In 1964 my mother Miriam met a man at a convention in the Catskills for Hebrew educators. They fell in love instantly and decided to marry
.Oscar shortly after became my third stepfather. At the time I was a sophomore at Cheltenham High School in suburban Philadelphia. As seemed typical of my development toward adulthood ( and through nearly all my adulthood) I encountered each stage of growing up as a distraught soap opera character.
Oscar had a brilliant mind and was fluent in many languages including French, German, Yiddish, Hebrew and Aramaic. When it came to people, however, he was not so good. Mother and I had lived in Elkins Park, PA. During Mother and Oscar’s courtship, Mother and I drove in her red Ford from suburban Philly to Yonkers where Oscar was educational director for a nearby synagogue.
My first trip to Yonkers was with Oscar and me alone where we disliked each other immediately. On the wall of his apartment was a framed version of If by Rudyard Kipling. Although the Nobel Prize Committee of Literature regarded Kipling well, my first and forever view of Kipling was / is contempt. I immediately expressed contempt which Oscar did not share. Oscar bet me five dollars that I could not memorize If by the end of the weekend visit. Fortunately or unfortunately ( the poem still haunts me at dark times) I won the bet. It was a Pyrric victory.