The Glicksberg Chronicles
Book I : The Root and The Seed and The Thief In Between
When I was 20 years old my parents died.
Laundry truck versus taxi in a head on collision; Mom was killed instantly, Dad was eventually judged to be suffering from a chronic vegetative state. His insurance was gone in the blink of an eye. He lasted 18 months. 18 months that ate up everything he and my mom left me, everything except the nice 2 bedroom apartment the two of them bought before I was born.
All my life my dad and my uncle Ira, my mom’s twin brother, made each other crazy. I couldn’t say if it was real live out-and-out hate but they sure drove each other up the freaking wall. Neither of them could pass up a chance to get under the other’s skin.
When I was in high school Uncle Ira gave me a copy of Abby Hoffman’s Steal This Book, with one sentence underlined in bic pen. The pearl of sage advice good old Ira felt the need to emphasize was this, more or less, that every person has a choice to make in their life; they can go for the bucks, for money, security, the prestige of their friends and neighbors, or they can go for broke, they can follow where ever gut instinct takes them whether that winds up being E=MC squared or levitating the Pentagon.
I never knew what my old man thought about his running war of nerves with his brother-in-law. My father wasn’t the kind of guy to waste energy talking about his feelings but I think the advice sums up my Uncle Ira’s beef with my old man, at least from Ira’s point of view.
As far as I could figure, based on his actions, my father believed in science, progress, capitalism, and WheatStraw LTD. He and mom were both company men to the core.
Ira, on the other hand, was what you might call a connoisseur of belief.
The way the family told it Ira came back from Vietnam and he could have done anything, been anything. Not even my dad denied that Ira was smart. Instead after Vietnam Ira moved in with Grandma and revived Grandpa’s old tv repair shop downstairs. As soon as bureaucracy would allow he brought over a freckle faced Vietnamese girl he called “Frenchie.” He and Frenchie never had any kids. Agent Orange, they said.
Ira believed in the brotherhood of man but also not to trust the boss as far as you could throw him.
He believed that any person’s trustworthiness was inversely proportional to their power.
Ira believed in family, but not in blood.
With everything he’d been through Ira didn’t believe in the god of his forefathers but he believed in their religion, if it was possible to make that distinction. He used to say “We haven’t survived this long to stop being Jewish, just because I don’t believe in God.”
My dad, Lance, didn’t even belong to a political party.
Ira was a card carrying member of Vietnam Vets Against War Anti-Imperialists, The RCP, the IWW, and the same temple as his father and grandfather.
If the choices were to go for the bucks or go for broke, Ira had definitely gone for broke, because he was, broke that is. He still managed to give me an after school job, though by then we weren’t fixing tvs. Jakobs TV Repair was all about computer repairs and refurbished computers.
My parents were comfortable, not that they spent enough time off work to enjoy it. Growing up I spent an average of 20 minutes a day with my parents. Uncle Ira, on the other hand, set his own hours. He could hang out with me whenever he wanted to, and he wanted to from the minute I got off school until my parents made it home from work. Half the time I had supper with Ira and Frenchie.
By the time I graduated college, the epic struggle between Dad and Uncle Ira had reached a fevered pitch. Mom and Dad managed to wrangle me an interview with the Wheatstraw LTD IT department despite my degree in world history.
All Ira had to offer was partnership in a worthless used computer shop but I went for it. The paint was still wet on the Jakobs and Nephew Computer Repair sign when the accident happened.
At the time taking the pity offer of that IT job I’d already turned down once seemed like my only choice.
Then I met Marjorie Morningstar.
I was in college the first time I learned that I had the same name as a reasonably well known book character. I don’t think my parents had any idea. I was named after my maternal grandmother, Marjorie TwoTurtles, but I don’t remember her. She died two weeks before my third birthday while we were stationed overseas.
Once a year or so we would visit relatives on the Navajo Rez where my father’s mother was enrolled.
Both my parents were in the Army, so my two brothers and I grew up, for all practical purposes, in the Army, too. I attended school in 10 states and 2 foreign countries.
Unlike my cousins on the Rez I didn’t have what you would call an enmeshed family. I didn’t have literally hundreds of relatives watching and commenting on my every move, and I counted myself lucky for that. Rez life was stifling. I had my parents and my brothers. My parents loved us but they had busy careers. They had responsibilities that came with their jobs. They tried to give us what they considered an “Indin” upbringing, but it mostly amounted to stories that bored us to tears and totally unplanned visits from whatever relative or old Indian School friends were passing through our area. The older we got the more my brothers and I realized we had different interests and different, separate lives. I took summer school classes in order to graduate at 16, my youngest brother, Gordon, went into the Marine Corp, and Victor, the one in the middle, went into theatre.
I identified more with the teenagers in latest summer movies than I did with my cousins on The Rez.
I knew people saw me and assumed I got a full ride with some sort of “Indian Scholarship” but 1) there weren’t nearly as many of those as were generally imagined and 2) I was too many different tribes to qualify for any of them. It was one of the natural results of having both parents, all 4 grandparents, and most of my great grandparents meet their respective mates at Indian Boarding School.
That is to say, for the uninformed, that for most tribes, and Native Americans all belong to different tribes as different as countries in Europe, with wildly different languages, religions, cultures. There’s a blood quantum limit, ¼ is a common cut off, as in no one less than ¼ can be an officially recognized member of that particular tribe. Most tribes are like most countries, you have to pick one. No double dipping. But I was too many different tribes, in too small amounts, to be enrolled in any one tribe.
Tulalip, Navajo, Apache, Paiute, Cheyenne, Ft. Sill Apache, Kiowa, and Otoe Missouri in case you’re curious. I hear I have some white blood, but I can’t prove it.
So I counted myself incredibly lucky when I landed a scholarship for military dependents with the defense contractor Richmond-Grumbacher Inc. Books, tuition, board, everything, all I had to do was work for Richmond for the next 40 years.
The job security seemed like a bonus. I thought I hit a glitch when I discovered I was too young to sign the contract, but my mother was happy to consent. I think we were both relieved to get away from each other.
Two years into a combined 5 year bachelor/masters in genetics I began working summers for Richmond-Grumbacher and by graduate school I was full time. Shortly after I received my terminal degree Richmond-Grumbacher Inc. was taken over by WheatStraw LTD and I had no choice but to move to New York.
When the offer to freeze my eggs was made through WheatStraw LTD benefits program it seemed ideal. I always wanted children but getting pregnant then would have devastated my career when it was barely off the ground. I was 23.