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Back from the Funeral - Mo's Journal
July 24th, 2007
12:32 pm

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Back from the Funeral
My sister, Zara (my youngest daughter), and I drove up to Connecticut on Monday night and got back last night. We stayed with a friend of of my sister's - the same friend who put us up last time, the same friend who had been the "mail drop" when my sister had surreptitiously corresponded with me in high school. She and her husband were very lovely and hospitable.

We both said afterwards that it went as well as we thought it could under the circumstances. In a number of ways it was less tense a situation than my brother's funeral, just for having had that experience already. We knew this time that they couldn't kick us out, and we knew that they knew it so wouldn't try. I think whatever remnant of hope I'd had that a death would lead my family to reconsider the ostracism had been killed, so to speak, with Hart's funeral, so there wasn't the tension that small amounts of hope overbalanced by years of negative reality added to the last time. And our mother couldn't pull the bit she did last time of telling the funeral home she'd only ever had three kids, since they already knew we existed (as my sister pointed out, someone at the funeral home likely said, upon getting the call that Dad died, "Not those crazy Rosenbergs again! Can't they just stop dying?" :-)) Plus, there were all the family friends and such who had been nice to us last time that we felt confident would be nice to us again. And there's the whole bring-a-cute-kid-to-the-funeral-and-everyone-loves-you effect. So, in general I approached it with somewhat less trepidation.

And in general it was okay. My mother was pretty neutral. She wasn't friendly, but she wasn't overtly hostile to me as she had been last time. She was quite sweet to Zara, calling her a "lovely young woman." The same people who were nice to us last time were indeed nice again. Everyone made a fuss over Zara. Only two people were truly nasty to me. I was warm and polite to all, including those two.

I thought the eulogy was quite good, particularly given the circumstances (the rabbi had to throw it together in the morning, having just come back from camp in Massachusetts and having done another funeral the day before). He included a lot of the material I gave him. It felt good to have been listened to, and also it ensured that my name got mentioned a few times during the body of the talk. He also gave all of our names and all of our kids' names when he listed survivors. That was better than the alternative, I think, but felt weird to hear my kids' names listed under "loving grandfather to." He was my father, but he wasn't their grandfather and was very clear on never wanting to know them.

I think my sister and I each had moments during the eulogy that were particularly difficult. Mine was a story the rabbi told that my youngest brother had told him, about our father's wise counsel on how to deal with 9/11 and the great anxiety my brother (who lives in the Boston area) was feeling. My father had a daughter (me) who lived in NYC and worked in lower Manhattan, and he had had no interest in finding out if I survived 9/11, so it really was - unbeknownst to the rabbi - a hurtful story for me to hear. Mostly, though, I feel like it was a good representation of a lot of genuinely positive things about my dad. As executrix says, we need to reverse Marc Antony - the good they did lives after them, we inter the evil with their bones. I think that's perfectly appropriate.

We had intended to go to lunch after the internment at the home of the mother of one of my sister's friends. Our other sister invited us back to our mother's place, and we went (dragging along said friend, who was a huge help and comfort throughout both funerals. He drove us around everywhere, kept Zara entertained with his goofy humor, and ran interference as necessary. He is such a doll. My sister picks good friends). It was kind of awkward, but also interesting for me. I found some books on the shelves that I had read - I mean I had read those particular copies as a teenager. I saw some furniture I recognized. I talked some more to some relatives and family friends. I showed the rabbi our family tree, which he found very interesting (it dates to around 400 CE).

We drove around West Hartford a bit, looking at our old house and schools and synagogue. Then we went to M's mother's house, as planned, and hung out there for a while. A neighbor from my childhood (who had come up to me at the funeral, hugged me and said "I've missed you so much over the years") came over for a while and we chatted with her. We got back home last night. We're having people over for shiva this evening, and then my sister is going home tomorrow.

I'm glad we went. I'm sad he's dead. I'm sad I have such a messed up family of origin and sad that my kids have to have that as a legacy. I'm learning what I can from that bad experience.

