Tag Archives: Dads

Temple Beth El Has Closed, But It is Not Gone

15 Jan

I was sad when I learned through a North Bergen Facebook group that after 91 years, Temple Beth El on 75th Street in North Bergen was closing. This synagogue was where I spent most of my childhood, from third grade until I married. Right across the street from Robert Fulton Elementary School, Temple Beth El is where I spent four days each week in Hebrew School after I finished my secular classes.

I remember going to synagogue for holidays and Shabbat. I loved going when I was young because my great Uncle Leo and Tanta Esther belonged to Beth El. And Uncle Leo always had candy in his pocket. When we came to services he would slip us some candy. Uncle Leo was a very quiet man with a German accent. But when he put his hand in his suit jacket and brought out a sweet, a gentle smile would come over his face as he said, “here.” And handed over the candy.

When my brother and I would go by ourselves as we prepared for our confirmation classes, Uncle Leo was still there. And even though we were in our early teens, we made sure to sit next to him to get our candy!

I remember Cantor Ovstbaum and Rabbi Sidney Nissenbaum. The Cantor  wrote a Purim Spiel play using the melodies from the opera, “Carmen.” I can still sing some of the lyrics to these songs: “My name it is Vashti,” “Ahasverus, I the Glorious,” “Haman’s Seven Sons are We,” and more. I remember Ella P. who was Queen Esther. And my friends who all got singing parts like Shashi. I was not allowed to sing. But I still loved and remember those songs!

Walking to services with my Dad was fun. I especially enjoyed going to services for Succot, when they built the Succah in the small parking lot across the street from the synagogue.   I have so many good memories of the shul, the people, and my many friends who went there with me.

So when I read it was closing, I felt the pangs and sadness of the end to an era. It was a closure that completed with the deaths of my parents, another part of my childhood forever gone.

But then I had a revelation! I got a letter in the mail, which changed my feelings.

When my parents moved from North Bergen to Cliffside Park, they joined Temple Israel on Edgewater Road. My parents became extremely active in this congregation. My Dad served as president for 11 years! It was Rabbi Engelmeyer and the Cantor Peter and the congregants who were so kind to my parents as they aged and helped my Dad so much after my Mom died.   I loved the people of Temple Israel.

At Temple Israel in 2006. My Dad is with a scribe as they work on repairing older Torah scrolls.

At Temple Israel in 2006. My Dad is with a scribe as they work on repairing older Torah scrolls.

Although I never belonged there, I went to many services there with my parents and always heard so much about it whenever I spoke to my parents. It was at Temple Israel where we had a memorial service for my Mom. It was at Temple Israel that we endowed a library for my parents. It was at Temple Israel that we put up memorial plaques for my parents.

These two congregations were important to me even though I now live in Kansas. I still send donations several times a year in honor of my parents’ and other relatives’ yahrzeits.

So my revelation?   Temple Beth El was not closing. NO! It was merging with Temple Israel.   The new name is Congregation Beth Israel of the Palisades!

My Dad would be so happy. Throughout his years as president and board member, he was always searching for ways to keep the congregation alive and financially sound. With the combining of these congregations, perhaps they both will survive.

And in my mind, my Dad had a celestial part in the merging of these congregations. With Congregation Beth Israel of the Palisades the memory of my parents and my childhood continues.   Perhaps Uncle Leo never went to services in this sanctuary. But my parents and my siblings and my cousins and my parents friends all have sat there. I can close my eyes and see so many loved ones who are no longer with us.

Temple Beth El is not gone, even though many of the Jewish population have left North Bergen. It is still close by in another form. It has changed with time, as we all do. But it lives in my mind.

What I Learned at a Harry Chapin Concert and Why I am Thankful For the Lesson

26 Nov

I went to my first concert at Drew University to hear Harry Chapin. I had been to musicals on Broadway, opera performances at the Met, and symphony concerts. I had even been in Central Park in 1973 when Carole King gave a free concert. I along with tens of thousands of people packed the park. I really did not see her, but I remember the sights and the sounds.

