Whatever Happened to Grandpa Leon?

I have told you what little I know about Dad’s father’s grandparents, so now it’s time to fill you in on Grandma Rita. You all knew her for just a few years because she died in 1993, before any of you really got to know her. Her family has some mystery to it, and the biggest mystery is regarding her father—Leon Schindler (like the list).

Leon and Dad’s grandmother, Anna Schussheim, came to America in 1923, within just one month of Dad’s other grandparents, Misha and Esther. Both sets of grandparents lived within forty miles of one another in the same area of Poland.

Like Dad’s grandparents, Misha and Esther, Leon and Anna did not come here with the intent to settle in New York City. According to their record from Ellis Island, their final destination was Cleveland, Ohio, which was the home of Anna’s older brother Elias, who was known in America as Elmer. I have no evidence that they ever went to Cleveland but settled instead in Brooklyn before moving to the Bronx, where Grandpa Leon was employed as a knitter.

Because of the change in plans of both sets of grandparents, the four of them settled literally around the corner from each other—0.2 mile apart. I just love these stories about how people end up together because of random decisions that places them on a collision course with destiny. Your lives depended on that change of plans.

So did Anna ever see her brother again? Did Dad’s mother know that her Uncle Elmer died in Miami, where his family went every Christmas to visit his other grandparents?

Dad knows so little about Leon because his mother never talked about him. She was angry because he left the family when Grandma Rita was very young—sometime around the age of twelve. Leon is the mystery. I cannot find him after the 1940 census. He has not appeared in the World War II draft records, any local directories, naturalization records, or any news articles. He just disappeared.

Because he is Dad’s grandfather, not just a random cousin three times removed, I am determined to solve the mystery of Grandpa Leon. My first idea is to check on a Leon Schindler who died in 1962 in New York—just a year after Anna. I want to order the death certificate, and see if it is him.

Anna’s family, on the other hand, is not so mysterious. That is a very sad, but not secret story. Many of Anna’s relatives were victims of the Holocaust, but that is a tale for another day.

Shoe Shopping Now and Then

When the days grew closer to my hip-replacement surgery, I did a lot of research regarding what I needed to have on hand post-op. I borrowed a special chair for the shower, a raised seat with handles for the bathroom, a walker, and a cane. I bought new pj’s, including a nightgown in case I did not want anything touching the site of the scar, as well as some loose-fitting pajamas for lounging around the house. I got an additional pair of nice sweats for company along with something to wear out to lunch. I even purchased a pair of slip-on sneakers/tennis shoes in a larger size, which turned out to be a good idea because my foot did swell in the beginning. However, I never considered what I would wear once the weather got warmer.

Last week Dad took me shoe shopping (I am not cleared to drive yet), with the goal being locating a pair of light-weight sneakers along with sandals without a thong thingy dingy doohickey between the toes.  (This was not easy to find.) I knew none of my sandals would have the support I would need as I learned to walk again, and the long-range forecast showed it would be shorts/capris time within a few days.

As I walked through two different shoe stores, I was reminded of how different it was to purchase footwear now compared to my childhood days. Shopping nowadays involved walking through many aisles, which were filled with boxes upon boxes of shoes, until I located a style in my size, or if I had gone to Belk, the salesperson would have retrieved the boxes for me.

In either case, the next step was the same. I could not believe how much crap is shoved inside a pair of new shoes! Before placing a shoe on my foot, I had to first go through a multi-step crap-removal process.

The first step involved removing the shoes from a plastic bag, then extracting a damn piece of plastic which was tightly wedged into the shoe up to the toe, and finally, I had to pull out a foot-shaped scrap of cardboard stuck underneath the plastic. By then I wanted to go home! Thats when I was transformed back to the good old days of yore.

As a child, there were several places Grandma brought us for shoes. One was a place called Zandel’s, which was near the State Theater in Boonton, another was in Parsippany, located where Home Goods is now, and the third was located in Morristown, which I believe I went to when I was very young and had some sort of foot problem which required specialized shoes.

In all of those stores, I would sit in a chair and wait for the nice salesman to come to our assistance. First he would ask me to stand on a contraption to determine my shoe size. (Note that I said salesman, because back in the day, it was never a saleswoman.)


Then after retrieving the shoes himself, he would then return from his little shoe warehouse and removed them from the box while I would sit idly by like a princess. Next, he would sit on a special stool, which was designed with an inclined area for me to place my foot so the salesman could place the shoe on my feet—Prince Charming style.


Grandma would then tell me to walk around the store to ensure that they were comfortable, and then she would pay for my new shoes. There was no work involved on our part–none, nada, zilch, nothing! In the modern world, we have no Prince Charming placing our glass slippers on our feet. We are on our own now. Those were the days my friends!

