It is nine years today that my mom passed. She was brave, smart, special and a strong person until she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She fought it for ten years and up until the minute she closed her eyes for the last time she knew her name, who I am and even more.
In her own words before the illness became bad this is my mom’s story.
Introduction: Ruth Swerdloff: Before
My name is Ruth Swerdloff and I was born on November 22, 1927 to Max and Fanny Goldberg. Fanny, my mom, was a special person. She spoke five languages and had five children that she loved dearly. Unfortunately, I never really got to know her. She died when I was two after giving birth to a sixth child. She died of pneumonia.
Having five children and believing that children needed a mother, my dad, Max Jacob Goldberg decided to find a mother for his five children but in a very special and old-fashioned way. Fanny had sisters named Rosie, Tillie, Katie and Shondina. Each was unique and special in their own way. Shondina was not a very friendly person and Tillie was a tad spoiled and needed to be taken care of her. Rosie was great but she was married to my Uncle Dave at the time. So, my father decided to choose from the other three sisters which one Fanny, my mom would want to bring up her five children.
Three months after her death my father married Katie. Katie was the only mother that I ever knew and she was the most amazing, unselfish, smart and perfect choice to be the mother of five, not so easy to handle, kids. There was Tova my sister who was 10 years older than me. Then there was Irving, Harry and Kenny. They gave her a really hard time at first because they were old enough to know their real mother and thought that my Dad should have waited before taking a new wife. But, my father was the smartest man in the world and he made the best and wisest choice not only in picking a new wife but in business too.
I never knew that Katie was not my real mother until much later. I lived on Southern Boulevard and Tremont Avenue. I went to P.S. 44 and Roosevelt High School. I adored my mom and I could not understand what the other kids in my family had a problem with until later on when I found out the truth.
Growing up I was always closest to my brother Kenny. As the youngest in the family I can say that I was a tad spoiled and could do no wrong. I loved to dance and wanted to be a Rockette when I grew up. I also loved twirling a baton and I did become a drum majorette in High School.
I never knew or thought that what would happen to me in later life would ever come to pass. I never heard of Alzheimer’s disease or even dementia. No one in my family ever had a memory problem or anything close to it. As a matter of fact my mother and father never forgot anything and neither did my brothers or sister.
Tova was a teacher and graduated college when she was 16 years old. You might say she was a genius and could do anything and could remember things after reading them only once. Kenny went into the army and fought in the Second World War. Irving and Harry were very smart but due to the depression and hard times it was hard to get jobs and my Dad had to figure out a way to help his children when they graduated school to make a living.
When my father came to America he landed in Ellis Island. He brought his family to live in the Bronx and sold apples on a street corner for a living. Being extremely enterprising, he managed to make enough money to buy a Laundromat and then a cleaning store on 180th Street and Mohegan Avenue. He named the store Arista Cleaners. Arista, in school meant the highest and was an organization that the smartest kids who had over 90 averages were inducted in. Arista Cleaners was the best cleaning store with the highest standards in cleaning and the best customer service. All of my brothers worked there and my sister taught in P.S. 67 in the Bronx.
Katie, our mom, was the most amazing woman. She took care of us as if we were her very own children. I know that she even adopted all five of us, but I was too young at the time to know that. When I found out I was devastated. I was walking home with my cousin from the movies and I realized that I was going to be late. I told her that my mother would be upset and she said why do you care; she is not your real mother. She proceeded to explain.
I went into our small apartment and into my room and cried for hours and hours. I never told anyone that I knew the truth and I made my cousin swear that she would never tell anyone that she told me. Until the day she died, my mother, Katie, never knew that I found out she was not my real mother. I would never hurt her.
She was so smart and could do anything. She was in a concentration camp in Poland during the First World War and was tortured. They were experimenting with x-rays and as a result she became sterile. She could not have any children. She had other problems because of this. She was practically blind in both eyes due to cataracts and she was a diabetic too. She took her insulin and checked her sugar count many times throughout the day.
She could not have her own children and adopted all five of us and you would never have known that we were not her own kids. She was the most unselfish, caring and hard working mother anyone could have. She made sure that we had things even before she did.
When I was in High School she became ill and I had to stop going to school and take care of her. My brothers and sister worked and most of the care was on me. But, when they came home from work they were there to support me in every way. I finally did graduate from Roosevelt High School in the Bronx. What a proud day that was for everyone in my family. I became a bookkeeper and worked many jobs before getting married to my true love Doc.
Life was great until this disease took over. I survived many operations, blood issues and more. I had three great children and an amazing husband who took better care of me than anyone can imagine. I miss him everyday.
I have three children who are the best in the world. I taught them responsibility and why getting an education was important. My daughter Fran always got A’s in school. I was hardest on her because I knew she could handle the pressures that I put on her. She always did well in school but if she did not get an A on a test or a perfect grade of 100 percent I would make her write the entire test over. I felt that she needed to learn from her mistakes. She became a Reading and Writing Specialist and worked in the NYC Public Schools. Now, she loves writing children’s books, articles on many subjects, as well as this book about Alzheimer’s.
My daughter Marcia attended Nancy Taylor business school and worked for ABC News, Xerox Corporation and now for orthopedic surgeons as their office manager. She has two great children and a lot of grandchildren. She works 12-hour days and helps many people.
My son, Keith has three boys and he lived in New Jersey. He works 40- hour days and never gets a real chance to rest. He tries to visit but it is hard, but he calls me every day. It is hard to know who is on the phone and at times I don’t remember with whom I am speaking. There are times I refuse to get on the phone and speak to anyone.
Well, at this point I know that the worst has yet to come. I am at home and there are four people that help take care of me. I worked my whole life taking care of my children and my family. I worked as a full charge bookkeeper for Retail Communications, Master Eagle and Altman Electronics. I worked in many places when I was younger. I even helped out in my husband’s cleaning store on 225th and Laconia Avenue, as did my girls when they were growing up.
I had many friends in my building. One friend that I miss the most is my friend Mary Kaufman. She was like a second sister to me. My daughters and my son loved her like an aunt. When my daughter Marcia would get in trouble she would run away to her apartment one flight up. There are so many good memories in that building. I had a friend Flo whose son was my son’s best friend. I have a friend Sylvia and another Shirley who no longer live here. There are many people that are still here, but they never visit me even though they might live next door or in the same building. I guess they can’t handle what has happened to me. I bet they are afraid that it will happen to them. YOU NEVER KNOW!
I had four brothers and a sister who are no longer here. I had many sisters in law that is no longer here. I have a sister-in-law named Lily who is still here and I know she calls my children to keep in touch with how I am doing. They even call her to make sure that she is okay too.
The rest of my story will be told within the pages of this book.
I am Ruth Swerdloff and this is my story.
No comments yet.