Wednesday, May 19, 2021


Given that my mother had five brothers and my father fractions 

of siblings you would think I’d have had cousins by the dozens. I 

probably do but I’ve never met them.

My mother created a mystery in our family by not speaking to 

her brothers in those years of my growing up. Not Harry or 

Irving or Mickey, Sammy or Nat. It has left me wondering what 

sort of treachery those guys were up to. Did they put a 


in her porridge? Or dip her pigtails in the inkwell of life?

In fact, I have a fuzzy memory of my grandma and grandpa 

living with us when I was about five years old. My theory is 

when they died, my mother paid for the tombstone and her 

brothers-five never came through with their share. My mother 

was not one to let go of a grudge.

Whatever damage those nasty brothers did, my mother went 

through life in combat mode with a tongue sharp as a bayonet. 

She stabbed the butcher with his finger of the scale. She pierced 

the vitals of the super when he held back on the heat coming 

through the radiator. She damned the neighbors and cursed God 

for God knows what. Yet behind all that was the fear of a little 

girl which I attribute to Harry, Irving etc… A simple case of post 

traumatic familial syndrome.

My father was the Nobel Peace Prize winner of the family 

system. Destitution of his early years somehow got translated 

into equanimity. When I say fractions of brothers and sisters, I 

refer to his three half-brothers and one half-sister from a father 

who had gave him up to be raised by an aunt and uncle and then 

went on to have 4 more children all raised in an orphanage.

I shouldn’t put all the blame on my absent cousins. I left New 

York at age 21 and settled in Los Angeles. I sought the seclusion 

that a cabin grants…away from my sisters and my cousins and my 

aunts…… paraphrase G&S’s HMS Pinafore. I made no 

effort to seek them out nor did they. I wonder if they hold 

annual cousin gatherings with an empty chair set aside for me to 

come busting up through the cake.

It’s been a cousin-less life for me except for one. Irving’s 

daughter Mildred holds a special place though I have only a 

picture of her with my brother, and me off to the side, around 

age five. They were both about four years older than I. 

Mildred famously did not marry. When I got up the nerve to call 

my aunt Anna about thirty years ago to inquire about a possible 

blight in the family tree I asked about Cousin Mildred. You 

know, Anna said, she never got married. And so, Mildred was 

henceforth to be known as Mildred-Who-Never-Got Married

Good for you, Cuz. You answered your own drummer.

The road to cousinhood may be a happy union. John and Abigail 

Adams were 3rd cousins. Obama is cousin to six other 


On the other hand, monarchs in England, Germany and Russia 

were cousins whose family squabble killed over twenty million in 

World War One. I might be better off going it alone.




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