Cry, Uncle

 

While Kevin McCarthy refuses to cry uncle, I am preparing to shed tears for my own.

There is a personal sadness that is weighing on me as I prepare to lose an important person in my life. My one remaining uncle.

Uncles have figured prominently in my life. Neither parent nor grandparent they are a connection to our mothers and fathers in ways no one else can ever duplicate. As siblings, they were eyewitnesses to their childhood.

There is no one else who holds those memories of my father.

My Uncle Sandy ( Left) and father Marvin ( r)early 1930s

Because my Uncle Sandy shared his childhood bedroom with his older brother my father Marvin whenever I visited my grandparents who still lived in the same  Art-Deco-Moderne apartment house in Astoria Queens that my father and Uncle grew up in,  I was entering the world of their youth by the simple act of walking through the graceful arched entrance way of the once fashionable Buckingham Arms Apartments.

The same room in my grandparent’s apartment where my family socialized before dinners, nibbling on mounds of chopped liver and drinking sparkling cut crystal glasses of Canadian Club and Cott’s Cream Soda had once been the bedroom where my father and uncle slept as boys.

I would sink into a plush club chair and envision these two men now standing in front of me drinking scotch and trading barbs, as once upon a time boys building balsa airplanes together,  and listening to the Shadow on the small Bakelite radio in their room. I wondered what conversations went on between them as they lay in bed at night, and what secrets were passed between them. And years later I would ask.

My Uncle Sandy, forever my father’s kid brother has been the holder of the history of my father’s past. Especially once my own father died.

But my uncle isn’t merely a connection to the past. He figures prominently in my current day-to-day life.

Like for many, one of the positive things that came out of the COVID lockdown was zooming and facetime with friends and family. One favorite and very special facetime born of that era and remains today is the one I have with my Aunt Lois and Uncle Sandy, who live in West Palm Beach. A long put-off trip to see them in March 2020 got canceled right on the cusp of COVID and we began these weekly facetimes together.

Age-defying in both their looks, cognition, and demeanor, our weekly cocktail hours each in our own living rooms miles apart became a highlight of my week.

As someone invested and immersed in family history Uncle Sandy was a primary source. Even at 96, his recall of family history detail was remarkable and I am grateful to have mined it. His sharp wit and quick mind astonishingly never diminished.  Their love and devotion to each other was palpable and inspiring.

The warmth of this time cherished.

Like Dorian Gray neither of them ever seemed to age, enjoying good health. Until just recently. My Uncle Sandy is failing and is now in hospice care. It feels sudden in a way I can’t wrap my mind around let alone my heart.

But he has made peace with letting go, and now so must I.

 

 

13 comments

  1. Pierre Lagacé

    This is so filled with love Sally.
    I was reconnected with my uncle Florent, my mother’s brother in or around 2006. My mother had passed away in 1989.
    I was able to connect the dots with my mother’s past. My aunt Evelyne had lots of old photos which got me addicted to genealogy which then got me addicted to writing Our Ancestors on WordPress.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to read this. As you well know these connections to our past, to our history are so important. and I am glad you had the chance to reconnect with your Uncle and Aunt who could fill in missing information and spur you on to your passion. I am fortunate that I grew up with parents and grandparents who encouraged that interest in me from a very young age and so I am filled with a lot of stories. Still, when the last of the primary sources are gone, getting details gets diminished.
      History aside, I am eternally grateful to have had these loving exchanges with my aunt and uncle in my present life and it has been a gift.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a sweet, sweet story of Sandy and the place you will always hold for him in your heart. Best wishes in this difficult time. The memories will truly be a blessing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Cry, Uncle – Our Ancestors

  4. Dear Sally,
    This was a lovely read and I’m glad that you had the foresight to learn as much about your history as you could. In some ways, you’ve had the chance to transition, gradually say goodbye to your uncle and that is a blessing. May the memories bring you comfort in this next phase. Love and peace

    Like

  5. Ellie Berner

    Sandy is my late husband Bill’s oldest and dearest friend. They met on a train..city boys on their way to Tunis Lake Camp. They went to games together. They went to the University of Virginia together. Sandy, Lois, Bill and I have been such dear friends throughout all the years. Through thick and thin, their love sustained Bill and me and our children. Gary and Carolyn and I share your and his family’s sadness as you all face these final days. My heart goes out to Lois, his children and grandchildren and to you, dear Sally. With love..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Ellie, my heart is with you too, as you are part of this journey. I did not realize your husband met Sandy at camp or on the way to Camp. My father also went to Tunis Lake and to U of VA though 5 years ahead of the boys. I know what a support and comfort you are to Aunt Lois and your love and kindness will hold her up during these trying times. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here and for reading my blog. Both are deeply appreciated.

      Like

  6. Bev Nalven

    Sally, this is beautiful and so true! I’m so glad Lois shared it with me

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Bev, its so nice to see your name pop up here and so glad you are able to read what I wrote. Thank you. This is a difficult part journey and I know all our hearts are so full.

      Like

      • Beverley Nalven

        Thanks, Sally. Lois and have been like sisters since we grew up next door to each other on Mayhew Avenue. Sandy and Lois are precious to me. They’ve spoken glowingly of you so often and the love and admiration you shown them is returned in full

        Sent from my iPad

        >

        Liked by 1 person

      • And I have heard nothing but loving thoughts about you as well Bev. I feel like you are family by extension. I know you mean the world to Aunt Lois, and I have always been in awe of your lifelong friendship. It is a treasure. As are you.

        Like

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