More likely it happened in Minnesota than on Mount Sinai that there was this enormous oak tree. A man who never knew any of us cut it down with a couple of saws and an ax. I’d like to posit that his wife helped—mainly because the women in our family are monsters, so why not this one—and, anyway, when the tree at last fell, it made the sound of a hundred women in labor. Afterwards, when the earth where it lay stopped trembling, there occurred a stillness, the kind you see in picture postcards of places where large numbers of people were massacred and nothing grows any longer. If you were to have visited the dead oak, you might have felt a vibration, depending upon your sensitivities and your beliefs. I’ve recently experienced that unearthly sensation when a group of centenarians was leveled, uprooted actually, the bunch of them oaks, because they’d been planted in the spot of a future swimming pool not too far from where I live on Long Island. They were put through a mechanical shredder that rendered them into chips and filings. But this particular tree, the one in Minnesota, was going to the wood butcher, and its lumber would be molded by many hands, some of which would cradle the wood with the kind of consideration if not awe given to a newborn’s extremities. The fingers that would caress the grain would care about its fate. All this cannot be missed by someone who sits in the chair that had come to be made of the tree, certainly not someone sensitive, willing to stretch her beliefs to that end.
Where exactly the tree stood, I don’t know, only that it no longer stands. Rather, it rocks, about thirty-two miles east of where it may have first rocked itself with the help of my great grandfather, the tailor, who like me, found it the most comfortable place in the world to park one’s backside. My grandmother, his daughter, called it your backside only sometimes. Most times it was tuchus, the word she used.
This grandmother, my father’s mother, was the only living grandparent in our lives.
When she died, I was given her ring, and it is the only ring that I wear.
I was forty-six when I was pregnant with my second child, who happened to be a girl, and I planned to name my daughter after her.
My grandmother had this passel of sisters—three who were older, all of them thick and large-breasted, but she was the shortest, probably petite as an adolescent, and very beautiful. I knew them as Birdy and Lillie and Ray—well, not actually, but in my mind, those were the names; that’s how they pronounced them, and half the time they were talking in Yiddish. When I looked at the family tree, I saw the “Rachel,” and thought—who was that? And “Lillian” and “Bertha.” Only my grandmother, “Esther,” kept her name. The youngest of the sisters, “Lena,” was actually “Leah.”
The name changing in a family is also something that demands explanation, for example, on the other side of the family, my mother’s side, was my Aunt Lois, who, at nine-five, was the most long-lasting member—she was my mother’s sister in law. Only there, at her memorial, did I discover that she’d changed her name from “Lucille.” And my own mother, “Sonia” was known as “Sussy.” But there was no smaller name for my grandmother, whose name, Esther, came from the biblical book of the same name and whose pureness of soul became associated with her beauty. My own beautiful, industrious grandmother knitted sweaters, blankets, hats, mittens, and I suspect her sisters did as well for their grandchildren—although Lena never married, because, as the story goes, the man she loved was not Jewish. Her booby prize was that she got to claim she was the youngest, bumping brother Herman from that place. As for the chair, it was large enough for three of us to sit on at once, three tuchuses.
Tuchus was among those words that would make me want to wretch when I was a little older, when the guttural cadences of Yiddish would mix with that other awareness, and between Judaism and sexuality, would so turn the tables that this thing of joy, which we could call my heritage, would become as suspect as my body in full sexual regalia.
As if it were a betrayal. Judaism, childhood.
My great grandfather was a rabbi, along with being a tailor. Like the patriarch of the Jews, his name was Abraham, and his wife was named Sarah. She bore him those five girls, and then a boy came. And I imagine this patriarch deep in thought, sitting there, in the huge well of its seat, long after dinner was over, his reddened hands, dotted with the languages of needles and pins and thread pulled tight, clasping his prayer book, his lips moving, his soul soundlessly entreating for the long life of his daughters and the success of his only son.
How it is that my grandmother got the chair, rather than any of her sisters, not to mention the crown jewel of a son who went on to make a name for the family and then to disgrace the very name he made, I don’t know. We won’t talk about what he reputedly did with certain funds. The point is he died, leaving his childless widow, who had her handful of millions to disperse, and my family was not destined to get a drop of it because of something my father allegedly did that he claimed he didn’t do.
