Monday, August 28, 2017

Let Me Introduce You to My Dear Ones, Now Departed

Some talk to the living and get wisdom. I talk with the dead and imagine the wisdom they would have imparted to me. I bring questions to them and also present them with problems and challenges I face in my life. And I gain wisdom from what I imagine to be their different perspectives.

My first imagined conversation with my parents and grandparents, Zichronam Livracha, of Blessed Memory, took place in October 1999. The subject was God and Prayer and since then we have other conversations on a wide range of topics. After my Aunt Claire LeBrint Metzger and Uncle Rolland Metzger died, I expanded the conversation to include them along with my Aunt Perle LeBrint. 

Let me introduce you to my loved ones, now dead, who participate in conversations with me, along with a few snippets of wisdom from other conversations I've had with them.

My mother, Rose LeBrint Fuchs, who died in January 1991 and my father Leonard (Len) Fuchs who died in March 1997.  

Wisdom from Rose: "On the street of by the by, one comes to the house of never."
Wisdom from Len: "This too shall pass."
Leonard and Rose, date unknown

My grandfather, Henry Fuchs, my father Len’s father. Henry was a wise and gentle man, who had strong faith in God. Henry was married to Anne Fuchs (my father’s mother) for over 50 years. When Anne died, he made a second marriage to Bea Winston.  

My grandmother Anne Fuchs, my father Len’s mother. Anne had a heart condition that severely limited her ability to function. Preparing a Sabbath meal for our family tired her out. My two sisters and Ihad to be very quiet and good when we were around Grandma Fuchs. When I was 10, Anne had a stroke that paralyzed her right side. She walked with a brace and she could not speak except in jumbled up words. Because of her health problems and to my great regret, I hardly knew her. 

Anne and Henry had only one child, my father Leonard.

Wisdom from Grandpa Henry "You are in the thick of it and that is a good thing, but it is hard. Pray to God and write to God and talk to us. We are your inner resources. We are inside you." 
Wisdom from from Grandma Anne: "I am an observer from all these years of not being able to talk. Sometimes it is good to observe and to take time to listen and to breathe." 

Anne and Henry 1955 with their granddaughters Betsy, Judy, and Sue

My step-grandmother Bea Winston Fuchs. To Bea, my sisters and me were accepted as if we were her own granddaughters. Bea and Henry were married almost 20 years. They both died in 1979, Henry in March when he was 99 years old and Bea at age 80 two months later in May.

Wisdom from Grandma Bea: "Embrace and love your family and your step-family equally. Much joy came to me and your Grandpa Henry from joining our families together." 

Grandpa and Bea 1965 (as we called them)

My grandmother Anna LeBrint, my mother Rose’s mother. Anna and my grandfather Abe had five children within eight years. She felt that having so many children was a burden. In addition to being a mother, she was a business woman, buying and selling two flats and three flats in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood.

My grandfather Abraham (Abe) LeBrint, my mother Rose’s father. To quote my mother, Abe “had a love affair with America” and had a successful printing business in partnership with an American born friend.

My aunt Perle LeBrint was the youngest of Anna and Abe’s five children. She lived with and was financially dependent on her parents her entire life. Perle was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 27 in 1945. Anna watched out for Perle after the diagnosis, ensuring that her daily insulin was administered safely and correctly. Perle died in 1965, four months after Anna died.

Wisdom as told by Grandma LeBrint to her daughter Claire: "I want my children to do well, take vacations, have careers, and marry well."
Wisdom from Grandpa LeBrint: "Dare to take advantage of all the opportunities our great country offers and to step out of your comfort zone. In my life, I didn't have the nerve to follow this advice as fully as I might have, but you can do it."
Wisdom from Perle: " Mine was a comfortable safe life with no complications so it seemed. But safety and comfort are overrated. Get out there and keep taking chances. I wish I had."  

Anna LeBrint 1961, Abe LeBrint, date unknown
Perle LeBrint, date unknown

My aunt Claire LeBrint Metzger, the fourth child of Anna and Abe. Claire was a single working woman in Chicago until age 53 when she married Rolland Metzger and moved to Dixon, Illinois,.

Uncle Rolland Metzger came into my life after he married Claire in 1967.

Claire and Rolland had one house in Dixon and a second house in Chicago. I was very close to them and would sometimes drive to Dixon to visit, but frequently they came to Chicago to go to the theater, their favorite restaurant Ann Sather’s and also to join us for holiday meals at my house. Claire and Rolland survived my mother and father. Claire died in 2002; Rolland in 2005. They were like parents-contemporaries- friends to me. They had a young attitude and enjoyed keeping company with me and my husband (when I was married) and my friends.

Wisdom from Claire: "My philosophy was 'Life is full of ups and downs,' but I didn't always remember this philosophy when I was in a down period. I hope you will do better at remembering."
Wisdom from Rolland: "Put your money in Roth IRAs." and by his example: Diversify your career skills and find new ones after retirement. (He became a computer expert and tax consultant after retirement.)
 Claire and Rolland 1979

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

1966 San Francisco Working Girl Among the Hippies

Perhaps the Mamas and Papas song California Dreamin’ gave me the idea to leave Chicago and head to San Francisco, after I graduated college in March 1966. Or it might have been the taste of freedom that I got during my 1965 solo trip to an international course in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

I did no research and no pre-planning. I had some money to cover expenses for a few months, but I had no job lined up and knew no one who lived in San Francisco. I didn’t know about the hippies and flower children who were flocking to San Francisco. This wasn’t surprising. During my college years 1962 to 1966, I paid no attention to the “outside world.” In fact, I wasn’t even aware of -- and I don’t remember to this day – where I was and how I felt when JFK was assassinated (on November 22, 1963).

