This Will Make Your Head Spin

Yesterday I finally solved the mystery of Dad’s cousin, I.J. (Izzy) Wagner, who was one of the most influential men in Utah. You may recall that I wrote about him three years ago. (Wow People I have Met) I have been trying to figure out the connection between our two families on and off for years and am thrilled to have finally unraveled the pieces. I realize it is an eye-rolling event for anyone but me and possibly other genealogy addicts, but nevertheless, I wanted to share my news.

The key was Dad’s extensive family in Boston, a fact that was news to Dad when I told him that his paternal great-great grandparents resided in the capital city of Massachusetts. That grandfather was a man named Harris Wolfson, who came to America from Russia in 1900 along with his wife and five children. He became a teacher of Hebrew. Dad’s grandfather, Misha, was Harris’ grandson.

I learned that cousin Izzy was the son of a man named Harry Wagner who also immigrated to Boston from Russia, so I focused on that family. Izzy’s mother’s obituary told me that her mother was a woman named Leona Wolfson, so I believed the Wolfson family was the key. (Izzy’s mother was named Rose.)

It was not until yesterday that the case broke wide open when I examined the ship’s record for Rose’s brother-in-law Abraham and learned that Abraham was heading to the home of Grandpa Harris, his wife’s uncle. This (along with many other minor details) confirmed that Grandpa Harris was the brother of cousin Izzy’s grandmother, Great-Great-Great Aunt Leona Wolfson.) Are you dizzy yet? As confusing as this appears, I have actually simplified all the dots that I connected.

I know, I know, who cares! But I am thrilled that I solved my human crossword puzzle, and you should again be warned that I am relentless in my search for answers. I can eventually find almost everyone, so I guess when I said in my high school directory that I was a private investigator, I was really not lying.

Perhaps I should have been sent to the Ukraine to help untangle the web of deceit that is being uncovered in the impeachment investigation.

P.S. Izzy is Dad’s 2nd cousin twice removed.

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Letting Go

Daddy got a surprise call today from the new “father” of his baby yesterday, and he was so excited to learn about what had happened since that child left us over five years ago. He had not had any contact since last seeing her. I know that seems unusual. They parted ways on good terms.

I remember the day we said goodbye. It was a cold day in February, and there were remnants of snow on the ground, which is quite rare here in South Carolina. We both watched as she pulled out of our driveway and we waved so long.

I know how difficult it was for Dad to let go, but it was time. After all, his baby was twenty-seven years old. Still, it is always difficult to watch our babies leave.

But Dad was happy to learn that his baby had been well-cared for and had actually garnered some fame in her new life—even appearing on a poster among her peers. She even had an encounter with Jerry Seinfeld out in California where she now lives.

I think Dad felt a sense of closure now knowing what had happened to his baby. She is moving on again and he asked that he be kept in the loop during the next chapter of her life.

Here is a photo as she looked when we last saw her.

Be Patient and Go With the Flow

Dad and I stopped by Sam’s Club today to pick up four items: Cashews, pretzels, English muffins, and a package of “Fiber One Oats and Chocolate Chewy Bars.”

It should have been a quick easy-in, easy-out, but that’s not how it went down.

The first stop was the bread aisle, and while Dad was looking for the muffins, I strolled by the wine aisle looking to see if they carried one of my new favorite Cabernets. They did not, so I headed off to see how Dad was doing.

I found him enjoying a few bites of cheesecake—just like Grandma used to make. As a matter of fact, when I told the nice Sam’s club woman handing out the samples that it tasted like my mom’s, she told me it was called “New York Cheesecake.” I explained that my mother lives in New Jersey, so perhaps they should change the name to “New Jersey Cheesecake.”

Dad took the opportunity to inform her how I had made him a pineapple-topped cheesecake on our first Valentine’s Day and then followed up by commenting that he believed that I had not made him another one since. (I am not sure if that is a fact-based statement.) This conversation was not part of the quick in-and-out plan, but nevertheless, it was a pleasant interlude.  We were not in a rush.

Next, Dad insisted on stopping by the frozen food department, which I knew was a waste of time. He has been in denial regarding the discontinuance of our favorite egg rolls because he cannot face the truth that they will never return. I silently thought, “I told you so,”  when it was apparent that they were still gone, but I kept those thoughts to myself because I am such a nice wife.

We moved onto the granola aisle to pick up the chewy bars, but they were gone, so we headed off to the snack aisle, where the “Fiber One Chocolate Brownies” are located. We picked up the box of pretzels and cashews, but had no luck in locating the chewy bars. Dad was getting mad, so we discussed renouncing our Sam’s Club Membership in favor of one at Costco even though Sam’s Club is geographically much better.

Dad decided to give them another chance, so he went off to have a chat with Customer Service. After quite a wait, he appeared with an employee who brought him back to the two places we had already visited. The two of them appeared to be having a good time. Dad told her it was his belief that they kept moving their merchandise both to give their shoppers a workout and to make them spend more money by lingering in the store for a longer period of time.

After coming up empty handed, they headed over to the computer, where they learned that the bars were in the building. They needed to head over to aisle 21 and look up. Sure enough, there they were all bundled up in a tower of about 50 boxes of chewy bars.

