Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Sibling rivalry

I'm always writing about my mother's family, which is understandable because we lived near them and we saw more of them. Maybe a little too much.

But fair is fair, so I want to direct your attention to my father's side of the family. The cast of characters:

Grandma, who spent her final 40 years of life in bed;
Grandpa, rabbi and sometime streetcar conductor;
Helen, oldest child and only daughter, who took over the household when her mother went to bed;
Al, oldest brother, of whom I know nothing except that he had perfect pitch and played the drum;
Ed, next brother in line and the family black sheep;
and my dad, whom I will call Nat, the baby, continually striving to measure up to Ed.

Ed and N had a fairly fraught relationship. A lot of it was about sports--who could pitch better, who could hit the ball farther, who could beat who in tennis, and so forth. Nat was puny and small, and Ed picked on him, even breaking his arm in a dispute over a baseball game. When they grew up, they stopped plotting to kill each other--Nat got old enough and big enough to defend himself-- but still had a fairly intense relationship in which each tried to outdo the other.

When they visited each others' homes, they tried to outdo each other in hospitality. You were sure to get a good feed at Nat's house when Ed was in town. Upping the ante, Ed would take everybody out to a trendy restaurant, sparing no expense on food or wine. Ed's daughter got into a good college. Nat's son, who was about the same age, got into a better one.

When Nat was about 89 he had a heart attack and was hospitalized. He left the hospital against doctor's orders so he could host a party for Ed and show him what nice friends he had. After the party, he went back and had a bypass.

Ed lived to the age of 97. I knew Nat would never let that record stand. Undefeated, he has made it to 98. So Nat won.

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