Rachel is the plain hard-luck sister who winds up doing okay in the end, now she is a happy cook, she makes Passover dinner for the family every year, doesn’t care if her kitchen is a mess and oh those matzoh balls, she has red cheeks and a big bosom, cheerful too, a wonderful housewife. This is her second marriage, her husband Louis is grizzled and speaks with a heavy Yiddish accent but takes good care of her.

Back in 1937 she marries a handsome man named Joseph, Joe moves into the apartment with the rest of the family. He travels a lot, he is a salesman for ladies’ coats and Rachel works as a secretary in a lawyer’s office. They have a little boy Martin who is as handsome as his father.

Around 1942 Joe starts losing weight, coughing, spitting blood. Rachel takes him to the hospital, Joe has very advanced tuberculosis and is dying, they say. The doctors hold out some hope. A new drug is just becoming available, but unfortunately it is almost impossible to obtain, the antibiotic form of penicillin. Even the hospital can’t get it, but it is the only thing that can save him.

When my father hears that he desperately tries to find some penicillin, tries every avenue, writes letters to the government, knocks on doors, calls in favors, hits a brick wall wherever he turns. He is not able to get the lifesaving cure for Joe and thus Joe dies, so young and handsome, another poor dead Jew.

My father gives Rachel as much money as he can every week and she and Martin get by, they struggle but survive.

In 1952 Rachel remarries, a divorcee with a son Bernard, the other sisters are a bit contemptuous but agree she probably can’t do better. Louis turns out to be a good provider, treats both boys as equals, splits his business between them so that today Marty and Bernie can race sailboats and live in big houses, a different world from the cramped apartment they used to share, amazing, no?

And antibiotic penicillin is cheap.

About Karen To and Fro

Everything you didn't want to know about me!
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