15 August 2014

My Brother Manny

Welcome back. The Retired--Now What? Blog's favorite nonagenarian, guest blogger, Miriam Biskin, is back to reminisce about her bother.

He was only five when I was born, yet he never exhibited the least annoyance at being deprived of being number one. In fact, I was a kind of pet he could take everywhere. He was just my big brother.

Manny, the author's brother.
He wasn't much of a student, but his teachers loved him. He had a problem reading, and in those days, there were no remedial programs. I must have been a little witch, fighting him for the Sunday funnies. "Give them to me first. I'll finish them before you get started." However, he loved penmanship and I can still see his signature, Emanuel, signed with a big flourish following a flowing E.

Our father owned an appliance store, and Manny was his top electrician. He once showed me that plugs are masculine and feminine, depending on whether the design was horizontal or vertical. When he taught me to tie my shoes, he pointed out that the bows could be tied with the same pattern.

Most of all, he taught me how great it was to be together, out for adventure. We stood in the rail yards and watched the circus cars unload, listening unafraid to the lion's roar; we went to the movies to see Tom Mix and watched Tony count 1-2-3 with his hoof.

My brother was what, in later years, might be called a "chick magnet." One of his former girlfriends, seated in a diner with her husband, recognized me and announced that Manny was the only man she ever loved.

Manny spent time at a local taxi stand and often was a driver. One of his clients was the glamorous, albeit notorious Jack "Legs" Diamond. Manny loved to tip his hat in the same fashion as the gangster.

One Yuletide season, when Manny was chief of the electrical fire alarm system for our city, he made a special effort to decorate city hall by stringing bulbs that spelled “NOEL.” Many complained, thinking he was just showcasing our surname, Newell. How sad for a city where many spoke French.

We all have quirks, and one of Manny's was that he was afraid of wildlife. Our family cat took pleasure in badgering him--perching on a shelf over the door, waiting for Manny to appear to jump on his back. The cat never bothered anyone else. 

Manny, April 1942.
But another time, animal life might have saved his life. To begin with, Manny wasn't much for marching. During World War II, he joined the US Army Corps of Engineers so he would have a truck. As he climbed into his truck one day, his head hit a hornet's nest above the visor. He was stung so badly that he was in the hospital on D-Day, when his group hit the beaches in France. By the time he recovered, his group had advanced and he had to wait to be reassigned.

When he got overseas, he regularly requisitioned a truck and filled it with supplies to make friends with the locals. We received so many notices that he was MIA--Missing in Action--that we eventually paid little attention. We knew he was only AWOL--Absent without Leave.

On one occasion, his Army pastor came to visit us. "I love your brother,” he told us. “I never did anything wrong until I met him." That was Manny; he always made things interesting.

I hope you enjoyed Miriam's memories of her brother and that you'll stop by again.

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