My Grandfather’s Ghost

by Barbara Fischkin

My father David Fischkin and my mother Ida Siegel Fischkin at their wedding at the Rockaway Mansion, Livonia Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. February 23, 1936

Again, I thought about changing my name.

I dreamed about publishing essays under a new byline. I tried out pseudonyms for my next book. I wrote down alternate names, said them out loud. A name change would make introductions easier. Now, when I extend my hand and say “Fischkin,” people look at me funny, as if I might be holding live bait.

I can live with Barbara. As a first name, it is dated. But Barbara will come back in style. First names do. I was almost named Benita. Benita Fischkin. Think of that. My mother loved that name, until a friend said a cute nickname for me could be Mussa—close enough to Mussolini.

That was all my mother Ida Siegel Fischkin had to hear. She was a passionate supporter of the State of Israel, a lifetime Hadassah member and a child survivor of an antisemitic pogrom. Benita went down the drain. As a little girl, bored with Barbara—too easy to spell—I asked my mother if she had ever wanted to name me something else.

“Benita,” she said. My mother hid little from me.

Wow, I thought, wishing she had gone through with it. A name like that dripped with fame, fortune and beauty.

Benita as a baby name for a newborn girl must have been making the rounds of pregnant mothers in our Brooklyn neighborhood, circa 1954. Very odd since this was less than a decade after World War II. My guess: When it came to villains, Hitler was the main event. I bet no one ever said: “For a boy, how about Adolph?” Read more »

The World Cup, My White Afrikaner Skin, My Fascist Parents, Mandela, Obama, And Forgiveness

by Evert Cilliers (aka Adam Ash)  fifa sharia 6jul10xzapiro

Five weeks ago I said to my brilliant girlfriend: “I'd like to see my father before he dies.” She said: “Congratulations.” She'd been asking me on and off for two years whether I'd like to go and visit him where he lives in Cape Town, South Africa, and my stock answer had always been: “I don't have the slightest interest in ever seeing my father again.”

So what changed?

You here at 3quarksdaily know me as a passionate ranter against our irresponsible elites (for my favorite screed ever, google this title: “Government Is Not The Problem, Private Enterprise Is: The Global Terrorism Of Al Qaeda, BP And Goldman Sachs”). However, that's not what I'm up to now. This time out, I'm autobiographical. Personal. Self-revelatory. Unbuttoned. A la Moll Flanders. Or Paris Hilton. Confessions of an Opium Eater or something, at double the length of my usual rants.

I made the big Gauguin move of my life two decades ago, when I walked out on my South African Jewish Princess wife in our seven-room, three-bathroom apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Except I didn't go to Tahiti. I went to a garret on Manhattan's Lower East Side. For fifteen years, while I was poor and wrote, wrote, wrote my seven unpublished novels (and became the 90s slam poet Evert Eden), my ex-wife and I didn't communicate. Then, out of the blue, I got a call from her.

“I'd like to see you,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“I'm dying.”

She always had a way of knocking the wind out of my sails. This time the issue was galloping cancer in her stomach.

I went to hang out with her and her brother and her sister during her last days on earth, in that big, elegant apartment, now sans my large paintings, but filled with South African art, a shrine to our homeland.

“I've got no charge with you anymore,” she informed me, in the magnanimous version of her imperial Jewish Princess voice. I thought, “fuck you,” but I just nodded.

Two days before she died, throwing up her guts in a gush of blood and stuff, my ex-wife lay propped up in her bedroom with me on the side of her beautiful bed, designed to her specifications, as was everything and everyone around her. Her doctor brother had been slamming her with as many drugs as he could to keep her semi-comfortable but still lucid.

The two of us were sitting alone, the very ex-married couple. She said:

“How can this be happening to me, when I've always tried to be so good?”

“It's fate,” I said. “We can't control what happens, just how we deal with it.”

It's amazing how one pulls out the most boring cliches at the best and worst of times. My ex-wife suddenly got up and walked to the bathroom, which had always been her bathroom when we lived together; I used the bathroom one room over. As she walked, trailing a sheet behind her, she said in the commanding version of her imperial Jewish Princess voice:

“Make the bed.”

I stood there, looking at the huge mess of sheets and blankets, caught like the proverbial husband in habitual male learned helplessness.

“How?” I asked.

Without losing a beat, and without even looking at me, she snapped:

“Military style.”

The door of the bathroom closed behind her. And I made that goddamn bed that she and I had spent ten years in, that I hadn't seen in fifteen years, and General Patton himself would've approved.

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