And of course, I was close to Woodstock in 1969 since it was held just a mile and a half from our summer home. With the acoustics and the hundreds of thousands of people, Woodstock actually came to me. I could feel the ground shake and the music rock from my bungalow. It really was a memorable experience.

But I had never ever been to a ‘rock’ concert before, where I actually could see the performer up close. The Harry Chapin concert at Drew was my first such experience.

I have never forgotten his concert, even though I have been to many concerts since then and have seen performances by many musicians. I do not know how, but I was able to sit near the front of the room with my friends. I don’t know how we squeezed so far forward. Did we have tickets with seat assignments? Who remembers ? All I know is that we had great seats! If we actually sat. I sort of remember standing most of the time.

I do know that Harry Chapin touched my soul that night. He sang, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” among many other songs. But it was this song that has stayed with me throughout my life. Listening to him sing that song made me happy and thankful that my Dad always paid attention to us. My Dad always found time to be with us and give us attention.

At the end of the song when the son does not have time for his father, I teared up. Even though I was not quite 20, I already felt his angst of not connecting.

Although the words of that song made me sad, I loved Harry Chapin’s voice and I loved the story lyrics of his ballads. I became a forever Harry Chapin fan.

I owned his records, and then when records (or vinyls) became obsolete, I purchased his songs on CD and ripped them onto my computer and cell phone.

When I had my own children, I took to my heart the lyrics of “Cat’s in the Cradle.” I always made sure that my husband and I had time with our children. My husband, as a physician, was busy. But he always had time to be in charge of bath time and to read bedtime stories to our children.

It was a tradition that he hated missing when he was out of town. And our children hated when he was gone. My bedtime reading was never good enough because Dad made every character special with a different voice. When he read the Harry Potter books…. All the Harry Potter books… we would all sit in the bedroom to listen to him read. Yes, he even read to us when our children could read the books by themselves. Our daughter would zoom through the books by herself, but still come in to hear my husband read.

He always stopped after one or two chapters and we would beg for more. “Just a little bit more, please.” Sometimes he would give in and read a bit more. But it really was never enough. He was and is a great Dad.

So when my children say, “I’m gonna be like him,” I know that they mean they will be good parents who spend time with their children. Not distant parents who missed the best times of their children’s lives.

Over the years other concerts have made an impression: Paul Simon; Brian Wilson; James Taylor; Peter, Paul and Mary. My husband and I took our children to see Weird Al Yankovic…twice. Two family outings I do not think we will ever forget. (The third time they wanted to go, they were old enough to go without us!)

In the past year I have been to three concerts by some of my favorite ‘oldies’: James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross. All of them have songs that I love. And have meaning for me. James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” reminds me of the summer I was 16. Diana Ross has many songs I love. And Neil Diamond’s songs make me want to dance.

It is a different feeling when I go to see these concerts. Yes for Diana Ross, we were all on our feet almost the entire concert singing and dancing along. I enjoyed the crowds singing along with Neil Diamond at the Sprint Center in Kansas City and at the wonderful concert at the Starlight Theater to listen to James Taylor.

But nothing compares to that first concert at Drew. The excitement I felt walking from the dorms; the anticipation of being with so many people listening to a favorite singer; the joy of being there and seeing him in person: it was fantastic.

A moment I will never forget mainly due to a song that impacted my life. I was so fortunate not to have a far away father who had no time. I have heard this following many times, “You never hear anyone say I wish I had spent more time at work, rather they say, I wish I had more time with my family.”

I am thankful that in my world family came first.

 

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/harrychapin/catsinthecradle.html

Museums Help Me Honor Our Relatives Who Served on Veterans’ Day

10 Nov

On November 11, every year I go over to the Korean War Memorial that was established just about a mile from my home. Years ago I put a stone in the memorial for my Dad who served in Korea as a forward observer.

A portion of the Korean War Memorial in Kansas.

A portion of the Korean War Memorial in Kansas.

