Yet, as Zeidy began to wane in his later years, Bubby began to expand and bloom. She continued on this path for most of the sixteen years that she lived on after his death. She was someone who began coming into her own during the time of life when most people wind down. She was truly adept at sharing her story of tragedy and using it to empower and inspire. She’d receive letters from men, women and children from all over the United States, explaining how deeply her story had touched them, how it had changed their lives, how they would never forget her. She spoke at Rotary clubs, churches, community colleges, universities and even the White House. In 1992, she took the train up to Phila-delphia to speak to my Literature of the Holocaust class at the University of Pennsylvania. She did not seek out these engagements and these groups—they found her.
And then there was my mom. I had always known how enormously conflicted she was about her family history and about how it had affected her, yet I had no power to help or do a thing about it. I believe much of my hyperdeveloped sense of needing to control and to fix things for others (even when they have not indicated that they want my help or involvement) had its roots in growing up with a mother who believed that she had been born into a pretty damaged family, a less-than-ideal situation with two less-than-perfect parents. She was angry at the past she’d inherited. As a child, she’d longed to be a more “normal” American girl, with American parents with no accents and no history from a faroff and tragic place. She’d longed for grandparents and aunts
and uncles. For brothers and sisters, for that matter. I had all of that and felt guilt because she didn’t (and she never hesitated
to tell me that she didn’t). My mother always seemed angry over what her parents had been through—mad at her parents (as if they’d had a choice or an alternative), mad at God and maybe even mad at me for having such a close and loving relationship with my grandmother, and for being born into a vastly different situation. The regret and the resentment simmered inside of her for her entire life, until she took that life herself at the age of fifty-one.
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