6B My Father’s Sisters
October 28, 2007
My father had three sisters: Naomi (who became a ballet dancer and ballet teacher), Diana, and Henriette.
Aunt Diana split with her family in her twenties because Grandfather Harry gave enemas to his children. Diana considered this activity as child abuse and sexual molestation; her sisters considered it as “Just what Papa did because he loved us and wanted us to be healthy.” As a result, Diana moved to New York City and married a doctor. By marrying a real doctor with a real “MD” degree, Diana showed her alternative-health care obsessed family that she wasn’t a victim of their bizarre beliefs.
Aunt Diana and her sisters avoided having contact with each other for about 60 years. After Aunt Naomi had lived abroad for a number of years, finally living in Taiwan with her millionaire daughter Joanna, who had learned Chinese, married into a Taiwanese mercantile family, and become co-owner of Graco, a multi-national company which is one of the leading manufacturers of baby strollers and baby furniture in the world (now owned by Rubbermaid), Naomi decided to get together with her family. She contacted Henriette, located Diana, and asked Joanna to pay for organizing a family re-union. (I am not making any of this up.)
Using Joanna’s money, Naomi paid for every family member who wanted to attend to travel to Vermont, and paid for their lodging in a ski resort (staying there before the snow started to fall). The following year, we did it again, this time at a ski resort in New Hampshire.
My wife does not care much for my family; she did not attend. My daughter is fairly involved with her partner’s family; aside from us (Mom and Dad) she feels little connection to my family. As with her mom, she did not attend.
My three aunts gathered and reminisced to us about Grandpa Harry and Grandma Agnes. With a little embarrassment, they explained about the 60-year split between Diana and her sisters, and how they decided 60 years was long enough to carry on a family feud.
Diana, whom I also did not remember, reminded me a bit of Agnes. She was rather dramatic and domineering and had a tendency to tell everyone else what to do. Agnes had written children’s plays that avoided conflict (because she was a pacifist). Diana had also been into children’s theatre, though I don’t know that she was as militant a pacifist as her mother. During the reunion, there were many children present. Diana organized them into various little skits and activities in a fairly bossy way.
Diana had two daughters and one son. The son and one of the daughters were fraternal twins.
Diana’s family all practiced Reform Judaism. They were the only family members I’ve ever met from my Jewish families who considered themselves Jews in their religious behavior.
The female twin cousin was a counselor who made a living providing marital and relationship counseling. At the first reunion she was rather withdrawn and distant. Her siblings told us she was recovering from the end of a bad relationship. She did not attend the second reunion; apparently she was depressed over not being able to maintain a successful relationship.
Although I had a faint curiosity about my unknown relatives, Julie, the non-twin, reacted quite differently. She was absolutely fascinated by her “new” relatives; staring at us in wonder and asking us many questions. Julie’s behavior did not bother me, but it was quite different from my reaction.
I have many strange reactions to phenomena other people find natural. For example, I never have felt the slightest trace of religious belief; most people believe in a God of some sort.
As a similar eccentricity, I don’t feel a strong emotional connection to someone because there is a genetic link. My granddaughter is my real granddaughter although there is no genetic connection.
It’s interesting that my uncle is a genius composer and that my cousin was a millionaire, but I don’t really think either relationship makes me special. If someone handed me a document describing the lives of my Eastern European Jewish ancestors I would read it with a little interest, but not having such information convenient at hand, I feel no impulse to seek it out.