I have no love for the money left by the contemptuous dead or their wives, but I am grateful for the chair presently in my possession. When I first met the chair, it was painted black, all of it, lions’ heads and claws and all of its flowery embellishments—a thick, dull black that made it seem all the more huge. As mentioned, it was big enough to fit the tuchuses of all three of us girls, big enough so that my hands could barely reach both armrests at the same time, and I would sail from one side to the other and squeal as I rocked in my grandmother’s apartment on Mapes Avenue in Newark, where the rocker lived for a gloriously happy time in my little life.
If only the inanimate objects could write history, but their lips are sealed. They hold the past just as we do. We’re all books in the making. It’s as if the past is written somewhere, but it’s in a different language. My father held that every sound that was ever made is still in the air-waves. We could retrieve them, he said. If we only know how.
But those names: Mapes, Goldsmith, Lyons. Like the names of her sisters: Birdy, Ray, Lily—those of the older sisters, to whom my grandmother wrote letters—and such beautiful script she had, full of loops but with an elegance that I could not copy. I could more easily copy my mother’s script, which was uniform, and she showed me how to lock her fist in order to control the pen. If I could not master it, I could approximate my mother’s, but my grandmother’s handwriting was art. When I say these names, the names of her sisters, I immediately see the faces; they are wide-cheeked, wide-necked, with thick, strong arms for carrying children. And I hear my grandmother say—the affection embedded in her speech: “My sister Lillie…my sister Berty…my sister Ray.” These names, those inflected sounds, were sacred to me, as were the names of the streets my grandmother lived on. Mapes, Goldsmith, Lyons. And I’d hear them in my father’s mouth, too. And as my grandmother is gone, so is my father, so are those sounds. I remember them, though, mainly in my father’s voice, his Jersey way of saving “Avenue,” with the flat “a”–. And instead of the streets, what I see are the houses, I see the stairs, and I see them all mixed up, now, trying to separate one from the other, which is nearly impossible. They were three-family houses, and she typically chose the third floor to live on—even though her knees were not especially suited for the climb; they were large, swollen, from a life of sitting and knitting, occasionally stopping to what she called “resting” her eyes. I don’t include her last house was an apartment, with an elevator, and it was completely without mystique, the one they had to forcibly remove her from, when it became clear she could not manage by herself. What I remember there was finding a photograph of my mother, one I had never seen, and upon showing it to my mother, having my mother tell me that it was a photograph she’d had taken to give to a man other than my father, a photo in which she looked more gorgeous than I’d ever seen, ever imagined.
Apparently, my grandmother was the only one who could stop me from crying when I was an infant, but what I recall is the feeling of comfort. I remember what I didn’t feel, for there was no conflict in her domain, just a sadness that I somehow associated with the loss of her husband, a grandfather who became mythic to me for the love she bore him. As a child, I was permitted to stay for two weeks in my grandmother’s house. For a while I made a point of remembering the floor plans of each of her houses, which were really apartments, located on the top floor of those large Victorians. As it is, I now have only spotty images of individual rooms, of the stairwells, and I suspect I have mis-matched the rooms. No one else in the family seems to care for the floor plans of my grandmother’s apartments, so I can go to no one for any kind of corroboration. For example, I played for hours in her closet in the apartment that what I believe was situated on Goldsmith Avenue, adorning my barely three-foot tall self in her dresses, her jewelry, and I wore her shoes which were brown or black and laced up, with a middle-sized heel. I danced on her oh, so smooth, green and yellow linoleum floors. I followed the swirling vines and the large pink and yellow and blue flowers on her wallpaper. I remember a room that we played in, where the plants were lined up against the windows—but I can’t situate that room—what rooms did it border? Along with the rocking chair and her ring, and I have a blue ceramic pot, a broken pot, along with the progeny of a philodendron that was hers. She called me her partner, a term used for each of us grandchildren when we were alone with her. She loved plants, and she allowed me to think I was assisting her in some way, but as she watered, I dreamed, my hands deep into the soil along with small ceramic knick-knacks that were there to support the stems or just decorate the inner sanctums of those very healthy plants. I spent many an hour fingering the little dogs and cats and rearranging them. But my favorite spot was sitting on that chair, rocking, imagining myself in flight.
I was happy to imagine but I was fearful, too, inordinately so. I still know well how fears metastasize, how they hit you blindside, how they’re immortally patient and grow in the absence of food, whether or not you let them, like weeds and tumors and lies. You’d never have known my father had once had fears, the way he drove the car without signaling, hug the shoulder so much he’d occasionally walk the tightrope of the curb.
