My mother's father, Edward Kegel, was a Brooklyn real estate developer in the 1910s and '20s. He died of a streptococcus infection in 1927, when he was 39 and my mother. Sherry, was six. My grandmother, Birdie, who got married in 1916, never remarried. Both my mother's parents were born in Russia. My grandfather came to America when he was two. Birdie came here when she was seven, after her mother died, making the precarious journey from Russian to New York on her own. She joimed the step-family of her father, who had abandoned her and her mother when he made the journey to the New World.