Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

I have a birthday coming up soon.

Don’t mind the birthdays so much. Maybe because I really hardly ever know old I am.

Been known to say to one of my brothers, “How old are you?”

And then I do the laborious math.

I know the difference of years between us.

What do I mind about getting older?

Wrinkles? Forgetfulness? Weight gain?

No, the thing I really do mind is my eyesight not being as keen as it once was.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my Dad. I was a young girl and I was threading a needle.

My Dad said, “I remember when I was a boy in Ireland threading a needle for my Granny.”

Oh my gosh.

I’m now the Granny.

I’ve worn the “cheaters” for years. Pushing them back on my head when I didn’t need them to see fine print. Hair had a permanent imprint from the glasses.

Finally succumbed to multi-focal glasses. Wasn’t easy getting used to them.

I’d be climbing down stairs and escalators making sure I didn’t kill myself due to a misstep while looking out the distance lens when I should have been looking a little closer to home.

I appeared, on more than one occasion, to be really challenged.

Now I am wearing them all the freaking time!

I remember a few years back, while we were taking a family photo, saying to Mom, “Do you want to take your glasses off for the photo?”

She said, “Why would I want to take them off? I wear them all the time.”

Ummm, okay.

See, I’m not there yet.

I have nothing against glasses. Some of my best friends wear glasses. LOL

I just realize it’s not so easy.

How do you put makeup on each day? You need your glasses to see but how can you apply eye makeup with the glasses perched on your nose?

The other day I was in a hotel room. Before I hopped in the shower I lined up the shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in order of use.

Because I don’t wear glasses in the shower.

So, I’m like Mr. Magoo in a steam filled cubicle.

I’m not sure what I should do.

I could be chasing the botox people down, hiring a trainer to tone this fifty something year old body and furiously doing crossword puzzles to help my memory.

But what I am thinking about is laser surgery. If I am a candidate.

Not just because of the makeup or because I might put shower gel in my hair. Or gargle with astringent. Or brush my teeth with facial hair remover.

But because I want to see everything. Without assistance.

Like I did when I was young.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This past summer I was driving to my friend’s home in Rhode Island with my two daughters. It’s a lovely area near the beaches. Tree lined roads winding by horses grazing, babbling brooks and placid ponds. Gorgeous old, clapboard homes on green acres dot the landscape.

My eldest, who is twenty five, says, “This area is so beautiful. Not like the usual creepy New England towns.”

I exclaim, “What?? Creepy like how? A van with no windows is creepy. But not New England!”

Later on, while we are soaking up the sun on a fabulous beach, same daughter proceeds to tell my friend that ever since she was a little kid I’ve told her probably every single ghost story or mystery that took place in our part of New England.

Okay, when you put it like that. I sound like a monster.

It’s true. I might have pointed out a haunted house or two.

The Westport house where folks claimed a ghost resided.  One of the occupants fell asleep in a rocking chair and woke up with a haircut.

I probably mentioned the ghost of the red-headed hitchhiker on Interstate 195.

Most likely gave the background of the childhood rhyme about Lizzie Borden. I did take my youngest (seventeen at the time) to Lizzie’s house last year where the gruesome crimes took place.

I may have pointed out the lovely house that sits at the bottom of Metacomet golf course in my home town. Shared that murders were never a thing while I was growing up but a few years before I was born an elderly widow had been murdered in that very home during a robbery.

Could have mentioned the still unsolved mystery of the “New Bedford Highway Killer.” Eleven prostitutes went missing. Nine were found strangled and dumped in the woods. And that it was very possible a local attorney was the killer and actually indicted at one time. He moved to Florida in 1988 and there were no more murders on that stretch of highway since then.

Yes, I might have shared a story or two.

Dear Norah,

I’m very sorry and hope that you realize it’s not New England that’s creepy. Stuff happens everywhere.

It’s just your Mom who is creepy.

