought he might be getting delusional before dying.
I watched as my Grandpa appeared more and more alert, he kept sniffing the air in the plane, and by the time the plane landed in Miami, my grandfather was acting as if nothing had ever happened. He was happy, and jovial and we walked out of the Pan Am terminal building onto 36th street in Miami, carrying our suitcases. We walked across the street to a car rental lot, it was about four in the morning and my Grandpa rented a brand new 1959 blue Chevrolet, which he let me drive all the way to his home on Miami Beach. I never once heard Grandpa mentioned one word regarding the problem with Lillian or her rose bushes.
But when I returned to New Haven, I learned that my Aunt Lillian had not forgotten about her roses and crazy as it sounds, she still gets mad whenever the subject comes up. That’s even though my Grandpa Eddie passed away in February of 1970.
Eventually Aunt Lillian sold that house in Hamden, and the owners no longer trim anything.
Now that fifty five years have passed, I asked Lillian about her roses, and she says she is no longer angry with Grandpa over his cutting her bushes.