But when he offered to help me transport the rocking chair from Florida to Long Island, I acquiesced. It was a gigantic U-Haul I’d leased for the sole purpose of depositing the rocking chair in my living room, where most of the furniture was handouts and leftovers. A glorious drive it was, just my father, my son, me. My father told about the huge truck he’d been ordered to drive during wartime, in Germany when he was in his early twenties. He was terrified, but there was no escaping the orders. So, he drove the truck at top speed down narrow roads and rough terrain. He’d taken a spill, but he’d conquered the fear. His theory was that you had to chase down your fears. Never let them get an inch on you.
Welfare and food stamps were no strangers to my father, whose own father was an invalid for the last twelve years of his life, having been given only a few months. If I had been a boy, I would have been named Philip, after him, but as I am a girl—the first of three, I was named after my mother’s mother, Gertrude. My mother’s family, though they’d had their “reverses” was nevertheless, well-to-do once upon a time. They came with Boston accents, whereas my father’s family was full of Brooklyn and Yiddish.
On my father’s side was the rumor that our Mendelssohns were related to the composer. There was a famous rabbi. There was a founder of a college in Israel. But mainly there were legends about horse-thieves. On his mother’s side was the controversial uncle who was the disgraced city clerk of New York (and also he refused to give Christine Jorgensen a marriage license). On his father’s side, a business of cork. They gathered used corks and whittled them down and resold them. They sent the boys holding bags of cork back and forth from Manhattan’s Lower East Side to Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and there had been a story about one of boys missing the last train, walking the tracks over the East River with a couple of bags full of cork. Unfortunately, they got out of the business before Armstrong came up with the idea of flooring. My father’s father, the leader of a gang, had his picture taken with Edward G. Robinson, in addition to a hundred other surly-looking boys who graduated from his neighborhood school, the photograph, now lost, but I remember those unsmiling faces with a kind of darkness in their eyes that spells poverty. Ninety-nine percent of them, my father liked to inform us, ended up in the electric chair.
You would think from the way my mother talked that all of her people had ended up in the book of who’s who, when in fact most of their bragging rights have to do with the “almost-was”, such as my mother’s Uncle Benny who nearly became a member of the Marx Brothers, or her father who came very close to investing money in the initial syndicate that bought up Miami Beach. My mother shook FDR’s hand once (“Go wash your hand,” said her staunch Republican father), and she also won a beauty contest, when she was three years old.
But like my father, most of my mother’s contributions to this world were behind the scenes. My dad’s engineering work was with water. “Ditches,” as he called them, or canals, were his specialty in Florida, where they had more salt and brackish water than they knew what to do with. In Jersey, the water that he organized was a lot dirtier.
My mother organized children, which is to say she was among those unsung heroes in elementary schools, now called middle school, where her specialty was history. My parents were generous in the largest sense of the word, something not lost—we found out later—on their associates and friends. When he was nearly retired, my father won accolades in engineering, and my mother was content to stand by him. She’d always told us that if she’d had her ‘druthers, she would have been a constitutional lawyer, but according to her calculations, there was no time or money to pursue such a dream, and as with most things, she lost her taste for it altogether when my dad died. We should have known something was up when she refused to watch the evening news.
My mother, whether or not this was her intention, would hold herself in such a way as if to say, ‘whatever it is you’re talking about, I know better.’ She took her cues from my namesake, who looked more fierce and knew twenty times as much as any woman, rumor has it, the one who, when informed that her leg needed to be amputated, as a result of the gangrene brought on by diabetes, told the doctor simply, “do what you must do, Doctor.” It is this kind of strength which makes it all the more confounding that my mom lost every drop of her zest for life when my dad’s light went out. Just like that it went. Hers took a little time. But it was a suffering time, so every minute of it seemed too long.
They’d met in Newark, where my mother’s family had journeyed with the turn of their fortunes. My mom was twelve when she first heard the Jersey flat “a.” Clearly she thought Jersey was a step down from Massachusetts, but a step up for her nose, which was already perched at a lovely angle. Lucky for my middle sister, who inherited some facsimile of my mother’s nose, but lamented its loss, the demise of the real one, the authentic original, when my mother lay dying on a bed in Miami, in the most beautiful hospital in the world.
