Category Archives: unconditional love

Kaddish for my cousin, Dr. Stephen Markow, d. 2/26/15

[Reposted and adapted from a Facebook posting from earlier today in response to his daughter Nina Markow Eigerman’s announcement of her father’s death.

Nina. I am so sorry. I first met your father so long ago that I have no idea exactly when. When indeed do first cousins meet each other?
Through our parents, for certain. My mother, recall, was your grandmother Betty’s “kid sister.” I remember “kidpix” of him, with your father, with Marian his sister, and with Betty when your father Eddie was stationed in Texas during WW2 as a military dentist.
Maybe I recall your father clearly for the first time when he was in his teens, in Midwood High School in Brooklyn, where you all grew up. He and I quibbled now and then about opera. He was older than me and seemed a bit intimidating, but I lived through it because he had an extraordinary sense of humor and the sometimes inconsequentiality of arguments about opera or musical theatre in general. What else, after all, do opera people do? His sense of humor was matchless, even when he was doing his work–maybe because he knew how and when to apply humor.
Nina, please let this story be part of your and your brother Greg’s best memories: One evening in December 1967 I gave up on “toughing it out” because I could not chew solid food. It was so excruciating that I was almost in tears. It was bad that even drinking soda or coffee hurt. So I called your dad’s office and then took the long subway ride from the Bronx to 50 Clark Street in Brooklyn, your father’s dental practice that he had inherited from his father, Dr. Edward Markow.
Steve always had a classic rock station piped-in, I think WNEW-FM, which made it a bit more bearable and certainly more entertaining. He looked into my mouth and said one word: “YUCK!” Then he told me all four my wisdom teeth were impacted, and had to come out. Now, all at once, or do we do it in two trips? NOW, Steve, for Godsake, please, now! Your dad shot me up with enough Novocaine to torpedo a heavy cruiser, yanked them all, said “Oh shit” a few times as he gazed upon the ruins of my mouth. He wrote me a scrip for Tetracycline which I filled in the drugstore on the way to the Clark Street IRT station, on the first floor of the Hotel St. George. Two nights later I I was able to eat red meat again. I thought I’d died and was in Paradise.
Years later,I recall your dad and Debbie entertaining me and my new wife during the shiva period for your grandfather, my uncle, in 1969. I think by making a few salacious comments to us about borrowing the bedroom, they were making us laugh and easing the pain they surely felt for my uncle.
I’m surprised today at the depth of my grief for this good man. We hadn’t seen one another in 40 years; but he carries some of the few unsullied memories I’ve retained from my childhood. Your father was a remarkable man, Nina. He was a mensch. He was that from before the night he met your mother-to-be at a performance of Don Giovanni at the Met, and bought her a drink during the intermission. You know all this. I suppose it’s family folklore. I’m really saying it to myself, for myself, from a space of sadness I didn’t know I possessed.
Please extend my condolences to your mother and brother. Please say the same to Marian, his sister and your aunt. Life will not stop or even pause, yet we must pause for a moment to regard the life of this good man who was your beloved and loving father. From one cousin to another in the name of yet a third: Be comforted.

The poisoned cat, A.B. Frost, what offends us, and a kind of love

Since I opened this version of my “store,” I decided to reconstitute it with some anonymity: a picture of our dog.  He appears elsewhere in these screens.  My name does not.  Guess my name and bring your lawyer with you.  Ha.  Ha.

Well, I decided to replace the dog-avatar.  In its place is a rather grotesque comic strip cat.

thepangYes, that really is a cat.  The name of the illustration is “The Pang.”  It’s part of a short comic strip from 1881 that appeared in Harper’s Weekly.  The strip is called Our Cat Eats Rat Poison.  The artist was named A. B. Frost.  He was born in 1851 and died in 1928.  You could once see a significant sampling of his work on a French website called Coconino World. However it’s since been taken down. No explanation. So I’ve dropped the hyperlink.

The “comic” was called “The Pang” because the unfortunate kitty has just felt his first pain from ingesting rat poison.  A few panels later, after tearing around the house in agonized panic, he dies.  It’s nasty.  So is what some of you will focus on to the exclusion of all else, the timebound depiction of black characters in the strip as mammy singers with minstrel show lips.  Remember that we have been transported back to 1881 and that even Harper’s Weekly was part of its own time.  Try also to remember that you could build a cartoon around the death of an animal back then because in 1881 most people were accustomed to having at least one of their children die, and surely they grieved those kids as much as we do now.  So what is a cat after your kid has died?

Think of A. B. Frost as an earlier-day Art Spiegelman.

The dog on the opening screen of the Frost pages is named Carlo.  He’s a mangy doofus of a mutt who keeps getting into trouble with the gardener who embodies a(nother offensive cliche) “stage Irishman” named Patrick, and with Maria the cat, who rips him a new nostril for getting near her kittens. Patrick is a strange one: in an age when it was probably common to abuse your animals (“they don’t feel pain the way we do”), sure enough he whups Carlo…but at the end of the second section (not reprinted online), Carlo wins over Patrick because of a couple of creeps who come around and endanger the house and are out to truly hurt the dog.

carlopatrickIn other words, a relationship has developed where it was least expected and you could almost say that Patrick has fallen in love with the dog in his charge as much as Carlo has shown Patrick a dog’s infinite affection and forgiveness. If it sounds familiar, it should.  Some kinds of love, especially the unconditional kind from animals, never changes.  Look at Patrick and Carlo in this last panel…I think I know love when I see it, and Frost’s genius was he knew how to represent it.