Hope I didn’t do too much damage. I’m just thankful that I spent a lot of quality, non-creepy time with you when you were young.

I absolutely loved cuddling up with you at bedtime every evening while reading you many, many wonderful fairy tales. As you peacefully drifted off to sleep.

Like Snow White and her killer stepmother. The orphaned Bambi who yearns for his murdered mother. Three little pigs trying to protect themselves from the wolf who wants to destroy their home. Hansel and Gretel’s great escape from the witch who attempted to burn them alive in an oven. And so many others.

I pray that, in some small way, it makes up for the ghost stories.

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in November. So, of course, I get to thinking about “that day” so many years ago.

It was a very small wedding. Maybe sixty guests. If that.

Many are no longer with us. My next door neighbors, Dot and Eddie and Mr. and Mrs. Thomson. My Auntie Elaine, my Uncle Pat, family friends Danny and Phyllis O’Hara, Frank P., my aunt’s in-laws Jargu and Gram, my beloved Nana, and my best friend’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Amerantes.

All gone.

And my Dad.

I posted this photo on my husband’s Facebook page with the caption, “Papa. Probably thinking, She’s all yours now. Good luck!”

wedding

So after I posted this photo one of my daughters asked me, “Do you still miss Papa?”

I said, “Yes, every day. Today I just wanted to ask him something.”

She asked, “What did you want to ask him?”

I replied, “Something about the family history. He loved that and always had time for me.”

But there are so, so many times when I just want to ask him something.

 

 

 

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This is not my story to tell. Wait a second! Yes, it is. It most definitely is my story to tell.

It’s everyone’s story to tell.

But it wasn’t written by me. This is an article written by Dick Sheridan of the New York Daily News back in 1999.

It is just one more example of why we cannot look the other way when hatred toward a particular group of people is exposed.

It’s about a man named Jack.

Jack’s history, sadly, is not that unique. His experience, although somewhat different from Sam Silberberg’s experience in my last blog posting, is woven with the same sickening threads. The thread of millions.

Why would I want to share one more horrible story of past hatred?

Because I’ve actually met Jack at family functions. My cousin is married to his son.

He exists. His experience is documented.

Imagine, if you will. I know I say this frequently. But we will never understand if we don’t even try to imagine someone else’s situation. Put ourselves in their shoes.

Read the Daily News article below and insert a mental image of yourself in the story or that of a family member. Imagine the fear, horror and hopelessness.

What if it were me? What if this happened to my family? My beloved Dad? My mother and sister?

Jack’s the cutest little old man you’d ever want to meet. Still drives around New York in his itty bitty car. He’s now in his nineties.

He forged ahead and made a life for himself in America. He survived.

Jack’s last line in this article is, “This is the very best country in the world.”

And that is why we confront hatred. So that something this evil doesn’t ever happen again. To you. Or someone you know.

Read Jack’s narrative and remember that this occurred while our parents or (for the younger set) grandparents were alive.

It’s your story to tell. So that it doesn’t ever actually become your story.

A MAN OF GOOD WORKS JACK BETTEIL SAW THE HORRORS, NOW HE SEES THE BEAUTY

BY DICK SHERIDAN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1999, 12:00 AM

Nearly 60 years ago, back when sculptor Jack Betteil of Bayside was just a teenager, he found himself a prisoner of the Nazis in a camp at Plaszow, near his birthplace in Krakow, Poland.

One day, the SS guards delivered a huge pile of clothing that had been stripped off Jews who had been gassed at Auschwitz. The clothing was to be cleaned, sorted and redistributed. “

The pile was two stories high and was made up of all kinds of clothing — children’s shoes, women’s dresses and men’s suits and shirts,” recalled Betteil, who then was known by his Yiddish name, Yankel.

The pile was in the middle of the parade ground, and I went to look at it because my parents and my two sisters were prisoners at Auschwitz.”

