The most unkindest cut / El golpe más cruento

La versión en español está después de la versión en inglés.

I’M SORRY FOR THE IMPROPER grammar in the title. Don’t blame me. Blame William Shakespeare. At least the guy could tell a story. “The most unkindest cut of all” is how Marc Antony describes the wound Brutus gave to Julius Caesar. You might have a clue what made me think of this by the time you finish reading (my blog, not Shakespeare).

San Geraldo discovered another stack of folders in his office from what we shipped home after the death of My Mother the Dowager Duchess in 2016. I still have a shelf in my office filled with miscellany but I had recently made a huge dent in the mess, scanning, culling, reading. In this latest collection are, among a huge variety of things, the Duchess’s high school yearbook and junior high school autograph book. Very entertaining.

Also in this stack, and I have no idea how it got mixed in with my mother’s things, was the last letter I ever received from my sister Dale. She wrote it seven months before she died of cancer, a month before she turned 29, and little more than a week after she learned there was nothing more to be done for her. She didn’t mention her illness (or her doom) once in the letter. It was stream of consciousness, heightened by her excitement because she was going to Amsterdam for a “holiday.”

When she and her husband returned home from hospital after receiving the news, she told him that, if she didn’t have much time, she wanted to go back to Amsterdam while she still could because they had such happy memories of the city they lived near for a few years. They took the train. My brother-in-law told me she seemed to will herself to be well and they had an exceptional time. The minute they boarded the train for home, her condition deteriorated and she was never well again.

Dale began the letter “Dear Little Brother” but ended with “Love Little Sister,” which in many ways is what she often was once I reached my late teens. The letter brought tears to my eyes even after all these years.

Speaking of bringing tears to my eyes, look below for what else I found in that collection of stuff. My circumcision card. Of course, they would have cards for that. The card begins with the word Circumcision and is followed by the word Wednesday, with no comma. Circumcision Wednesday. It’s a couple of months after Ash Wednesday and a long time before any Good Friday.

The two historic photos (from 1940) are from NYC Government Records (


“EL GOLPE MÁS CRUENTE DE entre todos” es como Marc Antony describe la herida que Bruto le hizo a Julio César. Es posible que tenga una pista de lo que me hizo pensar en esto cuando termine de leer (mi blog, no Shakespeare).

San Geraldo descubrió otra pila de carpetas en su oficina de lo que enviamos a casa después de la muerte de Mi Madre La Duquesa Viuda en 2016. Todavía tengo un estante en mi oficina lleno de miscelánea, pero recientemente hice una gran mella en el desorden. Escanear, sacrificar, leer. En esta última colección se encuentran, entre una gran variedad de cosas, el anuario de la preparatoria de La Duquesa y el libro de autógrafos de la secundaria. Muy entretenido.

También en esta pila, y no tengo idea de cómo se mezcló con las cosas de mi madre, estaba la última carta que recibí de mi hermana Dale. Lo escribió siete meses antes de morir de cáncer, un mes antes de cumplir los 29, y poco más de una semana después de saber que no había nada más que hacer por ella. No mencionó su enfermedad (o su destino) ni una sola vez en la carta. Era un torrente de conciencia, aumentado por su entusiasmo porque se iba a Ámsterdam de “vacaciones”.

Cuando ella y su esposo regresaron a casa del hospital después de recibir la noticia, ella le dijo que, si no tenía mucho tiempo, quería volver a Ámsterdam mientras pudiera porque tenían tan felices recuerdos de la ciudad en la que vivían cerca por unos años. Tomaron el tren. Mi cuñado me dijo que ella parecía estar dispuesta a estar bien y que lo pasaron de maravilla. En el momento en que subieron al tren de regreso a casa, su condición se deterioró y nunca volvió a estar bien.

Dale comenzó la carta “Querido hermanito” pero terminó con “Ama de, Dale, tu hermanita”, que en muchos sentidos es lo que solía ser una vez que cumplí la adolescencia. La carta me hizo llorar incluso después de todos estos años.

Hablando de traer lágrimas a mis ojos, mira abajo para ver qué más encontré en esa colección de cosas. Mi tarjeta de circuncisión. Por supuesto, tendrían tarjetas para eso. La tarjeta comienza con la palabra Circuncisión y va seguida de la palabra Miércoles, sin coma. Circuncisión Miércoles. Es un par de meses después del Miércoles de Ceniza y mucho antes de cualquier Viernes Santo.

Las dos fotos históricas (de 1940) son de NYC Government Records (

Celebrate Circumcision Wednesday! I’m sure the card was topped by a celebratory blue ribbon.
¡Celebre Circuncisión Miércoles! Estoy seguro de que la tarjeta fue coronada por una cinta azul de celebración.
Unity Hospital, the scene of the crime.
Unity Hospital (Hospital Unidad), escenario del crimen.
The “Residence” in Brooklyn 14 years before Circumcision Wednesday.
La “Residencia” en Brooklyn 14 años antes de Circuncisión Miércoles.
Some time after Circumcision Wednesday at the Residence. I clearly haven’t gotten over it.
Algún tiempo después del Circuncisión Miércoles en la Residencia. Claramente no lo he superado.


With Big Sister in front of the Residence, 1956.

Con Hermana Mayor frente a la Residencia, 1956.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

37 thoughts on “The most unkindest cut / El golpe más cruento”

    1. Kathleen:
      It wasn’t entirely easy to get through, but it did make me smile and brought back a lot of sweet memories. The best line was “We are all fine” [I’m just dying of cancer…] She was something else!