The truth is my Dad loved military history. He loved reading about the Civil War, World War 1 and World War 2. I have visited many museums just to see them and to think about my Dad. In Kansas City we are fortunate to have the National World War One Museum and Liberty Memorial. It was remodeled over five years ago. My husband and I went to check it out to see if my Dad would be able to navigate its halls and exhibits. We thought he would love it. Unfortunately my Dad passed away before we could take him there.

We are also fortunate to have two presidential libraries nearby that also speak about our country’s efforts in war. We have been to the President Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, and the Eisenhower Library in Salina, Kansas.  Both have significant information about the Second World War and dedicate a portion of the libraries to the presidents involvement and service.

About 14 years ago I went to the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans. I took my children with me; they were then 15 and 11. We walked through the entire exhibit. That day there was a special ceremony in the lobby as veterans were being presented awards. The entire time we were there, we spoke about how much Grandpa would love this museum! I bought my Dad a book and some other memorabilia from the museum. I know he wanted to see it one day.

We also visited a small Civil War museum in New Orleans, called the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum. It has been a part of New Orleans since 1891. This small museum supposedly houses the second largest collection of Civil War items. Dad would have loved it as well.

I have been to Hawaii and visited the USS Arizona Memorial and seen the droplets of oil floating to the surface of Pearl Harbor, like droplets of tears still escaping. I have walked through the USS Missouri and saw the spot where the treaty that ended the Pacific War was signed.

I have visited military cemeteries: Arlington National Cemetery, The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and the Ft. Leavenworth National Cemetery. I have seen my father buried with full military honors including a flag-draped coffin, the folding and presentation of the flag and a serviceman on the bugle playing Taps.

The Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.

The Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.

This weekend in my continued efforts to honor veterans and their service, I spent a day in Fredericksburg, Texas. I was in San Antonio for a meeting with my husband. A good friend picked me up from the hotel for this field trip to the National Museum of the Pacific War. Who knew it even existed! We wandered through the halls and learned about what was happening in China and Japan that led to their entrance into the war. We saw planes and submarines.   A replica of the atomic bomb hangs from one of the ceilings.

I saw information about Manila and the infamous Bataan Death March. That stands out in my memory as my husband’s Aunt Grace was one of the nurses in Bataan. She was one of the few who were evacuated from the island on a submarine and so did not have to suffer through the march and the horrible internment. I was able to show my friend the book, We Band of Angels, which features two pictures of Aunt Grace in group photos.

The walkway memorial to presidents.

The walkway memorial to presidents.

We then walked through a memorial to our country’s presidents to the Nimitz Hotel founded by the family of Admiral Chester Nimitz. It is now a museum honoring his memory and his work as the Admiral of the Pacific Fleet. I believe I honored those who serve by visiting these museums.

And always on Veterans’ Day I think of my Dad, who served in Korea. My Uncles Bernie and Stanley who served in World War Two; My husband’s Uncles Ben and Fred who were military physicians in World War Two; His Uncle Richard who served in Korea; and his Aunt Grace and Aunt Florence who were nurses in World War Two. My husband’s grandfather served in World War 1. And not to leave anyone out, I also think of my husband’s and my cousins who served in all of these wars including Vietnam.

Museums do not tell the full story. They cannot transmit the heartache that follows a person throughout their life because of the things they saw, the odors they smelt, the lives that were lost and the changes it caused in their psyche. But for me to visit these museums, I feel I am showing respect for the sacrifices these veterans made for all of us. I am proud there are so many veterans in our family!

A Photo Triggers Driving Memories

7 Oct
AP parking lot photo from Cindy Bottcher

A&P Parking lot, photo from Cindy Bottcher on the Town of North Bergen Facebook group.

The photograph on the North Bergen Facebook group page brought a flood of memories. It showed the parking lot of the A & P grocery store, a store that has been closed for many years. The photo showed the somewhat empty parking lot and to the left, alone by itself, a single light pole. I know that light pole well!!

It was in 1972. I had recently received my driver’s license. Mom and I went to the grocery store together. At that time the parking lot at the A & P was packed. I easily parked the car in the only empty spot by the light pole. Later when we left the store, Mom once again let me be the driver. As I put the car in gear I made a slight error. I went into drive instead of reverse, and I hit the light pole. It made a dent in the front bumper. My first fender-bender.

