Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cleveland - Dead relatives - more Alan Schonberg

Cousin Linda is the designated driver to Zion Cemetery. No one's there except some poor stiff who's being buried w/a backhoe and jackhammer. Linda, the miracle-worker at the JCC, hones right in at the burial grounds, and immediately finds her dad in the Jewish War Veterans section.

Linda says hello to her dad and our Gramma Green, short for Gramma Minnie Greenwold. When Minnie came to America at age 13, "they" changed her name from the beautiful Meryl to silly Minnie. I think she spoke Hungarian back then, is that correct?

My brother David was mildly mentally retarded and autistic. We showered him with love but as an adult he was quite unhappy and took his own life at age 27. He was the family photographer and played a mean piano. I still have his labeled fotos in a green album in my living room. We love you, Davey my boy!

Here's Dad who'd be 89 today if a brain tumor hadn't killed him. Dad began smoking at age 8 or 9 and continued until he was 42. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, dad locked himself in the room we called "the library" and emerged smoke-free for good.

After some business disappointments at age 58, his immune system apparently couldn't fight off the cancers which are always there. The cancer grew and it grew, and it knocked the man down. Six to nine months said Dr Day, the oncologist.

Sure enuf, despite experimental treatment at Sloan-Kettering, his eyes closed for the final time on July 13, 1980. We were all gathered round him in the family room in the Huntingdon Valley house where Mom still lives.

The source of all my learning and of my very essence comes from my dad. I think of him practically never.

One of my goals in going to Cleveland was to meet up with Alan Schonberg who used to work w/dad at Majestic. Linda drove. Donna did not go. She wanted to but the timing wasn't right.

Here's Alan.

What an amazing man. I gave him a copy of my manic-depression book which he said on the phone stunned him - he even read the poetry! - and I said, Alan, you and I don't know each other. We were not the same people back then as we are today.

He and his wife Carol were most gracious hosts to Linda and me. Their house in Beechwood is in a woodsy setting and windows everywhere offer spectacular views of the changing seasons.

Altho he retired from his once billion-dollar business 7 yrs ago, I believe, he remains a viable presence in the Cleveland Jewish community - and community at large. At 82, he goes out and listens to seminars and serves as board member of various places including the Maltz Museum.

He showed us photos of his four kids. I used to babysit for them. They're extremely successful. My mom showed me an article in the Cleveland Jewish News about his son David, who, at 51, lives in an assisted living facility.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 18 (this was all in the CJN)he went to the famous Menninger Clinic, then in Topeka. He did well enuf so he could always work for his dad, who took great c/o him.

Then something odd happened with his behavior. Bottom line: he was diagnosed with late onset Tay-Sachs disorder, an extremely rare condition.

Time to pull out Rabbi Harold Kushner's book When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

Alan brought up the 'work ethic' of my dad. Long long hours at work but also dedicated time for the family.

When you have a revelatory experience like I did in Cleveland, it takes time to settle into your psyche and become part of who you are.

Especially since I'm juggling my sciatica agony which certain email pals like poetry teacher Bill Kulik of Temple have been very sympathetic about. And Alan as well, who has his own back tseuris.

My family doctor Jim Foxhall put me on Neurontin (gabapentin) last nite. I'm now able to stand up and hobble along the bed, stretching my neck and waist, before sliding back on into lizard position.

Okay, time for my dilaudid nap. Heroin makes me sleepy. I think I'll dream about Baby Grace.

One of the reasons she makes me smile is her petiteness as compared with her 'giant' parents. Oh, to kiss those soft cheeks again.

1 comment:

  1. Alan Schonberg lost his battle with cancer in November of 2013. He and I corresponded a bit - I'd written him a poem about his life - and I also asked him questions about modern Cleveland to use in my short story Suite 1003, which was published. Sadly, he had died before he could read it. View the obit of this truly wonderful man at