  1. Finding things from the past can be cathartic for some and not so for others.
    Best to acknowledge the past with an open mind and feet in the present……works most of the time for me. Your ‘big sister’ is by your side not only in the photo but every day. Did your Mom make that skirt for her? And look at you! Kids were dressed so well back then.
    Speaking of circumcision ………. never thought about it before while listening to Cat Stevens’ song. Now it is implanted in my brain!! lol

    1. Jim:
      Truth is, although it brought tears to my eyes, it made me really happy to read and to see her handwriting, which we always said was awful. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered or maybe I’ve just become less critical. Either way, I love seeing it.

  2. Memories and emotions, locked or triggered by bits from the past. Your sister set a good example, do things that make you happy rather than focus on things that make you sad.

  3. Strictly my own personal and individual opinion:-
    If I’d had the particular cut done that you refer to I don’t know if I’d have found myself ever able to forgive my parents, even in the realisation that they were almost certainly conforming to prevailing social or religious ‘norms’ at the time. For those who opt to have it done when they are adult, fair enough, it being their own choice. But for a baby or young child……..Sorry, it’s just something I feel strongly about.

    Btw. In your passing reference to Shakespeare’s faulty grammar, which is a reasonable enough observation, it must be remembered that Mark Anthony’s oration at Caesar’s funeral is written in verse – iambic pentameter, each line a ten-syllable, five times ‘da-DAH’ tread. Thus the full line being – “”This WAS the MOST unKINDest CUT of ALL”. However, I’m sure that without great ingenuity he could have found an alternative to ‘most unkindest’ which would also have scanned, though without infringing proper grammar. But for him as author the need to create an easy verbal flow would have been considered more important than any grammatical slip-up which the audience if they noticed, would just as quickly have forgotten it. I am equally convinced that Will himself would have been quite aware of it.

    1. After my giving you a lecture on Shakespeare with cocky assurance, guess who can’t even spell ‘Mark AnTony’. Oh, my blushes!

    2. Raybeard:
      I understand your feelings about “the cut.” It was never even questioned by anyone we knew at the time. As for Shakespeare, don’t worry, I do understand his genius and his gift with the music of words and phrases. That was a side point to my multiple-point blog, so I didn’t bother getting into it. And don’t worry about the Marc Antony typo. I knew you knew the correct spelling. Damned autocorrect!

  4. I bet dale would be here today; medicine has come a long way in 40 years. she passed way too young.

    “bris cards”? ew. not exactly a best-selling hallmark line.

    1. anne marie:
      Yeah, that hideous bris card was a custom job. Bad punctuation, bad line breaks, and all. I do sometimes wonder how Dale’s cancer might have been handled today.

    1. Debra:
      You’re so right. I’ve got it scanned and will load it on SG’s genealogy website.

    1. Bob:
      I’m sure I had addressed my most recent letter to Dale to Big Sister and signed Little Brother. Her sign-off made me gasp; it was so telling. I’m happy I found the letter and am remembering so many wonderful times today.

    1. wickedhamster:
      I’m always surprised when people immediately recognise me in those old photos. But I do understand it. I’m not nearly as cute as I used to be, but I’m still there.

  5. Also Shakespeare was not one to allow grammar (many of the rules of which are artificial and created after to his time) to get in the way of brilliant use of language. I think “most unkindest” is a hyperlative (my own coining) and arresting way of communicating something that is beyond unkindest. He often created language, as in Coriolanus: “This last old man, Whom with a crack’d heart I have sent to Rome, Loved me above the measure of a father; Nay, godded me, indeed.” Interestingly, another form of hyperlative.

    1. wickedhamster:
      Oh, never fear, I completely (well, obviously not completely) understand Shakespeare and why he often did what he did. I just didn’t want to get into that level of detail as another one of my multiple tangents.

    1. Wilma:
      And today I’m remembering all those things worth keeping close to my heart. A lot of wonderful memories with and of Dale.

  6. Your post has brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for the reminder about the bond between a brother and sister. I am very close to my sister and I am fortunate that she didn’t die young as your sister did.

    1. mcpersonalspace54:
      Not everyone with siblings is fortunate to have the kinds of relationships we’ve had. I’m so happy you have that with your sister. No more tears today. Only the best memories and a lot of gratitude.

  7. Not hard to imagine how emotional it was to see and read Dale’s letter all these years later. Thinking of you.

    1. Mary:
      It actually wasn’t the emotional shock it might have been some years ago. It brought tears to my eyes but made me remember all the wonderful times we had together. I was actually happier after reading it. Thanks!

      1. Lamb’s blood, if I remember my Hollywood history correctly. I think I have some of that around here somewhere…

  8. A circumcision card? I’ve never heard of such a thing. It’s nice that you have that letter, a memento of your sister’s voice, even if reading it is painful.

  9. Hey I’m not tearing up okay! There was a dust storm!

    Because I was premature and delivered by caesarean (like I was ever able to forget) my circumcision was delayed until I was five months old. My Aunt Vic, not really my aunt but a neighbour from across the street, rushed over when they brought me home threw open the covers and yelled – she always yelled, “what have they done to my baby!” She wouldn’t speak to my mother for a month. And then of course she always delighted in tell that story.

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