Ancestors and Our Debt to Them

As the 2021 Holiday Season is now upon us, I find myself contemplative yet again. Looking back on a life well lived, full of joys and sorrows, love in many forms, thinking on what we r grateful for, and what is that which elicits tears, still. I am dedicating this essay to my ancestors, who have been gone from this Earthly realm some years now, and one last of that generation who died in 2020, as the Pandemic raged worldwide. Tho Aunt Marilyn was a sprightly age of 93 at her passing, the last day of May 2020, I felt a large weight of it, that event, as she was the last of that generation in our family. My last aunt, even tho she was not my blood, but by marriage, still that counts too. I have not seen my cousins, my only two 1st cousins since her funeral, in June 2020, but now we will gather again for Thanksgiving 2021, in West Orange, NJ, maybe one of the last times, because the selling of that house is on the docket by now…waiting for other life events like college graduation ceremonies, and gainful employment by the next generation, represented by Robert & Julianne Newman. There r others of course, but for the Newmans, this is it. And the younger Newmans r well on their way to bright futures, w careers in STEM beckoning, and also good fortune from those who came before. The house is not 4 sale yet, but we can see a day when it will be. And then, NJ will be no more, but instead FL probably. I stay in NY because my people r my close friends, and they r all centered around here, still. They have become my substitute family. I drive near and far to reach them. Good thing for a reliable set of wheels.

This Christmas is 11 years ago that my father died. He was a complicated father, w being the runt of the litter, so to speak, the youngest of 3 brothers. He was less fortunate w regard to his attainments educationally, and was pressured to be silent about his homosexuality. In the times of his life, u had to hide it, or else bring shame upon oneself or one’s family also. He died in 2010, some 5 years before the USA went all states legal for gay marriage. He was given only one option: marry a woman or else be single for life. And any man will tell u that a life w no sex is not much of a life! So he was quite in a pickle to discern these choices, as the one he wanted most wasn’t an option. Thus he married my mother in 1963, and the next year I was born. I was the only fruit of their union, which lasted a long 16 years of marriage. They were not good for each other in so many ways, but my mother also had no real options to escape her overly restrictive parents either. And when u r aged 27 and still living w your parents at home, u r pretty much at the end of your tolerance rope. In those days, an unmarried woman at 27 was called an old maid even, as in past hope of getting a husband, which was the end all and be all for young women in the 1960’s. And so, both under significant pressures, they deigned to marry, and have a child, which was very important in their joint Jewish culture also. My mother has passed from this existence in 2014, some 7 years ago now. She had a rough life overall, but there were some compensating attributes, and she was very grateful for having me, at least. And she was also reunited w her 1st born daughter, named Karen Fischler, through some very complex NY laws w social workers, adoption agencies, and they had a relationship from February 2006 until her death, some 8 years and 8 months later. Both of us were grateful for this reunification, as it was a life wish, to know what happened to this little girl given up at birth, in 1957. And so we found out, which is wonderful! Even if my half sister and I r hardly in touch anymore, I am grateful still, for this answer, and the relationship, however it remains to this day.

Going further back to my mother’s parents, who lived in the Bronx and Jersey City NJ for most of their lives, grandpa Harold was a men’s wear salesman, and amazingly, this was sufficient to support a family of 3 in an apartment, even tho it was not much of a career as that is understood today. Grandma Esther was a cook, a homemaker, a person w many talents, a baker, one who knitted and crocheted sweaters and booties for your feet…and her cooking is my inspiration to this day! My mother never took to it, but I was impressed and wanted to learn. And so, when I did Thanksgiving for my family and some friends here in 2015, I was grateful for her example. She was the essential ingredient to my being able to pull it off, for 9 people, even in an apartment. And I used my heirloom sterling silverware 4 it too, service for 12 it is. From Grandma Esther, who had it as a gift from her mother, great grandmother Fanny Krieger, of London. I have pictures all over my house of the ancestors. And I get some strange spiritual visits from the departed too, which is comforting to me, when it happens.

And on my father’s side, he had those two brothers, named Sidney and Robert, both older than he was. Robert married Marilyn and had 2 sons, my only two 1st cousins: Mark & Glenn. Glenn married Maria Grella and they begat Robert & Julianne, who r now in their 20’s. And we r the elders now: yikes! Top of the aged pyramid, w gray hair and wrinkles showing up in various combinations, even tho we r prone to dye our hair, and do other things to diminish these signs of aging. We refuse to accept senescence. Nope, not for a long time, so we r active, and resistant. We r Baby Boomers, all born between 1946-1964, tho not too old yet. Still some kick in these bones, and drive.

And further back, there were our grandparents Herman & Frieda Margolies, who became the Newmans. Herman made a point of consideration 4 me, upon my birth, to establish an account for my educational expenses, right then and there, in 1964, even tho it would go unused until I turned age 18, a full year into my college years, as I entered at age 17. And once that was done, sadly, Herman died, right then in June 1964. So I never knew him, but I was impressed that he would do this 4 me, just a newborn at the time. Grandma Frieda had a relationship w me until I was 8 years old, when she was stricken w a major stroke, and lived another 5 years after that event. I cringe at her suffering, even now, in memory. I went to visit her in a nursing home many times, and all she did was cry. I pray that her fate will not be my own, as I lead a kind life 4 others. I think that doing good 4 people taps into karma, and what u put out comes back 2 u, at least tenfold. At least that is what I tell myself, and I believe. So I do good 4 others, who r not my family for the most part, but rather, my adopted family of close friends. They have not been as fortunate as I have been, so I try to equal the life score, at least a little.

And cousin Bill Michelson will also be at Thanksgiving, a 2nd cousin to me, Mark & Glenn, as his grandmother Rebecca was a sister to our grandmother Frieda. And Bill has a prodigious memory of the family tree, so I am indebted to him for spelling it out for me, in a Thanksgiving past, on a simple page of computer paper, handwritten, which puts our roots further back than simply the grandparents that I had direct knowledge of. And now, some of us r even on, having given in to the genetic matching up, which had been resisted up until recently. I found some friends of mine even have some DNA in common w me, to call them distant cousins, or 4th cousins, 5th’s etc. I have a lot of cousins! So we can go further back, thanks to Bill.

And I have even met some of my 1503 cousins, tho admittedly, many simply have no interest. But one of them is a great one, who I keep in touch with, and even visit periodically. His name is Marc Juba, and he lives in Columbia, Maryland, and he is from my mother’s side, a third cousin to be exact, but I feel a kinship w him too. Very grateful for those genetic studies!

As any family has many many branches, I could go on and on, but why would that be interesting for my blog readers? Nope, not enough fun here, as I have purposely omitted the real meat & potatoes of scandals and deceit, murder & mayhem! I’m kidding. We r mostly good people as a group. We believe that u get back what u dole out, so…no AR-15’s here, no marauding, no salacious gossip. I know when to keep my trap shut. I did get myself an education, after all, and that too was thanks to my ancestors. I am truly grateful overall. And I can cook too! There’s way more than what u see in the pictures, and we r worth a 2nd look. Yup.

l-r: Robert, Julianne, Maria, Marsha, Glenn, Mark & Marilyn Newman, at my home.
Sam Bergner w Fanny Krieger, my great grandparents, w their 1st 2 daughters: Blanche & Esther, who was my grandmother.
Me, half sister Karen Fischler and mama Harriett Newman
Esther, Harold & Harriett, my grandparents and mother
Frieda Margolies & Herman Newman, my grandparents
My parents Gerald & Harriett w Harold & Esther, grandparents, plus aunts, uncles & cousins from maternal side; my parents w cousin Mark at age 13 is the 1st pic.