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Day 03 -- Your parents
My father: Irving Fineman (1893-1977) was the one of five children (the first born in the U.S.) of Jewish immigrants from Poland. He went to MIT and became a civil engineer, then a novelist, and then a screenwriter, while continuing to write for publication. At the time I was born, he was a professor of literature at Bennington College and lived on a farm in Shaftsbury, VT, which he kept for the rest of his life, tho he also lived in a variety of places. In late life he had a de facto marriage with a Yiddish poet. He was on his feet till the day he died.

My mother: Helene Hughes Fineman (1908-1985) was one of eight children of a lawyer and his wife in the middle west. She went to Illinois Wesleyan and then the University of Chicago, studying classics. She was married as a "beard" by a gay sociologist, and after escaping that fended for herself in Chicago. She later had a lover who was an German Jewish biophysicist. She met my father in 1935, and he took her to Vermont. After breaking up with my father, she had a variety of teaching & editorial jobs. When she retired, she took a trip around the world. For a few years she was a member the commune I belonged to in Virginia. In her last year, she was in a nursing home near me after a debilitating stroke.

My parents were on bad terms for as long as I can remember, and during childhood I resisted efforts to make me take sides between them. They separated about the time I started high school. My relations with both of them were uneven.

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Helene was a great friend of my mother, Janet Emanuel Mirer (1909-1995). I thought they met at NYU. I recall being taken to visit her in New Haven as a child, and later saw a good deal of her in New York. I enjoyed her cooking, her crafting, her philosophy and her patter. As a teenager, I worked for her in the summers on an editorial job at NYU.

In my late twenties, I spent an afternoon at Twin Oaks -- I think I recall saying hello to you while I was there -- as an emissary of my parents, when Helene was talking about ending her life. I had no impact, and in fact agreed to carry back to NYC some keepsakes she wanted my mother to have. Shortly after that I lost touch with her, and I think she and my mother fell out around the time of my father's final illness in 1978.

Later on, my mother spoke of her and might have wanted to get back in touch, but I don't recall her writing you.

I remember meeting your mother several times in my childhood. I think she lived in Brooklyn. She was one of two old friends my mother kept up with, the other being Frieda Lack. I don't recall ever hearing from her since my time at T.O. (1972-1981).

I don't remember you at T.O., but I probably wouldn't, as I have a poor memory for people, and it was a long time ago. However, I think I remember meeting you earlier on, during the '60s. Were you studying chemistry at the time?

My mother indeed tried to kill herself at T.O., but did not succeed. She recovered, and moved to Syracuse, NY, and then to Concord, MA. During the latter time, I was living in Brookline, MA, and we saw a good deal of each other. After her stroke she was in a nursing home in Brookline for almost a year before she died.

I saw Frieda in 2008, when she was about 99 years old. My partner and I invited her to our younger son's bar mitzvah. She couldn't hear a thing but seemed quite cheerful.

You're probably remembering my brother Frank, who studied chemistry. You wouldn't remember my half day visit to T. O., and anyway I don't think we knew each other -- although Helene talked about you a lot.

I'm sorry I let go of her when I did.

99! People do live a remarkably long time. My father lived to be 84. At the time of the first moon landing, I happened to be visiting him in Vermont, and we watched it together on his little TV. When he was little, there were not even any airplanes. And H. L. Mencken, who lived well into my lifetime, recalled that when *he* was little (1880s) there was still an annual parade, in Baltimore, of veterans of the War of 1812.

No doubt I was remembering Frank.

Well, it appears she's still there and she must be 103 now:

Frieda Lack
100-11 67th Rd
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 275-4784

I guess I'm going to have to call her.

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