How odd it is, the nose goes, but the chair stays. My mother was a mountain, but on the underside of her strength was a decided reserve. She was not the type you ever wanted to confess to. Nor did you want to try and clean the slate with her, talk about this or that that she’d done wrong when we were kids. You’d get a rebuff that would make you wish you’d dropped below the floorboards.
My mother had lost both parents by the time she was married. For this reason, she chose beige rather than white for the color of her wedding dress. In the pictures, the dress looks grey with black beaded trim about the square cut out collar and the waist. My mother was not known for her waist, but rather for the bosom and legs—both. This is ironic because her first major brush with death began with an increasingly mysterious inability to walk and eventual numbing of the legs, and the second major brush, the one that swept her to heaven in a matter of three months was thought to be breast cancer. The dress all but covers her legs, exposing just the ankle around which her black patent leather shoes were neatly strapped. The dress hangs rather loosely in the picture. Chances are you were not looking at her bodice but her face, glittering in this picture, although I’ve seen the one where she’s walking up the aisle with her oldest brother, and her face is drawn—a face I’d seen more than I’d like to say. When I asked her about it, she’d said that her parents were gone, her mother had recently died, and she was still mourning.
In this picture, she’s looking at my father. Their noses are about five inches apart, and there is real joy in their faces. She wears no jewelry, just long white gloves, carries two floppy flowers and a be-ribboned lacy bible that was her mother’s and we all were to hold on our walks down the aisle. My father’s hair looks recently cut; my mother’s coif is simple, soft curls, no hair spray. Eyebrows are straight. Perhaps paint on her lips and powder on her cheeks, but otherwise nothing. Neither is grinning for posterity. If I look closely, I can see three daughters and seven grandchildren in these faces.
I was about to discuss the way they met, when I got carried away in sheer wonderment that most of the people I held so dear have vanished, like, the great French poet says, the snows of yesterday. Are they just gone, as my mother believed also, turned themselves into carbon and flew the coop, discarding their belongings, leaving us with memory that looms up unexpectedly, a balloon fueled by the hideously beautiful energy of loss?
When my father died—which was sudden and dramatic, a matter of minutes on a tennis court—my mother just took it. For twenty-six years she’d known it was coming. That’s how long it had been since the first heart attack, the one that led them to make the grand migration south, from Jersey to Florida, where my father believed it to be less tense, less polluted, more suitable for him to survive and be a provider.
We talked about some things, my mother and I did, when it was all over, and she had traveled up north to meet the baby that had come into my life.
Before the cancer made itself known, when it was still hiding out under my mother’s skin, I’d gone to one of those psychics. “A man of honor and integrity,” she had said. “He’s pointing to his wrist. Did he break it?” I had known he’d broken his arm at the end of a set of tennis—while jumping over the net, but I didn’t remember where it was. “I believe it was his elbow,” I said. I told my mother later about the psychic, but she who did not believe in psychics told me the psychic was correct. He’d broken his wrist. “A sudden death.” The woman shook her head. “No time for goodbyes. He’s sorry about that. He’s touching his heart. Did he die of a heart attack?”
What is left of my father’s take on the world is his World War II manuscript, a mere thirty-five pages relating his experiences as an engineering student stationed in a brewery. I read it after he died searching for clues into his character, which I’m sure were there, but the real spice of his life, the fact that he’d had his first experience sleeping with a woman, for example, was missing. When I started dating, and when he might have entertained the suspicion that my virginity was at stake, he told me that his father had advised all of his sons to be virgins for their wives.
“You mean not to sleep with Jewish girls, dear,” interrupted my mother, tossing her nose a little higher in the air.
“No,” said my father, in his low, dull monotone. “My father told us to be virgins. Not with Jewish girls. Not with any girl.”
I waited until it was just the two of us in the room when I asked him why he did not obey his father. “Honey,” he said, “I was a soldier, and I didn’t want to die without having that experience. Simple as that.”
So, in Newark they met, after the war. My father’s younger brother made the match, and it was love at first sight for them both, although my mother had to be cajoled into the date, which was just a card game at one of my grandmother’s famous apartments. Tired of blind dates, my mother was not looking forward to it. I can imagine my namesake haranguing her into going, much impressed by the Ivy League tied to my dad. I don’t know if my uncle raved about his brother’s eyes the way my mother was to from that night on.