I was so upset. I knew my Dad was not going to be very happy about this! I had already had a mishap with the garage door during the summer. My father had told me NOT to attempt to park in the garage when I went driving with my brother in the Catskills. When we return home, I decided to try. My brother did not stop me, so I always sort of blame him. In any case, I misjudged as I entered the garage and off came the car’s side view mirror.

Dad was not happy with me.

So now it was a few months later, and I hit the light pole. My Mom and I looked at the damage. It was not too bad. My Mom was calm. “Better the light pole than another car,” she told me. Then she offered to tell my Dad that she had hit the pole. We agreed that he would be much calmer that way.

So home we went, and my Mom took the responsibility for the accident. The parking lot was busy. She got distracted. She hit the pole. My guilty face probably gave me away. “Who really hit the pole?” My Dad demanded. My Mom kept up the pretense.

A few days later my Dad announced at dinner, that it did not bother him that I hit the pole (ha), but it did bother him that I let my Mom take the blame (This part is true). My Mom still stuck up for me. It was her idea. I just agreed. However, now as an adult I do agree that we should have been truthful…somewhat. My Dad was much calmer a few days later when he actually learned the truth, than he would have been when it happened.

However, I never liked to drive in New Jersey after that. Luckily we had wonderful mass transit. I took buses, trains, subways and taxies wherever I wanted to go.

The following year, when I was a senior in high school, my parents went to India for three weeks. I was in charge of my sister. And I had to drive. We needed groceries. We were invited to friends’ homes for dinner. We had to go to school in the cold winter. I was getting much better and began to lose my fear of driving.

My parents left us with many phone numbers of people who could help in an emergency. Friends and relatives were on call. One of my Mom’s friends called every morning as a back up alarm clock to make sure we got off to school on time. So many people called to invite us for dinner, we never used the meals my Mom had cooked and froze for us.

But for me the most important person was my Dad’s business colleague and friend, Normie P.   One night I took my sister to the movies. We came home, and I forgot to turn the lights off.   The next day the car was dead in the street. We had drained the battery. At the time I did not know that. Normie and his son came and fixed it for us. I will never forget them in their work suits, jump-starting the car. We had to drive to school immediately, but take the long way to recharge the battery.

When I moved to the Midwest for graduate school, I was extremely concerned about driving here. But it was a breeze. The traffic was nothing compared to the traffic in the New York City area and in New Jersey. I drove downtown with ease. I found the perfect place for me to drive. I met my husband, and he let me use his old Buick to do my school assignments. Driving is easy in his opinion.

However, he learned his lessons about New Jersey.  I remember the first time my husband drove in North Bergen and West New York. He continually got stuck behind double-parked cars. I kept telling him to move over.

“What do you mean they are double parked?!” He demanded. “That is illegal.”

“Not here,” I told him.

He thought people in New Jersey were crazy.

We also made him drive into New York City one time. It might have been a bit cruel. But he needed to see what we were talking about.   Growing up in St. Louis, he had never experienced REAL traffic.

For years, when I went home to Jersey, my Dad would drive. As he aged, I had to take over some driving for him. And after my parents passed away, the driving ended as well. My sister or brother do most of the driving for me. I am once again in the passenger seat. I usually do not mind.

To this day, I do not like to drive on the highways of New Jersey. I am fine in the lovely highways of Kansas and Missouri.   I am fine in the local driving of my daily life.

But occasionally I get the urge to drive when I am back East visiting. I decided that Catskill driving is the best for me.   And now I have no problems at all pulling into a garage. It is something I do multiple times a day.

It is amazing what one photo can do for memories. I will always remember that A& P parking lot and light pole.

Autumn Memories of the Great Fire

26 Sep

This is a memory of a Catskills event that could have been a disaster. It is about the day my brother and I almost set the entire forest on fire. I still get a cringe in my stomach when I think about it. But to be absolutely truthful, I also have to tell the not so happy stories as well.

