I’ve been thinking a lot about Nathan, my father’s father. I often do when pretty weather makes me regret my solitude.
Nathan was a survivor and he never let you forget it. He also didn’t like to think of himself that way.
He was born in Poland to a determined woman with a schnorrer of a husband. That Yiddish word isn’t in the kind of rotation that other ones are–schmuck, for one. But it should be because schnorrers are everywhere. They’re hustlers who aren’t good at hustling, people (men mostly) who drain your resources without profiting from them. They’re what my grandmother Basha, my grandfather’s wife, called losahs without their mezuzahs.
She was a pissah, that one. Mean, judgmental, super clever.
When my grandfather was alive we didn’t exactly get on because he was funny about women, especially big blondes. When his mother arrived in America with him and his little sister, his father already had found a better-off wife, and here was my great-grandmother not speaking English with nowhere to live, nothing in her pocket. But with two small children in tow she wasn’t about to fall on her face, not while she was young and had spring in her step. So she started going by Mary Banks and turning tricks and well–
My grandfather didn’t understand shall-we-say normal sexual boundaries.
Any sexual boundaries. Continue Reading →