“You like me?” said my uncle. “This is a guy like me, only better. Better educated, more honest—and he has more hair.” My father lacked my uncle’s sense of humor and business finesse, that’s for sure, but he had chutzpah. Imagine someone telling you, “When we get married …” on your first date. This was a story we’d heard so often, I ought to be able to describe the pattern of the tablecloth that had to be removed before they could play Bridge.
Sitting across from each other, my future parents were partners learning how to maneuver their libidos over a card game. Did mother know then that father didn’t arrange his cards in any kind of order to suit? He picked up the cards just as they were dealt, and they stayed between his fingers retaining the randomness with which they were delivered. It was his solution to having once had a card hiding next to another of the same suit and having lost the game, and a bit of money, as a result of not seeing that card. Did father deduce mother’s fanaticism or shall we say wizardry with regard to organization? Did he get even a dull scent of her temper? Or did he not get past the bosom and legs and nose? The truth is my mother was more vain about her intellect than any part of her more so-called feminine attributes, and this my father did not fail to see. He would claim to have fallen in love with her sexy mind.
My father had had the chance to meet my mother’s mother, just as my mother had met his father. But both parents were gone before any kind of announcement was made, and when it came to asking for my mother’s hand in marriage, my dad approached my mother’s brother, my Uncle Alvin, her redheaded oldest brother, the one who would walk my mother down the aisle, who would give her away.
“Do you understand that he’s a poor man?” said my Uncle Alvin, after he had ascertained that she did in fact love my father. “If you once complain to me that he’s not providing for you, I will beat you with my own hands.”
There were a few short years when my dad’s business was thriving. We went swimming in a bright, clean smelling pool where we had our very own cabana, and we bought our clothes from small stores. It was enough to give us a good taste of what it meant to be “upper middle-class,” which is what my mother told me when I asked her what we were. I was in the fifth grade when the downsliding began, old enough to feel a sense of the power of this kind of very tangible materialism. The small taste we’d quickly developed for it kept us in deep debt, and a kind of financial stress, if not poverty, was something that almost always hounded us. When his business totally bottomed out—because he could not bring himself to gather the moneys owed him—he had to swallow his pride, as he watched my mother borrow money from her brother to go back to school for her teaching degree, and then she went to work.
From that time on, my father worked for other people, mainly big engineering firms or small municipalities. And we, or rather they, had debt as a member of the family long after we three girls left the nest. They sold our homestead in New Jersey to make a fresh start in Florida, enough to make a clean sweep of things. The oldest of three girls, I remained in the Northeast, and my two sisters moved down, went to colleges there. My mother refused to teach in Florida—the children were rude, she said—and instead preferred to devote all her free time to ORT, a Jewish organization dedicated to building vocational schools in and out of Israel, for both Jews and non-Jews. Although my mother had no truck in Jewish ritual or in any brand of prayer, she was passionate about the organization and rose up that ladder by virtue of her extraordinary ability to speak to large groups without notes. This gift she inherited from a mother who believed in pre-cognition and mediums. This grandmother even sent my mother to a psychic for her, but all my mother remembered of the experience was the psychic noting her discomfort. “Sure,” said my mother, her voice almost always lilting, intoned as she was a trained singer, but the words knit together, an odd mix of Bostonian reserve and Jewish humor. “It was ninety degrees outside. I was sitting in a folding chair, and my girdle was riding up.”
Both parents could laugh until tears sprang from their eyes, but my mother’s sense of humor could tolerate nothing crude. Invariably, my father would speak of his father who had outlasted many of the doctors who predicted he’d succumb to his cancer within a year, although he’d shrunk ten inches in height and wore body casts and tested every new drug for cancer that the government had come up with in the 30s. “Well,” my father would say. “He was a traveling salesman, before he became ill, and the first thing he did when he would come home would be to line the four of us up and give us each a licking—for what we might have done.”
If you wanted more information, you’d have to ignore my mother’s face and keep on digging for details. We’d be at the dinner table most times these conversations took place, preparing defenses against eating the peas or beets or the meat if it was too red or too gray. I was the supreme needler, and before long my father would drop one of these pearls, such as the way his father would discipline the sons at the dinner table, when—because of his full body cast—he physically couldn’t get up and slam one of them for being rude to his mother. He would throw a piece of food at the culprit—or worse, for example shoot the food out of his mouth in the direction of the naughty boy. He’d also spit out burning coffee through the space between his front teeth—and apparently one time he’d missed and scalded the cheek of a visiting cousin—a girl.