My grandparents had purchased the ‘big house,’ about 1/3 of a mile up the road from their bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake. When the purchase was made, the house and the bungalow behind it were a bit neglected. They were still livable, but there was much maintenance that had to be done to bring the property back to life.

Among the issues was that the brush and trees had grown up around the bungalow. This had to be cleared out … eventually.

It was September, probably around 1963, the year after they had bought the property. We had spent our first summer there, living in the bungalow, instead of at the colony.

My brother believes it happened in the spring. All I remember was the grey. 

That summer one of the boys, who lived in the house next to the ‘big house,’ shown my brother and I how he made fire circles in the forest behind our homes and set fires. He was a few years older than us and seemed very sure of what he was doing.  We were intrigued. It was fascinating and scary at the same time. We never made the fires, we just watched him.
That fall, when we went back up to the Catskills for my Dad to help my Grandfather close up the bungalows, my brother and I went into the woods behind the bungalow at the big house and made a fire circle.

I hate to even say what happened next. But compulsion for the truth is making me.

We were young. I was 8 and my brother was 9. ( My brother thinks we were a bit older.) We did not make a very good fire circle. The rocks did not completely form a circle. The leaves were all around. It was now autumn and the leaves and brush were dry. Even though we had water with us, we did not have enough. And, yes, the fire escaped from the circle.

My brother said the problem was the wind. When Billy taught him to make the fires there was no wind. He had started two or three that were no problem. He had me come out to see the last one, which escaped. 

My brother and I were frantic. We tried to put it out. We threw water on it. We stomped on it. But it would not go out and it was getting bigger.  We got our sister out of the bungalow. 

We ran to the house and told Grandma and Mom that there was a FIRE. We had no phone and no car there. They told us to run to the bungalows and tell Dad and Grandpa. I don’t think we ever ran as fast in our lives. My brother was ahead of me.   We screamed when we got to the bungalows, “There’s a fire at the house! A fire!”

Grandpa and Dad came running!

I honestly do not remember how they called the fire department. Except there was a phone in the laundry house, perhaps it was still connected. Or perhaps one of them drove into town. It is a blur in my mind.

My brother said that Grandma ran to Finks and they called to report the fire. 

They drove back to the house. I think my brother and I walked back. As we walked, we could hear the loud noise as the volunteer fire department sirens went off. When we arrived at the house , Grandpa and Dad were already at the bungalow. It seemed as if dozens of cars were their with all the volunteer firemen. Then the fire engine arrived and drove up the long driveway to the bungalow.

We were lucky. The firemen put out the flames before they reached the bungalow or any other buildings. The fire never made it to the woods. The forest was safe as was the bungalow colony (Top Hill) that backed up to the side of our woods.

The brush and small trees to the sides and behind the bungalow were brunt and now filled with water.

The fire chief and my Dad and Grandpa talked for a while. My brother and I were scared. We knew we were in BIG trouble.

They came to talk to us. “We think it was spontaneous combustion,” they told us. “There were lots of bottles and rags hidden in the brush. We think that is what caused the fire.”

“What is spontaneous combustion?” I wanted to know but I kept quiet. They think that is what started the fire? I felt a sense of immense relief. We were not going to go to jail!!!

My brother and I nodded our heads. Of course they all knew the truth. But that is what the volunteer fire chief was going to put in his report. He knew us and our parents and our grandparents.

The firemen cleaned up, packed up their gear and left our property. They told my Dad to keep a hose near the scene of the fire, and keep checking it to make sure there were no flare ups. I think he watched it through out the night.  But there were no problems. The fire was OUT!

My brother and I walked back with our parents and grandparents to see what had happened. Grandpa and Dad sort of smiled at each other. “Well at least you cleared out the brush,” we were told. “But do not ever light a fire again. You could have set the entire woods on fire!!!’

We were told not to ever touch fire again. This was said to us multiple times for the rest of the weekend.  I think because we were so scared, they decided our fear was punishment enough.  Our only punishment: my brother and I had to help clean out the brunt brush, grass, small trees and junk that was left behind the bungalow under the watchful eye of my grandfather.

