Family History

Shelter at Home

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

[for our  53rd anniversary]

In the living room within these walls
Snug we sit on the softened sofa
And watch the dance of pixels on the screen
Replacing our extinguished hearth.

I recall the cozy chesterfield
Where we cuddled in front of the fire
While the storm roared in the hollow,
Our future but a threatening swirl.

Could we then have seen ahead
Our joy and comfort half a century hence,
Before the plague began to rage,
That moment might have lost its treasured worth

Like this perilous time’s, when every minute counts
When 25 million precious minutes since
Cannot be taken from us
By whatever now our future holds in store.


Reminders of the “Good Old Days”

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

[Updated June 30 2013]

gute alte zeit_2.jpg

Soon after their move to San Luis Obispo in 1989, my parents, Lise and Henry Marx, presented Jan and me with a gift they’d been working on for several years: a collection of German proverbs they had learned from their parents and grandparents.

I remember continually hearing these sayings from my earliest childhood until their final days. Each time one was uttered there was a moment of satisfaction—the speaker pleased to have found a way to make familiar sense out of some new experience and the hearer gratified to grasp the connection.  Growing up as a first generation American, I reacted to these old-world pieties with boredom and embarrassment.

By the time Jan and I and our children had finally settled and bought a house in our middle forties and Lise and Henry had reached their middle eighties, we all welcomed the opportunity to live in close proximity.  As a partially reformed rebel and parent of teenagers I was also ready to join Jan in affirming the value of family and cultural heritage.  That combined with the fact that we both spoke German allowed us to appreciate the wry wit and wisdom of the old folks’ oft-repeated slogans.  But it was a great surprise when they gave us a notebook with their own collection of over two hundred family aphorisms as a “Weinukah” or Chrisnukah present.  Some were as familiar as the furniture in their living room but many others I discovered for the first time.

The book has resided inside a little shrine holding their pictures and ashes. Now we converse through translation.

gute alte zeit.jpg

Gluecklich ist
Wer vergisst
Was nicht mehr
Zu aendern ist
Happy is he
Who doesn’t see
What no longer
Changed can be
Eine Schwalbe macht noch keinen Sommer One swallow doesn’t make it Summer
Stille Wasser gruenden tief Still waters run deep
Das schlag dir aus dem Kopf Just smack that out of your head
Das beruehren der Figueren
Mit den Pfoten ist verboten
Keep your grimy paws away
From the figure on display
Zu lieben und geliebt zu werden
Das ist das groesste Glueck auf Erden
To love someone and be loved in return
There’s found the happiness for which we yearn
Einem boesen Hund gibt man zwei knochen The nasty dog gets two bones
Der Gescheitere gibt nach The wiser one gives way
Ohne Fleiss kein Preis No pain no gain
Eile mit Weile Haste makes waste
Nach uns die Sintflut After us the deluge
Nur net brumme
S’wird scho’kumme
No use to gripe
When your time’s ripe
Spare in der Zeit
So hast du in der Not
Put by in time
Don’t cry in need
Wer nicht hoeren will muss fuelen If you wont hear, you’ll have to feel
Vorsicht is besser wie Nachsicht Careful’s better than full of care
Kleine Kinder kleine Sorgen
Grosse Kinder grosse Sorgen
Little children little cares
Grown up children grown up cares
Ich habe meine Kinder das Reden gelehrt
Und sie haben mich das Schweigen gelehrt
I taught my children to speak
And they taught me to keep quiet
Uebung macht den Meister Practice makes perfect
Wer arbeit Kennt und sicht nicht drueckt
Der ist verrueckt
Whoever knows work and doesn’t run
‘s a crazy one
Wie gesagt so getan No sooner said than done
Es ist auf den Hund gekommen It’s gone to the dogs
Ein Verhaengnis kommt selten allein A disaster rarely arrives alone
Wes’ das Herz voll ist
des’ laeuft der Mind ueber
One whose heart’s full
Runs over at the mouth
Vater werden ist nicht schwer
Vater sein dagegen mehr
To become a father isn’t hard
But to be a father isn’t easy
So was sagt man nicht
So was tut man blos
That’s something we would never say
We’d just do it anyway
Gute Goeckel werde’ net fett Good cocks don’t get fat
S’isch dumm gange’ It went all cockeyed
Und wenn Dich schon der Erste hat
dann hat Dich bald die ganze Stadt
Once the first guy has his way
soon the whole town gets to play
Tue Recht und scheue niemand Do right and let no one know
Wenn das Woertchen “Wenn” nicht waer
dann waer mein Vater Millionaer
If the word “if” wasn’t there
My father’d be a millionaire
Alter schuetzt vor Torheit nicht Age wont guard against folly
Lerne leiden ohne zu klagen Learn to suffer silently
Die Liebe des Mannes geht durch den Magen The way to the man’s love is through his stomach
Zur liebe kann man niemand zwingen No one can be forced to love
Der Weg sur Hoelle is mit guten Vorsaetzen gepflastert The way to hell is paved with good intentions
Schoenheit vergeht
Weisheit besteht
Beauty subsides
Wisdom abides
Es wird nicht so heiss gegessen wie es gekocht wird It wont be as hot eaten as cooking
Das Leben ist ‘ne Huehnerleiter
man kommt vor lauter Dreck nicht weiter
Life is just a henhouse ladder
You cant surmount the fecal matter
Voegel die am Morgen singen
Holt am Abend die Katze
Birds that sing in the morning
Attract the cat at night
Es ist dafuer gesorgt dass die Baueme nicht in den Himmel wachsen It’s been arranged that the trees don’t grow into the heavens
Man soll den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben Dont praise the day before it’s over
Reden ist Silber
Schweigen ist Gold
Speech is silver
Silence is gold
Spinne am Abend erquickened und labend
Spinne am Morgen bringt Kummer und Sorgen
A spider in the night brings joy and delight
A spider on the morrow brings trouble and sorrow
Wer nichts wagt gewinnt nichts Nothing ventured nothing gained (more…)

Louise Marx–Obituary

Wednesday, January 19th, 2005

Louise Marx  of San Luis Obispo,  died at the age of 94 on Wednesday January 19 2005 at a San Luis Obispo Care Center after several years of failing health. She was a devoted and loving wife and mother.

