Tomorrow we head on to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Our days in New Orleans have been delightful. It is different from any other American city. It is a bit of the old world and the new. We will stay in Chattanooga for a day, look around and see the choo choo again and then head off to western North Carolina to see my brother Howard. Howard moved from Cooper City, outside of Miami to a place near Boone to be with his son, who taught at Appalachin State. His son moved from there to Columbia, S.C.
Although Howard is ten years younger than me, I did not know that I had a brother until I was thirty eight years old. I believe that is about the same with him.
Return to September of 1947. My older sister Renee and I and mom were living with my grandmother (and grandfather) on the lower east side of Manhattan. It was an old tenement building with an oft broken elevator (see Big Bang Theory). My mom was working as a waitress at the Mayflower Donut Shoppe at 46th St. and Broadway. She made a decent living and kept us out of poverty with her tips. She had worked there since 1943. She was proud to say that she had served some Broadway and movie stars, who came in to have a lunch or just coffee and some donuts.
Mom went out a great deal on weekends with various gentlemen (no it’s not what you think). She used to model her outfits that she was going to wear on her dates. Sometimes, she would even introduce us to the men that she was serious about. All seemed calm and settled until one day. Mom announced that she was having a nervous breakdown. Today we might call it a bunch of different things, but then is was n.b.
She told my sister and grandmother that she had to go to Florida to recuperate. I never really knew if she told anyone, including her sisters, the truth of her condition.
Fast forward to November 22, 1977. Once again it was my birthday (same as President Kennedy’s assassination), and I was all ready to have a sumptuous meal with my wife and children. That February I was named Superintendent of Schools in Kutztown and things were going pretty well (other than the state shutting down our junior high school).
I was called to the phone by Carol, who told me that it was my mom on the phone. This is the conversation as I can reconstruct it. “Hi mom, I guess you were calling me to wish me a happy birthday.” “Son, I have a skeleton in my closet.” “Mom, what’s the matter?” “You have a brother,” she exclaimed, I thought that she was kidding me so I said, “I always wanted a brother.” She shouted, “No, I mean it, you have a brother and he is coming to see me. He found me.”
By this time, I knew that there was something going on way beyond my ability to understand. I found that she was very serious. After a few moments, I remembered that she had been in Florida from September of 1947 to May of 1948. It was starting to make some sense. I asked about my new (old) brother. I am not sure that she told me his name, but explained how he found her. Remember this is her explanation.
There had been a middle man in those days to take a child from a woman and have the child adopted by another couple. This middle man (woman) had left some indication, so that my brother could find it. He contacted her and somehow my brother (Howard, by this time) could actually find my mother. He was coming up to New York to visit his wife’s family. He decided to meet his birth mother.
My mother told me that she was going to tell him that my father was also his father. I told her that unless they had frozen sperm in 1943, he would not believe her. I asked her who Howard’s father was, and she did not answer me.
Actually, she never answered either me or Howard. We really don’t know. I have tried to piece some things together with Howard, but all that we can come up with is some gentleman that used to visit my mother, even after she was remarried. My older and younger sisters had no idea either.
Carol and I went down to Florida at the holidays in 1977. Carol’s parents had moved down to Ft. Lauderdale earlier in the year. When we landed at the airport, I saw Howard and immediately knew that he was my brother. There was something about his smile and mannerisms. Carol thought so too. Howard and his wife were very gracious to us. They are wonderful people along with their children Dan and Bonnie.
They also have four grandchildren, of whom they are very proud. We see them from time to time. Howard came up to my 70th birthday bash. He has told me about his adoptive parents. They were not people with a great deal of means. I guess Howard and I share that kind of economic hardship. Although he had two parents and I had one, there is something similar about how we were brought up
Howard and Jan have done very well for themselves. Howard has been a successful CPA with some very big time clients. He is retired now in Western North Carolina and still does some work.
As the years have gone by, we have gotten to know each other. Yes, I always wanted to have a brother and by god, I have one.