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Blood Relatives This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

All my life I wondered why my father's parents chose to disregard me and my brothers, their grandchildren. They don't consider us family because our mother is black; they call us "half-breeds." Even if we were Orthodox Jews like them, they still wouldn't accept us ... because we're part black. I have always wanted to ask them why ...

When I was seven, I remember spending a day with my father. Everything went well until we started home.

"Daddy? Where are we going? This isn't the way," I reminded him.

"Well, sweetheart, I have to make a quick stop."

"Where are we going?"

"I have to stop at my parents' house to drop off medicine for my father."

All I heard was "stop at my parents' house."

For most people, going to their grandparents' house is fun. For me, it's torture. We pulled in and I followed Dad up to the porch.

"Who's there?" asked an old Jewish woman when he knocked.

"Baruch."

"Oh, Baruch, why didn't you tell me you were coming over," she said through the door. "Come in, come in."

Hiding behind my father, I could see the big, blue door open to reveal a stout woman wearing old-fashioned clothes; no skin showed except her hands and face.

"Aba is in the bathroom. He's not doing too well. Did you bring his medication?"

"Yeah. You know my daughter ..."

And that's when it happened.

The moment she saw me, she froze.

"What - why would you - I do not want that thing in my house!"

I felt like a bomb had exploded inside me. I wanted to scream and shout at her, to cry and feel the hot tears run down my cold cheeks, to run back to my father's old beige Oldsmobile and curl up.

As if he'd read my mind, Dad said, "Here are the keys. I'll be there in a minute. You can turn the radio on if you want."

I flew down the steps and fought with the key. When I finally got it, I threw myself into the front seat and curled into a little ball. I thought I would have to wait a long time for my father, but he was back in minutes.

Nothing much was said on the way home; for once he let me listen to the radio.

After that, I didn't have anything to do with my father's parents for almost 10 years, until Passover last year. My uncle invited me to spend Passover with his family. Celebrating Jewish holidays was nothing new to me; I did it every year with my father.

When I arrived at my uncle's house,I helped set the table. My father's sister came to me and said, "Rebecca, this is Mr. and Mrs. Weisman." She was talking about my grandparents, actual blood relatives, yet she told me to refer to them as if they were total strangers.

During the ceremony, my cousins read in Hebrew. I felt uncomfortable because I don't speak or understand it very well.

"Okay, Rebecca, this means ..." Mrs. Weisman jumped in.

"Don't explain everything to her. She knows what it means," said Mr. Weisman.

"But what if she doesn't?"

Then they began to argue in Hebrew.

I couldn't believe my grandmother - excuse me, Mrs. Weisman - kept stopping the ceremony to explain what was said like I'd never taken part in a Jewish holiday. All I could do was wait for the night to be over.

It's been a year since I've spoken to my father's parents. If I'm at his house and they call, I'm polite, because that's how I am. Lately, they have actually been saying "please" and "thank you" to me.

I think there might have been a breakthrough.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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uh-oh spagetti-o's said...
Mar. 18, 2010 at 12:36 pm
wow that was kinda sad but it's really good. I can kinda relate to how it feels to be hated by someone in your family for someting you cant control. Mine may not be race but i've always had to live with one of my big brothers hating for reasons i still dont know. =(
 
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