She had been leaving messages of varying degrees of urgency on my answering machine for three decades, but this one from Phoebe Snow sounded particularly worrisome. “Something bad happened, and I’m not sure how to deal with it. Please call me a.s.a.p.” I couldn’t imagine what was wrong. Previously, I would have assumed some new problem had developed with Phoebe’s beloved, disabled daughter, but Valerie Rose had passed away two years earlier, so this was a mystery.
“Is it true?”, she asked excitedly in German. “You are from Isfried’s family?” “Yes”, my startled mom replied. “He’s my first cousin; he’s 84 now. After we left Germany he and I grew up together in one little apartment in New York, with our parents and grandparents”.