My wife and I have always surmised that once you have become part of a family, either by marriage, birth, or happenstance, you become crazy immediately. We have seen it so many times. Carol’s four boy cousins from her Aunt have been married 16 times and one of them is still at it. Her uncle never told his children that they were born Jewish, never told his parents and siblings and has caused a giant schism in their family. I always tell Carol that they are not related to me by blood, but they are her.
My mom did not tell me that I had a brother till I was 38 years of age and then was going to tell him that my father, who died in 1943, was his father, even though my brother was born in 1948. My Aunt Ruth, of blessed memory, always served two complete meals at every sitting. She followed the last meal with Alka seltzer (placed on the table). One of my wife’s cousins extended his stay in the hoosegow by telling the judge that he was just too smart.
Carol’s maternal grandfather built homes, lived in them and then sold them without making a profit. Before we got married, Carol’s dad asked us if we wanted to have a big wedding at a wedding factory, or have a small wedding at their home and he would give us $2000. We went for door number two, the $2000. At the end of the ceremony, he beckoned us into his office and gave us a check for the $2000 and then gave me all of Carol’s college loans (more than $2000 worth) and said, “Now she’s yours.”
My mom used to come to our home for two week visitations. Once she came to our home in Clarion, PA for her stay. One Sunday morning, it was Mother’s Day, we were coming back from out sojourn to the synagogue in Oil City (yes there is an Oil City), and stopped at a McDonald’s for lunch. Upon entry and seating, my mom went to all of the tables and placed all of the Sweet and Low Packets and all of the ashtrays in her purse.
If that wasn’t enough, she appeared at the table of each of the other patrons who had a child visible. She began to tell them all how to raise their children, what foods not to feed them, and how to buy shoes. I had pretty much given up. I was kind of used to that kind of behavior (and I certainly loved my mom), but it was getting to be too much.
So, I approached mom, after she scolded the person who gave us the coffee with the meal, and told her that I was going to give her a Mother’s Day present. I was going to drive her down to Pittsburgh and put her on a plane home. She was delighted. I called my sisters in New York and told them to pick mom up at the airport. I had no idea if a plane was leaving soon, but I could pray.
Thankfully there was a plane at Pittsburgh Airport leaving at 4:00 p.m. We drove to the airport and made sure that she got on the plane, called my sisters and told them that I would send mom’s false teeth and clothing to them the next day.
My dad died when he was 36 years old. He was not much for working, but he loved all kinds of sports. He was a professional boxer under the name Kid Russia. I have a feeling that is why he died of a stroke. About 15 years ago there was a program about baseball’s halcyon days- the 30’s 40’s and 50’s. I was watching the show on TV. It depicted the 1938 World Series, Cubs versus Yankees. The first pictures were of the crowd circling Wrigley Field. As I looked at the faces, I actually saw my father waiting on line.
I did not have the foresight or ability to tape the show. I found out the name of the company that made the program. Fortunately they were in New York City. I went there and they made a tape for me of that scene slowed almost to a standstill. I look at it now and again. It did not surprise me that he was in Chicago. He took my sister to a hockey game when she was six months old. He used to go to Boston to see games. He was even shooting pool when Pearl Harbor was attacked. I know that for sure because mom told me and my sister to go to the pool hall and get him.
Having family is one of our human obligations. Over the years, we have expanded our family by marriage and discovery. Carol has discovered a great number of her father’s family. He was not very open about them. We surmise that they were not middle class and he was not happy with their status in life. That is surely a guess on our part.
For some parts of a family, you can go many years, not see them and still feel comfortable with them. For other parts, discomfort appears to be a consistent thing. I guess it all depends on your view of life. I feel lucky that my wife and I are always in communication with most of our family.



  1. Your blog was very honest and open in expressing a valid point of view. All we have to do is recall Vegas comedians who’d joke, “my brother was an only child” (this was also the title of book by an old Vegas comedian). Also, Tommy Smothers would say to Dickie Smothers on their old tv show, “mom liked you best.” To me the trick is not focusing on differences whether it be friends or family because that will be your experience of them. I’ve been very fortunate to really have a good relationship with my Dad who I like as a person and did as well with my mother when she was alive. Currently, I’m doing activities that command my attention these days so I don’t dwell a lot on others actions or their thoughts of me or my activities. The bottom line is that doing what you think makes sense and not being attached to the good opinion of others allows for a high degree of flexibility for those around you–friends, family and people you meet daily. Can’t say I am always this way but it is a goal I work toward–accept others as they are, go with the flow and, as Bob Dylan says, “be easy, baby.” Liked your blog. Thanks for sharing!

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