My Cousin Morton passed into spirit this past week. I don’t know exactly how old he was. Probably in his upper 80s. His father Izzie and my grandfather Sidney emigrated to America from Galicia in Poland in 1915. Each of the brothers had two sons. Morton was the oldest of the boys. He had a challenging childhood because his mother became mentally ill and was institutionalized so he and his little brother were shuttled around to the homes of various relatives while he was growing up. My grandmother cared for them a lot of the time. Morton attributed his stint in the army to guiding him to his lifetime vocation as a psychiatrist. He was the head psychiatrist at Coney Island Hospital for many years and then he and his wife decided to “make aliyah” (which is the Jewish idiomatic expression for moving to Israel). They sold their house on Long Island and moved to Jerusalem with their two children. A few years later, they decided to move back. Coney Island Hospital took Morton back as the head psychiatrist. That shows you how good he was at what he did. He and his wife always made me laugh with their terrific sense of humor. I don’t know whether it was true or not, but my image of them is that they were people who were not afraid to shoot the moon or embark on an adventure. His wife Marcie is still living, so I shouldn’t say “was.”
Marcie has always been one of my favorite relatives. She was a feminist way ahead of the curve. She got an education and worked at an interesting job that allowed her to travel in foreign countries. She remained single on into her older twenties, which was quite unusual for a young lady in the Jewish community in those days. She told me that her family was worried that an independent woman such as she would never land a husband. She had an uncle who took her to lunch every week and asked her to let him pay for her to get a nose job. She kept declining his offer. Marcie told me the story on more than one occasion of how her mother would say to her, “If you don’t watch out, you’ll wind up married to a bum.” Marcie would shrug after she said that and, with a twinkle in her eye, she would say, “So look who I wound up with? A bum!” That bum, the head psychiatrist at Coney Island Hospital. Morton.
Their two children grew up to be very successful. Their son is a nationally recognized cardiologist and their daughter is an attorney. They have four beautiful grandchildren. Coming from very humble beginnings and a challenging childhood, Cousin Morton made something of his life. He was a good guy and I will miss him.
Note: Just to set the record straight, I had a long and excellent conversation last week with the couple who gives the Fabri Prize and it looks like things are going to work out just fine with my book. They are simply switching publishers for it. That was a relief.