Bionic Mommy

I’m back! It’s been two weeks since I became a bionic woman after having received my new right hip. Clearly, since I am writing this, my fear that I would not awaken did not happen. But there was a moment, while I was in the twilight zone between my anesthesia-induced sleep and complete alertness, when I wondered if I was sitting outside the pearly gates. I recall hearing my name being spoken by several strangers looking down at me from above, but I do know they were not attired in white, nor did they have horns protruding from their heads.

Fortunately, I was not a patient at the hospital where I was born, because Uncle Jim informed me that when Grandma had once been a patient there, she woke up to harp music in the recovery room. While I do enjoy the peaceful sounds flowing from the strings of a harp, everyone knows the music of heaven originates from harps. Sometimes it could be a trumpet heralding the arrival a new resident, but never a clarinet or violin. If you doubt me, check out exhibit A: Music for Hearts to Heal By Notice that the harpist was wearing white!!!)

I’d like to move on to another important topic, which came to my attention on Sunday courtesy of Aunt Ar. As you probably all know, Aunt El does not wish to be buried, cremated, frozen for later use, launched into space, made into an eternal reef, composted into fertilizer, entumbed into a tree trunk or branch, or donated to science. Instead, she would like to be turned into a human diamond, which can be worn around someone’s neck (Aunt Ar volunteered explaining to me that she thought it would be a great source of conversation: “Where did you get that beautiful necklace?”  “Oh, this? It’s my sister Ellen.”)

Aunt Ar found an alternative to the diamond necklace, which I kind of like as an addition to sprinkling my ashes at Ellis Island, the Boonton falls, possibly snuck into the cemetery at night near the family, and on Kiawah Island.

For a lot less money than the diamond necklace, I could be incorporated into a lovely piece of art. At a cost of only $145, each of you could display me on a shelf in your home. What are your thoughts? Turn Your Ashes into Art.


The Time is Almost Here

In just a few days I am undergoing my hip replacement surgery.  I have been feeling quite anxious. I joined two Facebook hip replacement support groups, and reading the experiences of others who have already undergone the surgery has been helpful. I went to the group as an observer and posted nothing until Sunday, after learning of the tragic death of Bill Paxton from “complications due to surgery.” That did it, so I expressed my fears to one of the groups.

 I have been very worried about my upcoming surgery on March 6. My first worry is silly I know. I fear that I will not wake up and I have concerns about the epidural (3 children, all without it). Then today I hear of the tragic death of Bill Paxton. I feel sad for him and his family, and selfishly, think that this confirms my worst fears. Breathe in, breathe out. I need to calm down.

 The responses were great, and in some cases, quite amusing. First it was pointed out that he was having heart surgery, which I already knew since I immediately turned to Google to learn what type of surgery Paxton had. Someone else threw out a lot of statistics, which as a math person, were helpful.

Deaths from hip replacement surgery were almost cut in half during an eight-year period in England and Wales, according to a new study published recently in The Lancet. The study authors report the drop is mainly due to four factors – the way the surgery is performed, choice of anesthesia and two methods of preventing blood clots – all of which are used in the United States, too. The percentage is 0.4 deaths out of 400,000

 So many of the respondents had the same worries as me. Then a women chimed in with two comments which could have come from me.

I was scared to death of being put under. I literally prepared everything and everyone for my death! Six major surgeries since and I’m a lot more at ease. I still make those phone calls to my daughter to remind her of where all the important papers are and clean my house. Because God forbid I die and everyone judges me because the carpet wasn’t vacuumed.

 Yes, yes, yes! I have been doing a lot more cleaning than usual. I know someone will come to the house for physical therapy, and I may have some visitors. Poor Dad. I am getting the house in shape, and he must keep it up to my standards.  I told that woman about a conversation I had with Casey on Sunday.

You sound like me. I write a blog, and I just reminded my daughter of a category called Eulogy/Funeral– just in case. I could hear her eyes rolling from her home in Maryland to mine in South Carolina. Plus, I do feel the need to clean, just in case!

 When I saw her response, I thought, “Hurray! I am not the only one with a funeral playlist! (See Roll Your Eyes and Snicker.)

My daughter says, “I KNOW MOM!!” but I make her listen anyway. My friends all have the task of what music to play at my funeral! Ha ha and what is really wrong with making sure my family has clean sheets on the bed when they arrive to attend my funeral??

I feel better. I know I am being a drama queen, but you know, isn’t it finally my time to be elevated to this level of royalty? I have spent years being a mother of girls who have, on occasion, been dramatic. Everything will be fine, I know. But if not, read my blog and call my cousin Ellen.