Sticking out from among other garments near the bottom of the pile of clothes, Betteil, now 76, saw the sleeve of a green jacket.

““I saw the jacket sleeve and right away I knew it was my father’s” he said.

“It was a bright green, not like any other jacket that people wore at that time.” He dashed past the cordon of guards surrounding the pile and grasped the garment. “

“Three Nazis jumped on me and started to beat me,” he said. “

“They hit me with rubber hoses, leather hoses.””

Betteil, his head and face bloodied, screamed that the jacket belonged to him.

“”The Nazis told me to prove it,”” he said. “

I felt the jacket and found my family’s passports and photos were still in my father’s pocket.”

Maurycy Betteil had been planning to flee Poland with his wife, Roza, eldest daughter, Cesia, youngest daughter, Salusia, and son, Yankel.

But he was too late.

The Nazis locked up all five members of the Betteil family in the Krakow ghetto before packing them off to the camps.

All except young Yankel Betteil went to Auschwitz, where father, mother and 12-year-old daughter Salusia died in the gas chambers.

Yankel Betteil was sent to Plaszow, then on to Mauthausen in Austria, then to Melk and finally to Ebensee on the banks of the Danube. “

“I was a slave laborer and did heavy manual labor in a quarry,”” he said.

In May 1945, after nearly five years in the camps, Betteil was liberated by elements of Gen. George Patton’s Third Army.

““I weighed 80 pounds,”” he said.

Betteil discovered that his older sister, Cesia, also had survived the camps.

In 1947, after spending a year in a displaced persons camp in Italy, he joined her in New York.

“When I first came here, I had a lot of jobs,” said Betteil, who after a while studied electronics at the RCA Institute and opened his own television repair shop on 163rd St. near Bowne Park in Flushing. “

“I had that shop for nearly 40 years,”” he said.

He retired about 10 years ago.

Though he no longer went to synagogue or practiced his faith after his experiences in the camps, Betteil still believed in good works. He began repairing old TV sets in his shop and donated nearly 100 of them to the mental hospital at Creedmoor, near his Bayside home.

““That was before the state installed TVs,”” he said.

Then, about 20 years ago, Betteil took up sculpting.

His works — which share the strong primitive emotion of Grandma Moses’ paintings — have since been exhibited by the Douglaston Art League and the Nassau County Holocaust Museum. Betteil works in wood, stone and copper, carving faces — many of them stern-visaged American Indians. “

“He calls them ‘inmates,’”” explained Helen, his wife of 47 years and the mother of two grown children.

She said her husband’’s doctor suggested that Betteil felt the need to sculpt the faces of Native Americans because they too experienced genocide.

Betteil shrugged. “

“I have insomnia,”” he said. “

“I feel sad.””

Despite the sadness of his memories, however, Betteil has no regrets about his decision to come to America. “

“This is the very best country in the world,”” he said.

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Last Sunday, my older brother and I were driving through the neighborhood where we grew up and Mom still resides.

We were talking about the train tracks along the river and I couldn’t remember when the trains stopped running. I recall sliding down, many a time, the steep hills to the river because that’s where kids played, built forts, caught poison ivy and smoked cigarettes. Boys rode their XR75s on the dirt paths. I certainly remember the tracks and hearing about hobos. But I don’t remember the actual trains.

My brother said they were still running when we were kids. Because he and his friend Billy would put pennies on the tracks so the train would flatten them.

We drove up First Street and we reminisced about who used to live in this house and that one.  When we got to the corner of First and Schuyler my brother pointed at a house and said, “So and so lived there. Always wanted to see if my name is still up there in that tree. Billy and I climbed it and carved our names.”

Billy and my brother grew up together. He died two years ago.

Shortly after he passed away my brothers and I were sharing memories of him on our whatsapp sibling group chat. I was in Malaysia, one brother in Connecticut and the other in Rhode Island.

