an anecdote on family.

November 5, 2006

welcome, visitors. i’ll make sure to update this blog more often than my efforts of the past while.

my family is hardly model.

my dad’s side has had its share of challenge. zeide harry, my great-grandad, a jewish emigre from russia, had difficult relationships with his two sons. my grandad was a hard-working guy, doing very well in the family business (mine is a family of fishmongers). dave was all-work-and-no-play, you know what i mean? his brother, leon, was a very different kind of person, all-play-and-no-work. that was a big thing. seriously. a point of contention, really. drugs, women, gambling, you name it. he’d secretly make runs down to buffalo to partake in fleshy sin while fooling the family that he was, in fact, at home in forest hill (at the time, hogtown’s monikers of “toronto-the-good” and “methodist rome” were still widely known and very much true). zeide harry would often cover up leon’s bad behaviour, spending lots of money to do so. eventually, things reach a head. schism hits. zeide harry and dave stop speaking, leon and dave stop speaking and faye, my grandmother, experiences the first family disaster. one day, leon ends up dead, leaving behind a wife and kids. the funeral comes. faye convinces dave to make amends.

“talk to him, dave.”

“i can’t.”

“just touch him then.”


“for god’s sake, dave, don’t be so stiff-necked. ”

“what did you say?”

“don’t be so stiff-necked.”

so that’s what he does. dave goes and touches his father on the arm. my grandmother became the family matriarch that day. my grandfather becomes re-acquainted with his father. all is well, more or less.

faye and dave had three kids, gary, karen and steven. they all have their flaws still. all of them have been divorced at least once. one of them never graduated high school. another one barely so. i am the product of one of them (that is not to say that i am a flaw of my father). my parents’ divorce was stickier than most divorces in general, unfortunately, and absolutely more difficult than any one of my father’s siblings’.

my maternal grandmother was a unique woman. she tended to see the world in a very radical manner. she was an artist of considerable talent; this was accompanied by the requisite dosage of insanity required of artistry. lupe and her husband, theodore, lived in guadalajara. they had three children; two daughters (marta and cristina) and a son (eduardo). when cristina, my mother, was about six or seven, her parents divorced. it’s important to note that this occurred in mexico in the mid-1950s; divorce was neither common nor socially-acceptable (even today, divorce is not common in mexico; 2001 saw only 0.56 divorces per 1000 people in that country, compared to 2.23 divorces per 1000 people in canada in 2002). she and her siblings quickly became social pariahs due to their parents’ sensible decision, seeing as her father had run away with his secretary (strangely, this concept of men being unfaithful, is nonetheless tolerated, even encouraged by the code of machismo, whereas one would not classically hesitate to call a woman a slut if she attempted to do the same; combine this with the catholic church’s disdain of the condom, and voila! a recipe for disaster, illegitimate children and a growing hiv/aids crisis in the world’s largest spanish-speaking country). the children were sent to jesuit school. later, marta, being a hippie at the time, met – and later married – a photographer named david eisenberg visiting mexico from toronto. cristina, an elementary school teacher and, later, a flight attendant, would later visit her sister in toronto and meet one of david’s friends, gary. prior to this, eduardo had attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle of pills. cristina had found him and rescued him from death. two weeks later, he hanged himself, this time being found by his mother. mental illness is a trend in my mother’s family; lalo’s suicide is usually attributed to this, although it would not shock me to learn that, in fact, it was because he was gay. sadly, his family would likely not have cared much if that was the case. curiously, by my middle name, he lives on through me, certainly gay but in a very different world.

gary and cristina eventually were married. they produced a couple of boys. dov was the more social and athletic of the two; michael, your humble narrator, was always more introverted. i played a secret game of guessing which parent loved which son more or if, horribly, one son garnered more favour from both. as children, i would think that dad loved dov more due to his athletic ability and that mum loved me more because of my creativity. this was not the case.

i haven’t spoken to my mother in nearly 5 years, save for several embarrassing (but mercifully short) encounters with which i shall not bore you. imagine my sincere shock when, out of the blue, i receive a phone call from marta, with whom i had not spoken in nearly 10 years. she’s in town, and she wants to get together.

we go out for lunch with my dad, who had always remained on excellent terms with marta (even though his relationship with david eisenberg had, strangely enough, frozen). we have a really nice time over indian food. i get together with her the next day for a long, slow coffee and pastry. we go for a walk around downtown; i show her the ancient glamour of this tiny city. we talk about politics; i was very surprised that she had voted for calderon in the recent presidential election. as i drop her off at the bus stop, i tell her that i wish to see her again soon. she invites me to stay with her in d.f. at any time.

before leaving me, though, she begs me to talk to my mother, even if it’s simply to say goodbye before i head to france. my family is small; i intend to keep it that way. cold of me, perhaps, but final.

a week later, my dad is in toronto. steven has arranged a dinner. surprisingly, my dad breaks bread and silence with his cousins, some of whom he’d not seen in 45 years. all this from a question that i asked my grandmum a little while back, prompted by my grandad’s morpheine-fuelled reminiscence.

“bubbe, who’s rick?”

“rick is dave’s nephew.”

“oh…wait. i thought dave was an only child.”

“…oh. nobody told you?”

as with all stories, point-of-view is an important consideration. while i can’t testify that this story is 100% true, due to not having access to all the information, i figure that it’s fairly accurate, seeing as that i’m probably the most impartial person to care about recording this family tale.


One Response to “an anecdote on family.”

  1. Milan Says:

    Welcome to WordPress. I would suggest you Google and install Spam Karma 2. It will save you a lot of bother with comments.

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