Dad offered to pull one off the bottom of the stack, and I must admit I had visions of them all tumbling down on top of him. (Concussion by chewy bars.) Fortunately nothing happened, but I told him not to press his luck by trying to grab another box. Incidentally, there are now six less bars in a box for the same price. Like the shrinking of ice cream and orange juice packages, do they really think we don’t notice?

                               

So our trip to Sam’s Club was a much longer endeavor than we had planned, but Dad seemed to have had such a good time on his “Where’s Waldo” hunt. He was enjoying himself so much so that I almost expected that he was going to invite the Sam’s Club employee to dinner.

Sometimes you just need to go with the flow rather than getting all bent out of shape when your plans are changed by circumstances beyond your control.

 

The Deal

Last weekend was sleepover night at Grandma and Bampa’s house. The highlights were the making of the mac and cheese and taking a bubble bath in the big tub with the jets, which create and maintain amazing bubbles.

After all the fun and merriment was over, Dad had a serious conversation with Bryce involving the future and golf. Dad asked Bryce if he would take care of him someday.

“Will you drive me around the golf course?”

“I need to be sixteen,” Bryce correctly told Dad.

Bampa explained that in ten years, Bryce will be driving and Dad will be seventy-six, so that would be a good time to be chauffeured around the golf course.

“You will be hitting the ball farther away than your daddy does now.”

Bryce found that difficult to believe, telling Dad that “Daddy hits really far.”

I do not believe that his daddy began his golf career at the age of five. Father and son need to have a contest at the driving range ten years from now. I will be the judge.

Planting Through the Years

I was given a very unique gift from Aunt Linda. It is a cutting from a plant which has been passed down from her grandmother to her mother and now to Dad and me. I feel a mixture of honor and panic because I do not have the best track record when it comes to house plants. Remember how I killed the plant that our friend Margaret gave me, which was so upsetting because it was my one living link to her after her death?

A little research has calmed my fears. Apparently, this particular plant is one of the easiest plants to care for and can actually “be neglected for weeks at time.” Now that is my kind of plant! It can allegedly survive low light, insect attacks, draught, famine and alien attacks.

The proper name is a Sansevieria, which I prefer to its more commonly known name—Snake Plant. Sansevieria has a classier sound and does not bring me back to the boa constrictor incident in third grade nor the images of a poisonous snake slivering toward my house from the pond behind us.

Still, this sounds like a plant I may not kill and it has now survived 3 generations. I will keep my fingers crossed.

They Died During the Holocaust

Last year I wrote about Dad’s mysterious grandfather, Leon. I am happy to report that I have made a lot of headway regarding what happened to him and his family thanks to a cousin who contacted me after locating Dad’s family tree on Ancestry.com.

I learned that Grandpa Leon was the youngest of at least four children. Two of his siblings as well as their spouses and children all died during the Holocaust, presumably in the gas chambers. A brother, David, died in what Dad’s cousin referred to as “hand-to-hand combat with the Nazis.” There is so much tragedy in Dad’s family.

Dad knew his grandmother—a woman named Anna Schussheim. She died when he was a young boy and lived not far from his family in New York. Anna and Leo were divorced sometime after 1940 and he was never part of the family after that.

According to Dad’s new relative, Leo remarried and Leo’s death certificate (Yes, girls, I collect death certificates!) stated that he remarried a woman named Manya. So not only did he have an elusive grandfather, he also had a secret step-grandmother.

A mysterious fact regarding Leon is that his last name, Schindler, was the maiden name of his mother. Why did he not take the name of his father like his other four siblings? Perhaps we will never know, or maybe Dad’s cousin will have an answer one day.

Little by little I am knocking down his family brick walls.

Check out the testimony of Dad’s great uncle regarding what happened to his daughter Sofia.

I Gotta be a Macho Man

Another day, another song, another memory. Today a song came on the radio and I immediately thought of your grandfather—the grandfather you never knew—and I chuckled.

Your grandfather was a smart man, and like your father, he was a technical guy. After graduating from the Bronx School of Science where he was a star student in the first Electronics Industry Association-sponsored advanced television course, he went to work as a television repairman. At that time, the number of televisions in American homes was measured in the thousands rather than the millions, so he was ahead of his time.

He had a television repair shop in a very rough area of the Bronx where it was common for merchants to have guns for protection. Apparently, your grandfather was so anti-gun that Dad thinks he would be a proponent for the repeal of the infamous Second Amendment if he were alive today. Clearly, he would be appalled at what is happening these days in our country.

He received a degree from NYU in Industrial Education, so he move from being a business owner to an educator, teaching courses such as electrical shop and drafting. Eventually your grandfather headed a program of occupational education courses for the developmentally handicapped where he prepared these students to enter the workforce. He secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to support these programs. Both young people and adults benefited from his work in training them in the areas of health education, auto mechanics, and office occupations.

So dedicated was your grandfather that he continued to work until the week before his death. Wow! I knew little of this man. Instead, I knew a man who loved to eat, loved to tell loud jokes, and loved to eat sushi, which was one of his last meals. Dad left his hospital bed to bring him some of his favorite rolls.

Why did I think of your grandfather yesterday? During a news cycle when we heard of yet another mass school shooting and I was feeling rather bummed out, a song made me think of him. For a moment, I forgot about the disturbing news and I smiled.

Your grandfather loved the Village People, especially “YMCA” and “Macho Man.” It has been thirty-seven years ago this month that he was singing about the fun he had staying at the YMCA.