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Remembering Susan Been – October 31, 1944 – February 22, 2021 – and the Holy Jewish Trinity – Mom, Aunt Muriel and Aunt Leonor

February 22, 2021

Muriel and Susan Been – I believe in the 1970s (not certain)

Today , according to the news, the United States surpassed 500,000 COVID -19 deaths. One of them was Susan Been.

According to my sister Laurie, who had spoken to Sue’s triplet sister, Louise, she, Susan, had broken her ankles a few months ago, had been hospitalized, apparently contracted COVID-19 and died of complications.  Another close friend from my youth gone. Just a few days ago, my oldest cousin, Joan, aged 92, died in a New Jersey nursing home. I’ll write about her life later.

If I remember Susan Been’s exact birthday – and I do – and of course that of the other two – Nancy and Louise Been – the triplets she was a part of – it is because the triplets were the offspring of my mother’s best friend – Muriel Been,. It was from my mother that I learned what enduring friendship means. Mom had two best friends growing up Muriel was one and Leonore Ginsberg was the other. In both cases, these are their married, not maiden names which I would be interested in tracking down. Someone should write a novel based on the lives – and the friendship of these three who grew up a few blocks from the corner of Avenue K and Nostrand Ave in what was – and to a certain extent still is – an orthodox Jewish neighborhood.

The three never lost track of one another and were friends until the end. They went to school together, confided in each other and saught advice about their relationships with men. I have a letter in my files from Leonor to my mom. At the time Leonor was courted, pursued by two men and couldn’t make up her mind. They celebrated one another’s marriages and when we were little, the children of all three were mixed in friendship. All three would leave the poverty of their depression youth, marry up and coming types, two of which would, unceremoniously dump their wives for younger floozies leaving holes in their wives souls that would never heal as their husbands wandered off to Lala Land, like kids getting one way lifetime tickets to Disneyland. They, the ex-husbands, never left Lala Land and never wanted to.  The third, Leonor would stay married but to an abusive dentist.

After being unceremoniously dumped by her husband, Bernie, Muriel Been’s life shrank from the upscale living in Jamaica Estates – same neighborhood in which the imbecile, Donald Trump grew up, to a much simpler life in Hollywood Florida where she lived in a simple apartment and became a secretary for the Seminole Indian Tribe before the tribe built their luxurious – and to my tastes vulgar, overpriced Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. My mother and her then second husband, Nat Kaye, sold the house my sisters and I had grown up in in Jamaica Queens and moved from NYC to Hollywood Florida in 1979. There, Mom stayed in touch with “Aunt Muriel until – and here my memory is a little foggy – the latter died of a stroke in her sleep I think in the 1990s. They spoke on the phone, had lunch together. I saw Aunt Muriel a few times when visiting Mom in Florida. When Muriel died, a part of my mother died with her.

By coincidence, Aunt Muriel and my mother were pregnant at the same time, Aunt Leonor a year later. On

Robbie and the Been Triplets – July, 1945, in front of Aunt Muriel’s parents tailor shop. Aunt Muriel’s Mom next to the baby carriage; Aunt Thelma Magazine (cigarettin mouth) next to her (notice

Robbie and the Been Triplets – July, 1945, in front of Aunt Muriel’s parents tailor shop. Aunt Muriel’s Mom next to the baby carriage; Aunt Thelma Magazine (cigarettin mouth) next to her (notice hairdo). Sue Been is between her sisters, Nancy and Louis. Me, the blob on the left.

hairdo). Sue Been is between her sisters, Nancy and Louis. October 31, 1944 – an easy date to remember as it is Halloween, Aunt Muriel gave birth to triplets – Louise, Nancy and Susan Been. I popped out my mother’s belly a week later on November 6. From that time until the day what was then our family – Mom, Dad, Aunt Mal and Uncle Sam, sister Sarabelle moved to Jamaica Queens, “the triplets” and I spent a good deal of time together and the number of photos my mother took of the four of us in baby carriages and playing together attest to that fact. Louise and Nancy were identical so much so that my whole life – and I am embarrassed to admit it – I have had difficult telling them apart. Susan’s appearance was different, always recognizable.

The triplets and I grew up together. We went to the same high school, Jamaica High School (same one that Stephen Jay Gould graduated from). I suppose we grew apart some, but never completely. Not long after I moved to Colorado in 1969, Susan moved to Phoenix. SHe visited once in Denver; I never made it down to Phoemix. We’d speak on the phone a couple of times a year. She married, was involved in real estate, seemed to be doing well financially and otherwise and then the bottom fell out of her real estate work, her husband got sick and died  and Sue’s health took a turn for the worse. Although I don’t remember exactly when, she left Phoenix and if I remember right, moved in with sister Nancy (in Florida?) Mostly through sister Laurie’s connection with Louise and her husband Fred, Sarabelle, my other sister and I have remained in touch with the triplets. I’ve seen Louise and Fred a few times on my visits to the New York City area.

Good bye lifelong friend… and may your spirit unit with the holy Jeiwsh trinity – Beattie, Muriel ane Leonor…

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