My parents were dismayed and worried about my going alone to a new city and they demanded that I write them weekly once I got there. In 1966, long distance telephone calls were expensive and considered a luxury so requiring that I call regularly was not an option. My mother visited me once and decided I was doing OK.

Unlike the hippies, I was a working girl, earning a living at a series of 9 to 5 jobs. I had three clerical jobs in one year; they were easy to find and easy to leave. I moved three times in that same year, from a rooming house in Pacific Height to an apartment with pot-smoking roommates in Haight Ashbury and then to a studio apartment on 7th Avenue, just south of Golden Gate Park. 

I had a wild time in my own way. But certainly not as wild as the hippies I wrote about in this January 4, 1967 letter to my parents. At the time, I had a clerical job with the American Red Cross and was making plans to find an adult profession, either in social work or as a teacher.

Hi Mom and Dad:
You asked about the hippies of San Francisco, the gypsy beatniks who abound in this city. I used to live in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood, on Cole Street with a few roommates. One of the reasons I moved from there was that I didn’t like the run down condition of the neighborhood due to so many unemployed kids who crowded into apartments and hung around on the streets.

Last weekend, I spent a few hours at a festival of sorts in a long grassy strip between Haight Ashbury and the Golden Gate Park. There were some folk-rock groups and some weird musical groups playing far out instruments, and throngs of people milling around. There was a group of Hell’s Angels, and they were fascinating as were the hippies. These kids, most are in their late teens and early 20’s, are a modern day version of gypsies, with their weird dress (ranging from rags to vintage clothes from the 1920’s and earlier) and their raggedy kids, and their uninhibited ways. Many are on pot (marijuana) much of the time and LSD is widely circulated. When I lived in Haight Ashbury, I felt threatened by the hippy life style. They seem to live from day to day in a way I couldn’t stand, because I need security.

I admire their freedom though. They improve on a lot of petty things that the well-fed middle-class in the U.S. is obsessed with. In some ways, I want to be like them – to be part of that cult.

My job plans are taking form. I’ve applied for a welfare job. If it comes by next September, I’ll take that job and see what I think of “social work.” If I don’t get the welfare job, I will go to San Francisco State and work on my elementary school teaching credential.

Had a New Year’s party with Peter, who is a grad student at State, working on his master’s degree in set design. He is very creative in the use of wild unusual materials. We had a good punch and everyone got high, though no one got drunk or sick. Most of the people I invited didn’t show up, so it was mainly Peter’s drama friends. But it was fun, and I never lacked (for) someone interesting to talk to. A college classmate of mine was up from San Diego State, where he is studying biology, and he came to the party. He was very “out of it.” I think he is not used to mixing with offbeat characters. I knew no one except Peter, my college classmate and a friend from Cole Street, but I drank enough punch and I suppose I’m quite outgoing when the choice of people looks interesting.

I can’t say it enough, I’m so proud of you both and of our family, for we are all interesting people who don’t stagnate, that’s for sure.
Love, Betsy

P.S. Got your annual New Year’s letter (pictured below). I didn’t like it because at the moment I’m not “planning for a social work career,” as you indicated, and somehow the whole thing seemed braggy (sic) and very smug. We have reason to be smug about our successes, but it makes the possibility of setbacks, which always come, very hard.

How can the Fuchses fail or have rough times? Kind of inhuman picture of us.

Achievements reported in the Fuchses 1967 annual New Year's Letter:
Susan - eldest daughter: Married to a doctor, home-maker, new mother.
Betsy - planning Social Work career.
Rose - mother: back to college (at age 60), all A's so far.
Len - father: nominated to Chicago Board of Education, moved to larger office.
Judy - youngest daughter: National Merit Finalist. Freshman at Cornell (University). 
Great Grandfather Henry and charming wife Bea (step great-grand mother).

The P.S. in my letter foreshadowed my setbacks in trying to find a profession suitable for a woman college graduate in the 1960’s.  At the time, there were only two: social work and teaching.

In spring 1967, without much thought or planning, just like when I made my decision to go to San Francisco, it came to me that it was time to return home to Chicago. I was frustrated with the routine job at the American Red Cross and with my boss who gave me what I considered “make work.” I felt like I couldn’t continue working at The Red Cross and stay sane. 

I didn’t have the patience to wait until September to learn about the Welfare job.

And I missed the seasons.

And I missed my parents. 

I got a job as a recreation/social worker at Chicago State “Mental” Hospital and took teacher certification classes at night. But I didn’t have the maturity to keep the Chicago State Hospital job and couldn’t control the seventh graders in during four weeks of student teaching. So for me social work and teaching were out and instead, I took a nice safe job as an office clerk. Nothing for Mom and Dad to brag about in their next New Year’s Letter.

Eventually, with loads of on-the job training and the help and support and encouragement of great bosses and work-colleagues, I found a profession that suited me in the field of System Analysis/Information Systems. By then, my parents were retired and traveling the world and were grandparents, so they had other things to report in their New Year’s Letters and they no longer needed to report on my career. Or maybe they didn’t because they never could figure out what I did as a Systems Analyst/I.S. Support Technician.