My brother says he had to dig out all the burnt blueberry bushes and clean out all the brush and plant the new grass. I did not have to do as much. 

We never, ever set another fire!

I have been scared of fire ever since. I always worry that it will get out of control. I don’t own a fire pit. I never light my fireplaces. I keep fire away from me. The memories of the Great Fire have stayed with me forever.

 

Watermelon Helps Make Summers Wonderful

28 Jul

image

I love watermelon.

In the summer, on a hot day, it is the MOST refreshing of all fruits.

I love eating it cut up in chunks. I love eating it in wedges.

I love it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I eat watermelon for snacks.

Buying me a watermelon is buying me joy.

This week, with the temperatures and heat index going above 100, I knew I had to get one.   So I went to Costco, walked to the giant bins of bright green watermelons and searched for the best. I picked a few up and thumped. And finally I heard the noise I liked the best. I had found my perfect watermelon. Total Joy!

When I was little my brother and sister taunted me by singing, “Ellen, Ellen Watermelon.” I actually remember all the cousins and other children at the bungalows singing it as well. It was my Catskills nickname as a child. In fact, there are a couple of adult friends of mine who still call me Ellen Ellen Watermelon. It might have bothered me a little bit when I was younger. But truth be told, I love watermelon. So now I do not care at all.

I always got a thrill when I saw my Dad bring a watermelon into the bungalow. He would be the one to cut it up, not my Mom. He would usually cut it into quarters and then make triangular strips. That meant it was really just for us.

If he cut it out of the rind and made chunks, that usually meant he was making it for lots of people and it might be part of a fruit salad. My Dad would make one side of the watermelon into a giant bowl and put the fruit salad back into it. I never do that. But I always helped him by making the cantaloupe and honeydew balls with a special scoop.

I learned to make fruit salad from my Dad. Now, I love to make fruit salad. I like chopping up fruit to make the best combination of fruit flavors. It brings me memories of Dad, and for some reason chopping fruit relaxes me. Whenever I go to a pot-luck dinner, I bring the fruit salad.

Personally, for me just watermelon would be fine.   I like it best cut up into inch to two-inch chunks. Then I fill up a bowl and just snack away. I usually like it on its own, not mixed into a salad. Why mess up the best fruit ever, well except for blueberries, by mixing it with other melons. Yes some like cantaloupe and honeydew. But for me, only the watermelon is enough to make me happy. Although I have been known to mix blueberries and watermelon together for a special treat.

Watermelon has other uses as well.   There have been many a watermelon seed spitting contests at our home in the Catskills. And it is not just for children. I have seen many a grown man and woman spit out their seeds to see whose goes the furthest.

What other fruit gives you the joy of eating and the ability to play with it without anyone yelling, “Stop playing with your food.” Even my Dad would spit watermelon seeds. I remember one contest in particular that included my husband, brother, brother-in-law, Dad and a first cousin.   We were all adults. And we cheer them on.

Best fruit ever, watermelon always helps to make summers wonderful.

The Sad Scandal That Forever Scarred My Grandpa Harry

14 Jun

My paternal grandfather, Harry, was a difficult man to love. He never hugged us or played with us. He kept his distance, except to sometimes reprimand us from eating too much cake. “The Trolley Car Stops, Too,” he would intone if we spent too much time at the dessert table. Or to tell us to “Quiet Down.”

In the summers he would take long walks and sit by himself. Grandpa Harry, “Hersh Zvi,” was not one to dole out love.

When I entered high school, he actually began talking to me. I took some sewing classes and was making my own clothes and clothing for my sister and Mom. Grandpa was a retired tailor. And suddenly we had a language to share. He taught me how to match plaids and make my slacks more tailored. He could explain about French seams and other ways of making the clothes I made stand out. We formed the tiniest bit of a bond. I know he was so proud of everything I made, which made me feel good as well.

