My father passed away when I was just two years old. Melvin Mankin was only 29 when he died. Mom & her two sons carried on without him. Mom remarried years later, and my brother Phil came along after that. We had occasional contact with the Mankin side of the family, but they were all in Brooklyn, New York, and we were at the New Jersey shore town of Lakewood. I knew of my cousin Barbara, and that I had some aunts and an Uncle on the Mankin side, but I rarely saw them, and never really knew who was who on my father’s side.
At one point in my youth, I asked my mother the Mankin’s country of origin. I knew my mother’s family came to Ellis Island from Lithuania. She told me that the Mankins were Polish. Honestly, it was so long ago, I’m not sure if she professed to know for sure, or that she merely assumed their Polish heritage, but she definitely told me that I was half Polish.
A few months ago, I received a voice message from Meryl Turco. Merly is my cousin –a 1st cousin on my father’s side! She is my Aunt Marion’s daughter. I called her back and we spoke for over an hour. I had made the presumption that there was no one on the planet who knew my father and could tell me about him. I have so many unanswered questions regarding my dad. Suddenly, I had a resource! She is more than a dozen years older than me, and remembers my father vividly. He much preferred Pepsi over Coke – me too. He was a ketchup fiend – me too. He loved to tinker with things – me too.
A few months had passed, and I received a phone call from my cousin Barbara – my Aunt Ruth’s daughter. She was putting together a Mankin cousins reunion. This reunion was held this past weekend, and my family and I drove to New Jersey to meet and spend time with newly rediscovered family. I know so much more about the Mankins now. Here’s one – we are NOT Polish. We are Romanian! My great-grandmother, Rebecca Goldstein, came to the US from Bucharest in 1888.
My kids have the last name of Mankin. We now have some stories to share with them about their heritage. Romania – I think I’ll go listen to some Enesco. I just may hear something I’ve never heard before.