Even though we were texting, and it was a tragically sad death, we were all literally laughing out loud recalling Billy. He was such a character and truly funny.

It’s odd how sometimes, at this age, we can hardly remember what we had for breakfast but there is such clarity in some memories that are decades old.

My little brother recalled the time that my older brother and Billy were supposed to be watching him. He was about nine or ten at the time so the older boys must have been about fourteen or fifteen. Billy and my brother really wanted to go a nearby Portuguese feast. So they dropped him off at their friend’s house and my little brother was left with the older sisters of people he didn’t even know! My older brother apologized (forty years later) and my younger brother claims he wasn’t scarred for life. Just felt a bit out of his comfort zone.

He also remembers when we would listen to the “crank call” recordings of Billy, my brother and their other friends. I definitely remember them. Because we would listen to them over and over again! Yes, Billy and company taped the actual calls. Even my mom thought they were hysterical.

My younger brother said, “Those tapes were comedy gold.”

He also said that was the very first time he heard the word “verify.”

Monsignor, the unfortunate (but not the only) target of the pranksters, said repeatedly that he did not order the pizza. He suggested that the pizza shop should call back the person to confirm the order.

Billy finished for Monsignor, “You mean to verify?!!??”

Monsignor said, “Yes.”

I remember Billy making me laugh when he was describing the telephone/address book at his house. He said the names were not all properly alphabetized by last name. He said it was so random. Like under the “P” tab it would say “Pat’s friend.”

My younger brother also remembered being on Cookie Hill with his friends. This was a small hill across the street from Billy’s house.

He said, “Billy was walking his dog (Moses) and wrestling around with him. He showed us little kids a peppermint tree. He cut the bark and it smelled exactly like peppermint.”

My older brother said Billy was the only kid that wasn’t afraid of my dad. That’s why my Dad liked him so much. My father probably seemed big and a bit intimidating to little kids back in the day. But not to Billy.

I guess it’s a good thing my dad never found out that my brother and Billy took his car for a little spin around the block.

When we finished up our reminiscing my older brother typed, “Love U both.”

I then typed, “Love U both, too.”

Younger brother types, “Ditto. Watching movie with Patty.”

I’m like, “Write it. U don’t get to say ditto.”

And he said, “I love u both.”

You take a moment and realize life is so very precious. Just like those childhood memories that haven’t faded in forty-five years. Ensuring some people will never be forgotten.

I’ve forgotten the train’s whistle but I remember so much.

 

 

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I received an email from my husband the other day. Most likely from his phone. He is currently living in India while I have been in the U.S. with my daughter for the summer. We were fortunate to see each other for a few days this past July in New York.

The email’s subject was  “Girl Part Needed.”

Ummm, okay.

I was a little taken aback. I know that we have not seen each other in a month and I get that he misses me but he usually verbalizes this and doesn’t ever put anything racy in writing. He knows the woman he married–I am a bit conservative when it comes to that sort of thing.

Then I see the three accompanying links and I am afraid to click on them.

I shouldn’t have worried.

The three links were for grill parts. He wanted me to order them and bring them to India. So that we can barbecue when I finally arrive in India.

I should have known.

#autocorrect

 

 

 

 

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Good Health

When I was a young girl I would ask my father, “Dad, what do you want for your birthday?”

“Dad, what do you want for Father’s Day?”

“What would you like for Christmas?”

He would always, always say, “My health.”

I probably did an eye roll. What that even a thing back then?

Was hoping he would make my shopping easier. Because we are conditioned. We need to buy people presents on these special days. Would be nice if we had a clue as to what was wanted or needed.

He always meant it. He was nothing if not sincere.

Now I  am older. And Dad is gone.

If you asked me today, “Mary, what do you want for Mother’s Day? Christmas?”

I would say, “My health. The health of my family and friends.”

That’s all I want. That’s all I need.

Nothing else matters.

We don’t need to buy anything.

Some things just can’t be bought.

 

 

 

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