Louise (or Lise) was born in Stuttgart Germany September 6, 1910, daughter of Adolph and Mathilde  Gruenwald.  After the early death of her mother, she was raised by her father and stepmother Paula, who bore three siblings,  Hannelore, Gabrielle,  and HansPeter.  She attended public  and private schools in Germany and Switzerland where she learned English,  French and Spanish, and she also completed two years of business college.  During the early 1930’s she moved to Berlin to work for a sheet music publisher and to be near her fiance, Henry Marx, businessman.  Because the Nazi regime outlawed Jewish marriages, she and Henry married in secret in 1934.

Louise and her husband emigrated to New York City in 1937 and after one year brought his mother from Germany to live with them.  Her father, stepmother and siblings fled Germany to Sao Paulo Brazil, where the family continues to reside.  She worked as a secretary and then parttime as a masseuse after their son Steven was born in 1942. Besides serving as a Den Mother for the Cub Scouts, she was active in Hadassah, the Jewish women’s service organization, and was one of the founders of the Riverdale Bronx Chapter.

When their child left home, she worked  as a secretary for physicians,  scholars, the Jewish agency and the Leo Baeck Institute.  Later she tutored elementary school students in Harlem and attended to veterans in hospitals. In 1972 Louise and Henry retired to Denver Colorado, taking full advantage of its opportunities for hiking and skiing. She volunteered and took several Community College courses. In 1989 they moved to San Luis Obispo to live near their son and his family.  Here she continued  to do volunteer work and to take college courses, now at Cal Poly.  Her husband of 63 years died in 1995. Shortly before he died,  she completed  a memoir of her life experiences that spanned most of the twentieth century.

Louise Marx is survived by her sisters Hannelore and Gabrielle,  her son Steven and daughter in law Jan Howell Marx, her grandchildren Joe and Claire,  and her greatgrandchildren Ian Fisher and Ethan Marx.

Eulogy for Henry Marx

Saturday, November 11th, 1995

Welcome and thanks for coming today, on behalf of Lise, Henry’s wife, Jan his daughter in law, Joe and Claire, his grandchildren. I’m Steven, his son.

We’ve been amazed by the magnitude of the public tribute to him and the outpouring of sympathy and appreciation–from Denver, where he lived for fifteen years before moving to San Luis Obispo, from New York, from all around the world.

He was a little guy with a large presence; Paula Huston said to me the other day that he’ll be missed by the whole county. Another colleague, Barbara Hallman came up to me yesterday to express condolence with tears in her eyes. I asked her how she knew him. “His letters to the paper, I’ll miss them,” she said.
Grief makes you want to retreat and hide to nurse your wound. Its hard to share with so many people in so public a way.The good and pure memories we want to hoard, the jealous and critical feelings we want to hide, and the stupefying mystery of death itself we want to deny.

But Jan and Lise and I nevertheless decided on the day he died to hold this gathering. For the immediate family, it’s a way to distribute the pain, it’s asking for your comfort, it’s an antidote for our tendency to withdraw into isolation

For all of us, its a chance to make up for some of the loss we feel to our community by pooling our regard for Henry and building a lasting monument to him in our memories.

The reason we’re in the Y today is not only because of the graciousness of the managment and the fact that it has a large room and lots of parking space. Henry used to say that going to senior aerobics at the Y twice a week was his religion. He was only half joking.

Since his adolescent involvement with the German youth movement, he believed in worshipping the temple of the body. Fitness was his credo. He treasured his health, and he saw that maintaining it was his own business. Working out here made him feel good and counteracted his tendencies toward depression about current events. The idea of senior aerobics fit his attitude toward old age and the approach of death in general–affirming what you still have, rather than regretting what you’ve lost.

The first tolling of his bell occurred here. Heading home for lunch after his workout on May fifth, he drove out of the parking lot, down Southwood, Laurel Lane and Orcut to the intersection and then made a left turn instead of a right on Broad street. An hour later, the Park Rangers found him disoriented, spinning his wheels near the ocean in the Nipomo dunes.

After they brought him home, he had a series of seizures, but with medication and a couple of weeks rest, he was recovered enough to be back in this room on a regular schedule, and in July, he insisted that I join him one day to exercize and to meet his friends.

I came back here with Henry in mid October. Two weeks after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he was staying in the Cabrillo nursing home, a block away, on Augusta Street. It was a warm afternoon and I took him out in a wheelchair to the nearest place one could appreciate the air and see some green. It was the park right outside. We sat together in the shade of the Eucalyptus trees and talked about native and imported plant species, about medicare, about the privilege of living in this town. It was our last sustained conversation, the last time he was out of bed.

I felt blessed to be able to take many farewells from my father during his monthlong departure from this world. One of the most memorable occurred when he talked about his grandparents, and how their presence was so strong with him during those last days. Then he cried bitterly and said he didnt want to die. Without thinking, I replied that he would remain, just as his grandparents existed in him at that very moment. He nodded and pulled me to him. With all of us here now I say, goodbye Henry, and I say you are still here in the memories and the legacy of the good you leave behind.