I knew he had had a difficult life. I remember my paternal Grandma Esther saying to me, “When you get married, make sure you check out the family. You do not only marry the man, you marry the entire family. And they can be crazy.”

And that was my Grandpa Harry’s family according to my Grandma. His family could have been a column in the “Bintel Brief” columns of the old Yiddish Jewish Forward. Except I am not sure my Great Grandma Sarah could write.

We think this is Grandpa Harry on his bar mitzvah day.

We think this is Grandpa Harry on his bar mitzvah day.

My grandfather was the oldest of six children: Harry, Harriet (Hady), Muriel, Jacob and two ‘maiden’ sisters. When he was either 13 or 14, his father abandoned the family and took off for the west coast. Disaster.

Grandma Esther once told me that my great grandmother was a ‘schrier,’ someone who screamed a lot. And although my great grandfather Abraham was probably unhappy, he should not have left my grandfather with the mess. And that is true.

Abraham was one of three to five brothers who all came to America at different times, or so we think. Their original last name was Grau, but in the USA Abraham Grau became Abraham Rosenberg. I believe he was from Russia, perhaps Bialystok.

So we know this is a posed photo, but it is when Grandpa crossed the USA looking for his father.

So we know this is a posed photo, but it is when Grandpa crossed the USA looking for his father.

In any case he was not a mensch at all.

My grandfather at age 15 took off across America by himself to find his father.   He traveled through the plains, up the mountains, to Seattle, Washington, in the early 1900s. Grandpa was born in 1888 or 1889. So this was in 1903 or 1904. Can you imagine! He might have wanted to get away as well. But I think he really wanted to find his father.

Well he did find him, in Seattle, living with another woman as if she was his wife. Or as my grandma called her, the ‘churva,’ which I believe means prostitute in Yiddish.

Grandpa Harry was not happy. I do not think the meeting went well. So Grandpa turned around and traveled all the way back to the New York, where he became the bread winner and head of the family.

He worked as a tailor and never finished school. But his five siblings, four girls and his brother, ALL went to college. He paid for it. His brother even became an attorney and lived Up Town.   Grandpa sacrificed his life for his siblings. He was a mensch! He gave them food, clothes and a college education in a time when women did not go to college. And he did not get much in return. I think this is why he so unable to show affection to his own children and grandchildren.  He held back.

Eventually, on February 26, 1922, he married my Grandma, after he finished supporting his siblings and mother. He was in his mid 30s when he married. Since, my grandmother’s father, Louis, was also a tailor, I believe grandpa married his partner’s daughter. In fact my grandparents and my great grandparents continued to live together.

As for my great grandmother, Sarah Rosenberg, we know nothing. Not her maiden name. Not when she was born or died. I do not think she was a very loving person either.  In fact, my brother reminded me that years later Grandpa found out his father was sending money, but his mother never told him!

My Dad on his Bar Mitzvah day on the roof of a building in the Bronx.

My Dad on his Bar Mitzvah day on the roof of a building in the Bronx.

I do know that in 1941 my great grandfather and his second ‘wife’ showed up in New York City, in the Bronx on the day of my Dad’s bar mitzvah. I do not know if one of the other siblings had kept in touch with him. I do not know why he chose that day. All I know is that my grandfather would not let him into the house. I believe my Dad met his grandfather in the hallway.

As for my grandfather’s siblings, we never met any of them except for Aunt Hady and her husband, Lenny. The others were not part of our lives. However, I do know that my Aunt Leona, my Dad’s sister, took piano lessons with her cousin at the apartment uptown. So she had some weekly contact with my great Uncle Jacob and his family when she was a child.

But I would one day like to know, where did my great grandfather end up and was buried? What was my Great grandma Sarah’s maiden name? Who was she?

And where are the children of Muriel, who had two sons; and Jacob, who had two children: Delilah and Betram.

I wish my Grandpa Harry had not been so scarred by his own father.He was a good man.  He provided for his family.  And he cared about us. I know in the moments that he discussed sewing with me that he wanted a connection with his family, he just did not know how. He was forever scarred by the scandal of his childhood.