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My paternal grandmother, Esther (Tepper) Skolnick.

Yes, there is indeed a spelling variant.  The story goes that my grandfather and grandmother disagreed on how their surname should be spelled.  My grandfather’s argument was that -nik was more traditional.  My grandmother — bolstered by my grandfather’s sister, Clara (Skolnick) Rosenblum — argued that -nick was more American.

My grandmother supplied the information for my father’s birth certificate, so he went through life as a Skolnick.  My grandfather provided the vital document information for my father’s two brothers, who are Skolnik.

My grandmother was born in 1885 in Tluste, Galicia (now known as Tovste, Ukraine).  She was an industrious homemaker — my mother often marvels to this day at how she could pull dinner for 12 people out of an empty refrigerator — and the one who rallied a growing extended family around her dinner table.

My grandmother died, of liver cancer, two weeks before I was born in 1953.