Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wednesday July 23

I had supper with sister
Clara, and after a visit
to sister Nettie I spent
the rest of the eve. at home


For those of you just joining us, Clara and Nettie are two of Papa's five sisters, and lived near his Attorney Street apartment on the Lower East Side. His other three sisters, Ettel, Gitel and Fule, plus his only brother, Isaac, still lived back in Papa's Austro-Hungarian home town of Sniatyn.

Clara and Nettie never got along too well, so Papa rarely saw both of them at the same time even though they all lived near each other. Both sisters had relatively newborn babies for Papa to play with. Clara's son, Julius, was born on May 28th, surprising Papa with his early arrival. Still, the circumstances surrounding the May 20th birth of Nettie's son were far more unusual: When Papa wired home news of the birth, the response he received informed him that his own father had just died. Papa and Clara, now in mourning, kept the news from Nettie during her 10-day postpartum hospital stay. They didn't even tell her the news when their mother requested that the baby be named Josele after their father, whose name was Joseph. (Jews traditionally don't name their children after the living.)

Papa's reputation among my family's younger generations was stellar -- he impressed us all with his gentle, comforting vibe, born in part, no doubt, of the genuine pleasure he felt to see his family well-established in his adopted country. Still, I wonder if Papa found it hard to be around Josele since he was tied so closely to Papa's father's death, or if, especially in 1924 when the wound was still raw, Papa's behavior and countenance darkened ever so slightly when he visited Nettie.


My mother adds:

I think Papa was able to keep these things separate. He loved all his nieces and nephews very much, and was very devoted to Aunt Nettie, especially since she had such an unhappy life.

I never saw his face darken, except for the bad news during and after WW2 and anything unfavorable to Israel.

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