shirley schwartzman was born in williamsburg, brooklyn, in the early 1900s. she met an engineering student with the last name paleschnitzki, or was it pauleschnitzki? no idea, unfortunately. they had two girls: karen, and later, laura. both girls were raised in the bronx, were beautiful and intelligent, went off to college, and eventually to california. what is it that drives children across the country, or to another country, as opposed to growing up and raising a family right next to their parents? up for debate, here. as i recall it both girls were a multitude of things, but each one was known for having her 'thing....' something i think has to do with the roles we play within our family structures. one sister is 'strong,' one is the 'shy' one, one brother is the pilot, one is the 'accident,' 'the baby,' or the superfluous! one is 'silly,' without substance, trite, pretty, the other is sad, heavy, studious...these sisters played into these roles, and spent a lifetime shaking them off, and for many stretches of time, without any word with or from the other. in what could only be written by someone else, both women had 1 daughter by a south american man. both divorced around the same time. both then married older, white-haired gentleman who spoke more to their jewish upbringing and who each had one daughter from a previous marriage. now 2 was four; and each of us had a playmate the exact same age as us. one of these white-haired gentlemen was a royally damaged psychologist, who struggled to be the best man he could be for most of my childhood, and the other was a berkeley lawyer about whom i can't speak much. i remember him on thanksgivings and fake christmases. i remember his laughter, his controlling tendencies, and his nervous twitches. both daughters of LP and KP went to east coast liberal arts colleges, kept the names of our fathers, and never saw shirley or the engineer growing up, and at this point the story deviates. now we are here, 3 of these 4 daughters and step-daughters of LP & KP have 2 children a piece, while one remains sorting her shit out in the city in which her grandmother was born. shirley died last sunday in florida. i don't know how old she was. i don't know how i feel because it was clouded with guilt at not having felt a thing in the first place. the memories i have of shirley are mostly negative, and that's the truth. it is my truth, at least. LP and KP are there now, figuring out the details of their mother's death. the last time i saw her i was 15. my mother as always, having a long time ago choosen happiness, possibility, and forgiveness over everything, brought a sullied me to Florida in 1996. i have 3 images from that trip. one is my grandmother's room. there was a TV, cigarette butts, a blue reclining sofa chair, and windows full of green plants that for some reason were thriving. whether this is true or not i can't fact check. it is a memory only. the second pulls information from a photo i think taken on that trip. i am wearing a white t-shirt, blue jeans that fit, a dumb necklace, and a purple cardigan i loved under long, long, flat hair. my make-up dust is a shade too white for my skin tone, and my eyebrows have been plucked to the point of abstraction. my face is growing; the bones show it in transition. i remember the three of us on the beach the day i'm wearing that outfit. i don't remember strolling. i remember sort of a lump of a woman that was my grandmother, shirley, and in later years when she came to proclaim herself a buddhist, asha. she was a sort of hunched over figure along the horizon of the sarasota seascape. she had bright eyes, short grey hair, looked like, sure, she had contributed some features to my mother and KP, sure, but her voice was gravely as only a chain smoker's could be. i remember feeling very distant, if unamused. the other scene is us on a street in a florida. that's it, that's the memory, though in my mind the exposure is always the same - overexposed. the other memories i have of her involve the telephone and her hanging up on my mother every time she would call the house. it used to end in tears and then it just ended. i don't know, yet again. i have no idea, and i am, also, in no place to say, how someone could not budge or ask themselves how to budge, or make moves towards a better self in 60 years...this is a mystery to me. i feel neither like a shithead nor a saint writing about her posthumously; i think these words are really all i have or will ever probably have to say about her. wherever buddhas go in the afterlife, i hope ms. shirley schwartzman is there, and in her next reincarnation, i hope she is granted freedom from herself.