Happy 100th, Mom

My marvelous mom was born in Poland on this day in 1922. She did not have an easy life.

The fact that her father was an intelligent, learned person probably saved her life and the life of her parents. Remember that in 1939 there was no Internet, no TV (certainly not in rural Poland) and it was much more difficult to know what was happening in the world. It was in that year that the Nazis started World War II by invading Poland.

My grandfather–whom I never knew–understood the implication of the invasion and took my mom’s mother and my mother and headed east, away from the Nazis, just days before their village was burned to the ground. My mom always told me I reminded her of her father and called me Tataleh, which means “Little Father” in Yiddish. (Yes, that word is also pronounced Tatalah.)

My mom’s parents did not live much longer after the escape; both of them died in the Soviet Union in the early 1940s. Eventually, my mother and the man who would be my father wound up in a refugee camp in Austria after the war ended. That’s where my parents married and where my sweet sister was born. However, my sister was one of fraternal twins; the boy only lived a few days after birth.

In 1949, the three of them moved to Israel. I don’t know when, but my understanding is that my father abandoned my mother for a number of years during their time in Israel. Imagine trying to raise a small child in a new country and having your husband just go away.

One of my mother’s sisters–my aunt–went directly to the US after being released from a refugee camp. My mother immigrated to the US in November, 1957 and stayed with her sister, but my sister and father (who had returned by this time from his “walkabout”) were not allowed to join her until May, 1958.

After being in the US about 15 years, my father–in what can only be described as a mid-life crisis on steroids–left my mother, filed for divorce and married a woman similar in age to my sister. After the shock of the abandonment and divorce passed, my mother was actually quite happy until I left for college.

We never, ever doubted how much our mother loved us. I think that’s the most important thing a parent has to do.

My mother died 18 1/2 years ago from pancreatic cancer. (It runs in our family, we are Ashkenazi Jews after all, and will probably kill me in the future.) Not a day passes without my thinking about her. Happy 100th, Mom!







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