(8 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:skyline3way
Date:July 25th, 2007 05:33 am (UTC)
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You have more strength and grace than anyone I know.
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From:mofic
Date:July 25th, 2007 09:31 pm (UTC)
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You are so sweet! Believe me, having my sister with me really strengthened me. And she felt exactly the same way. I feel very lucky to have her in my life.
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From:roxymissrose
Date:July 25th, 2007 06:06 am (UTC)
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Reading your post has me convinced that you are really are a special person.
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From:mofic
Date:July 25th, 2007 09:31 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! And thanks for reading.
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From:libgirl
Date:July 27th, 2007 12:53 am (UTC)
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Mo...
I'm so sorry that you've lost your father. I'm sorry that your family life has been so difficult :(.

I'm glad that you both made it to the funeral and were included as part of it. Speaking as the grand-daughter of someone who died without ever knowing be, by choice, I think it's wonderful that you took Zara. I wish I'd had that opportunity.

Jess...

I'm a bit jealous of your family tree ;)

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From:mofic
Date:July 30th, 2007 03:05 pm (UTC)
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If you care to share, I would like to know how you came not to know your grandparent.

I don't actually have the family tree but there's a copy of it hanging in my mother's home. I don't know who has the original, but it is a pretty interesting document.
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From:libgirl
Date:July 30th, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC)
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Actually, rereading my comment, I mis-stated the relationship. It wasn't my grandmother, but my great-grandmother I didn't know. And, to be honest, I wish I knew why I didn't know her as well.

Your question has sparked a desire in me to write a post about it, but in case I don't, I'll tell you here as well.

Ruby was my grandmother, and her mother Hazel never had anything to do with any of Ruby's grandchildren or children from the time my Mom was about 16. Prior to that time, Hazel and another of her daughters, Bonnie, periodically lived with Ruby and her family and Ruby, being significantly older than Bonnie (who was a year or so younger than my mother), was frequently in the position of parenting her youngest sister.

Family history and my mother's memory tells me that Hazel was living elsewhere and sending money and gifts to Bonnie to help support her. There was also a large amount of favoritism. If Ruby told her that she couldn't do something, or there was no money for something (Ruby already having six children of her own), Hazel would swoop in and rescue Bonnie from Ruby and she would get whatever she wanted.

Apparently, one day Bonnie called Ruby a bitch. Ours is a Southern family and that was unacceptable on many fronts and Ruby slapped her. Hazel came the next day and took Bonnie and no one in Ruby's family saw or heard from them for a while.

When she was 22, my mother gave birth to the first grandchild of Ruby and the first great-grandchild of Hazel, me. When I was about four, we went to Hazel's house so she could meet me. Mom knocked on the door and greeted Hazel as "Mamaw." Despite my age, I remember this (or have fabricated a very real story-memory of it), Hazel said that my Mother was no grandchild of hers and I was nothing to her.

Now, my family is confused about why the estrangement actually took place. The reason cited is that Mamawl slapped Bonnie and Hazel got mad, but it doesn't make any sense in the larger scheme. Mamawl died when I was five and Hazel and Bonnie didn't come to the funeral, instead they went to the house and when the family got back from the burial they found them going through Mamawl's things and packing what they wanted. They were forcibly evicted from the house.

I think that's why so much family animosity remained, if they hadn't tried to loot Mamawl's house while she was being buried, I think the family would have been willing to forgive, forget and move on.

Many years later, Hazel, who didn't die until I was in my early twenties and who never met a single of Ruby's 12 grandchildren or (at the time) great-grandchild, tried to reconcile with the family and sent letters to Papawl. He was willing to reconcile and told her about us and she was supposed to come visit and meet everyone, but she never did. When she died, Ruby's entire family, all six children and spouses, went to the funeral, but none of the grandchildren were permitted to go.

Tension was still so high that I know of at least two people who carried guns under their shirts (not something I personally approved of).

No one seems to know what really happened. Ruby was one of four children and was the only one ostracized. Interestingly, Bonnie was the only sibling who participated in the estrangement. Ruby and her family and and continue to have strong relationships with her brother and other sister. Ruby's other siblings also have no idea what the real cause was.

Hazel never told anyone, Ruby never really understood and Bonnie has never told anyone if she knew. She was spoiled and selfish at the time, but she was also young at the time. Maybe 15 or so. She's different now. I know her and while she's not close to the family, there's no lingering estrangement there.

I know this is a bit disjointed, I'll try to make it make more sense! :(
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From:mofic
Date:July 31st, 2007 10:44 am (UTC)
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I often hear stories like that - with a long term estrangement and nobody really knows why. Sometimes it continues for generations without any reason anyone knows!

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