“Stop it,” my mother would cry, unable to hear a word more. “It’s crude and disgusting. I don’t want this discussed at my table.”
My father never pressed the issue. The story about the coffee I got from an uncle.
When Passover came around, there would be a similar kind of war over the rhythms and melodies used for the songs and blessings. The elegance of my mother’s family traditions was lost to us girls. We preferred the more tribal executions of my father’s family. Sometimes we’d be diplomatic and ask to sing a song twice—capturing both versions. There were always races, which my mother would invariably win. And there was always an extra drink for my father’s father, “Fife-ka.”
Fife-Ka Bandit, that was his name on the streets of New York, before he’d chosen to reform. Someone grabbed ahold of him, squared it all off with him, even paid him off to change his ways and to influence his friends. Someone with both generosity and good sense. I found this out at the funeral. My uncles had traveled over a thousand miles apiece to be there. One uncle, the one who made the shittach without which I wouldn’t be here to tell the story, was too young when many of the events occurred. The other felt he was just too old, his memory wasn’t what it used to be, although he told me that the tribal rhythms were actually football cheers. “The best seders of all,” said this uncle, the one who said his memory was fading, “were at my grandfather’s house in Coney Island. My father was one of seven boys, all very sports-minded. Tables snaked in and out of the rooms. One year a card table” – was it the same one they played Bridge on? – “blocked the way to the bathroom. They were lively, to put it mildly. All the prayers sounded like yells,” he told me.
And when the other uncle told me how brutal his father was, I was thinking how my father had tried to cover it up. “He broke a broomstick over your father’s head,” said my uncle.
The look in my uncle’s eyes communicated a kind of sorrow mixed with anger. Helpless he was then, as he was now. I’d seen that look in my father’s eyes. How hard it was to assimilate such a story that exposed the abject cruelty of someone whose only existence for me remained lodged in some glorified spot in my mind.
After a while, I would put the information in proper perspective, but at that moment, it sickened me. It was a given that nobody could replace my father—his eyes, his voice, and the calm, the mellow quality for which, in our small circle of family and friends, he had become renown. He was as true as an element, like nitrogen or oxygen, and, as it turned out, he was as necessary as oxygen to my mother.
The rocking chair had come to live with us in northern Jersey well before my grandmother died. She had moved to an ordinary apartment. She could no longer negotiate the three flights of stairs that led to her beloved top apartments in the two and three-family homes Newark is notorious for. It was too small for the rocking chair. I can only guess how it was transported to our family room from Newark. I can assure you that my father did not spend a thousand dollars on a U-Haul.
For a while, we left it black, and I do not know what possessed my father to “antique” it. Maybe he did it during his recuperation from the heart attack, the first one, that preceded the second by twenty-six years to the day.
For some perverse reason, right before the move to Florida, my mother wanted it out, but we girls persuaded my father to insist on keeping it. I am grateful for the suggestion of the anonymous one, among the great numbers of people who visited us—from among the illustrious PTA or the ORT humanists, or the elite of the little synagogue she helped to found. Whoever it was who thought we ought to have the rocking chair stripped—thank you! My father stood his ground, and whenever my father voiced his feelings, my mother backed off completely. Imagine a dry look of retreat on the face of a general.
The chair came back looking like a magnificent thoroughbred—startling, strong, a blondish oak it turned out to be, with gorgeous inlays and symmetrical tiger-like ribbing on the back. The lions were grinning, though it was a splinter’s nest when you stuck your finger horizontally through the maw. It was ready for its adventure to Florida. Anxious to greet the second millennium with my father in its seat, my mother behind him.
But, as I said, that was not to be.
I was sitting in the rocking chair when my mother called me, when I started getting the point of why she’d called.
It settled me to sit there. It was holding two of us, then. Only my baby was inside, she who would never meet her grandfather, who would be named not only for my grandma, but also for my very father, if somehow things didn’t get better, if he stayed dead and didn’t come-to.
“They’re trying their hardest, honey,” my mother had said. “But I don’t think he’s going to make it.”
It was bleak, rainy October day in Long Island. Dutifully, I pictured sunny Florida and my father’s face radiant.
“I love you,” I kept repeating to my mother. Denial in me was raging. I was incapable of making the unthinkable leap. I sat in the rocking chair in a stilled world where my father’s cards were already folded, where his partner had less than a year to play out her own hand, where a very little girl would grow up without knowing either of them.