There is a website that periodically sends me an email asking, as a come on to try to get me to open their email, if I have royal blood. I hit delete, but they are persistent. When I say “they” I’m not talking about an individual, of course, it’s a robot of some kind, a snappy spambot, programmed on behalf of a company that you can pay to have trace your ancestry. “Do you have royal blood?” the bot asks me, every week or two.
There is nobody to say this to directly, so I may as well send it out like a spambot, into the darkness of cyberspace. A paragraph or two may come in handy for my proposed Book of Irv.
My family does not have royal blood. If it did, the faces of those royals were many generations ago scraped from their tomb walls, their bones scattered to hungry scavengers. In my memory, and the handed down and painstakingly unearthed short history of my family, I know only this much:
My mother had twelve aunts and uncles and her grandfather on her mother’s side wrote to her and sent her Russian coins when she was a girl. Of these people none survived events in their Ukrainian town during the dark winter of 1942 into the summer of 1943. Any of them, or their children, who made it through the starvation and disease was marched to a ravine on the northern end of town one warm summer night and in that ravine their misery was ended.
On my father’s side, a few hundred miles away, it happened a year or so earlier. By July 4, 1942 it was all over for everyone but Aren and his little sister Chava, both of whom were in America, far from the killing. The hamlet they came from in the marshes just south of Pinsk disappeared without a trace, along with all its inhabitants. When I say “disappeared without a trace” I mean that nobody who has researched it has found any trace of where the little settlement was on a map. As for its former inhabitants, don’t ask.
So, royal blood? Most likely I don’t need a thorough check of my ancestry, which, except for two framed photos, can go back no more than two generations in any case, to answer that one. Royal blood? No, thank you.
There is a large framed photo here of Azrael Gleiberman, Aren and Chava’s father, and one of his wife Leah, but those haunted-looking, life-sized portraits are all that remain of them. Azrael is referred to as Reb Azrael on his daughter Chava’s gravestone in Peekskill, suggesting he was a learned man, or at least a very religious one. Only Aren and Chava, among Azrael’s children, ever got a grave stone. Royal blood? Let me see. It looks somewhat unlikely, romantic as the idea undoubtedly is.
It might be nice, in a fairy tale sort of way, to believe that the rage of Chava, the frequent unreasonableness of Yetta, the fearfulness of Sam, Eliyahu’s devil-may-care attitude, were all caused by the high octane spirits of royal blood. You know, the reason Yetta drank so much vodka sometimes, and acted so headstrong and impetuous– she was a former royal living in exile in a worker’s apartment in the Bronx. Unbearable! Sam, once a prince who dressed in the Russian fashion, shaken to his core by the surprise assassination of his father the King and fled from the lands he once ruled. Chava, the youngest member of another royal family, forced by cruel circumstances into marriage in an alien land with a man whose wits and constitution had been damaged beyond repair by generations of royal inbreeding.
Why else, really, would these people have acted so crazy? It has to be royal blood really, no?
I think of the history of the world, how it continues to be written in blood, so little of it royal blood. Which is a shame, really, since no less an expert than Thomas Jefferson believed that the Tree of Liberty needed to be watered periodically with the blood of patriots and tyrants. And who more fit to be a tyrant, and to provide sustenance to that noble tree, than a ruler pulsing with royal blood?
The Divine Right of Kings, Manifest Destiny, Indian Removal, Separate But Equal, Racial Purity. Do I have royal blood? If we have ever spoken, you already know the answer to that one, comrade.