Ms. F and Me

04/06/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I had already been standing for well over an hour and needed a place to rest. I finally found a chair in the small section of the huge hall that had been set aside for tired folk. It was Inauguration night and we were at the Home State Ball to honor our neighbor, Barack Obama.

Sitting next to me was a middle-aged woman dressed in a beautiful red silk African gown with small round, yellow designs on both her gown and her red head piece. I assumed she was in attendance as a representative of some foreign country.

We smiled at each other and sat in silence for a few moments. She then asked me in clear English where I was from.

"Obamaland," I proudly answered.

"So am I," she said. "In Hyde Park or Kenwood?"

"Hyde Park," I answered with some surprise.

"I'm in Kenwood. 4855 Woodlawn."

"So we are neighbors," I responded, realizing I had misread where she was from. "We're each about halfway from Barack's house, which is right across the street from my synagogue."

"That's our new President's way of bringing us together," she stated warmly.

"Barack was a close friend of my rabbi who died recently. I'm told they used to have lunch together on 57th Street at the Medici. It's a student hangout."

"Oh, yes, I know the Medici."

I continued. "Let's see. 4855 Woodlawn. The only houses I know there are Louis Farrakhan's guarded mansion and his townhouses."

"Yes. I live in one of them. I'm Maria, his daughter." She confidently reached out her hand and, hesitating a moment, I reached out mine.

"What's your name?" she asked.

"Bob Grossman." I paused. She struck me as gracious and unpretentious, which contradicted what I might have expected. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to say what was on my mind.

"You know, I don't think much of your father." His ugly and bombastic rantings years earlier came to mind, singling out Jews for biblical and cultural contempt. I remembered hearing that he had granted three rabbis an audience at his Nation of Islam mansion. The rabbis came in the hope of engaging in a peaceful discussion with him. Instead, I was told he proceeded to harangue and vilify them.

"He's nicer than you've heard," she said. "He even has a Jewish violin teacher."

"That's probably because he likes the violin, not because he likes Jewish people. He's made a lot of thoughtless and cruel statements."

"He's not that way. He doesn't say those kind of things any more. Would you like to meet him?"

"You mean would I like to be granted an audience at his mansion," I said laughingly.

She laughed, too. I liked her laugh. She seemed much closer to Barack's generation and attitude than her father's. Farrakhan, I said to myself, was much more of the generation and attitude of Jesse Jackson and Jeremiah Wright. Barack had passed them by. He didn't see things their way. Perhaps she didn't either.

"I heard your father isn't well. Is that why he's not here?"

"He's fine now. He was invited to the Inauguration. He didn't come because he didn't want to draw any eyes away from the President."

"Was that because he was deferring to our new President or because he can't stand not being the center of attention?"

She didn't respond. "Here's my card," she said. "You can call me and I'll arrange a visit with him for you."

I thought for a moment and then said, "If your father has really changed, why don't you have him dial my number instead of my beseeching him for an audience at his mansion? I'm in the Hyde Park phone book. We can arrange to have lunch at the Medici -- just like the President and my rabbi."

I'm still waiting for his call.