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Continued from A sense of belonging

Back to 1951. Yry was pushing 40. She’d been mulishly tuning out admonitions of friends and family. Settling down was for someone else. However, she was still a vibrant woman throbbing with needs and desires. Between household chores, caring for Joan, and corresponding with the relatives in Germany, she made room for a social life. She longed to fill the cavernous need in her heart. She thought she knew what that need was, but each time she seemed close to satisfying it, it slipped through her fingers like a shimmering mirage on the horizon. Now, once again the mirage was dancing, promising friendship, companionship, faith, and cleansing of wounds.

Perhaps early 21st-century psycho-babblers would suggest that the mirage was her father’s love, the need for warmth, acceptance, and physical closeness that had always been missing. But psycho-babble was not de rigueur in the fifties. Nor would she have heeded the warning, had it been available. Yry was destined to follow her heart no matter where it led.

I have only one side of the story. I never met my father or any of my father’s people. His side of the tale is buried along with him in some grave or urn which I’ve been too disinterested to disinter. When I graduated from high school, my mother dug a couple of savings bonds out of hiding. They had been bought for me by my paternal grandmother upon the occasion of my birth. These were modest bonds, nevertheless, I was touched to realize that there were people I’d never known who had once entertained high hopes for me.

But I delay. It is not easy to broach a topic that should be so important and yet about which one knows so little. Predictably, my father was ten years Yry’s senior. He was Jewish, and according to her,  still living in a flat with his parents.When he and my mother started dating, she began studying Judaism, hoping that this religion could answer the cosmological questions that Christianity had failed to address for her.


Sidney Keschner ca. 1951

On April 5, 1952 Yramiris H. Paul married Sidney R. Keschner at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, Rabbi Edward Klein presiding. They had dated for over two years and Sidney seemed to Yry, as well as to her parents, like a modest, easy to please person. Their ideas and tastes seemed to mesh and Yry felt that at last, she had found her soul mate. He and Joan got along well. They discussed birth control, then decided to against it. They moved into a five-room apartment at 219 W. 81st Street.

There was no honeymoon. By the end of their first week together, before she’d even finished unpacking, Sidney’s character reversed; he became sullen and snippy. When pressed, he belched out a list of petty offences that convinced him he could not live with her. Astonished, she apologized and thanked him for telling her what was wrong so she could learn to please him. Harmony ensued for a few weeks until, he fell into another sullen spell and more fights erupted. Was my father bipolar?

Interestingly, it wasn’t until I posted this chapter, that I heard from a Keschner. Out of the blue, a comment appeared, alerting me to some errors in my assumptions about Sidney. He was definitely not bipolar. According to this potential cousin, he “was an incredible, wonderful, generous, charismatic man, who lived a great life and was a sensation uncle.” There is another side to story, but since this is Yry’s story, I will tell it as she revealed it. Sidney’s story is for another book.