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  • Rebecca Lerner

hence existential crisis

The phone rang the other day in my grandparents' home in Florida. My grandpa picked it up and a man asked if it was William Lerner. He was ready to hang up because it sounded like a scam, but then the man on the other end said it was Benny Iskowitz.


Benny went on to say that he had been going through the local phone book. He's 96, he's on lockdown and he's bored as hell. He saw the last name Lerner and wondered if this William Lerner could be the son of a man he knew about seventy years ago in New York.


My grandpa remembered that when he was very young, about eight years old, his father belonged to a temple on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. There was a family there with the last name Iskowitz.


"He didn't remember anyone there except my father, myself and my cousin Seidel, who he remembered had red hair," my grandpa said. "He just happened to look down at the phone book and thought, 'I wonder if that's Willy from the old days.' He called me Willy."


I could hear him smile through the phone. "No one calls me Willy anymore."


"Anyways, we talked for a while. He's 96 but he said his wife is young — 80. He wants to see me as soon as this whole mess is over. That basically is the story."


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