Studio portrait of my uncle, undated, taken in Philadelphia
Monday Morning Musings:
My uncle was a kind man,
with a twinkle in his eye.
Perhaps he would not seem remarkable
unless you knew him, knew that
he was curious, with a love of gadgets–
my mom always talked about that–
his latest gadget, she would say,
after he purchased a camera or computer,
an e-reader, or kitchen appliance.
We sat in her apartment, after hearing the news.
We drank to his memory,
blood red wine,
in bright blue plastic cups
like college students at a party.
We ate brownies, remembering
his love of chocolate—
that love, a family trait, it seems
a dominant gene.
“Didn’t he used to pour chocolate syrup
on his cereal?” I asked my mom.
And she laughed, happy memories mixed with sad.
Then she remembered how excited he was
when their father, my grandfather,
sent chocolate Tastykakes to him in Florida.
Isn’t it funny what we remember?
I think of how I never knew my uncle as a young man,
but I’ve heard the tale of how, when they were first married,
my aunt asked my mother how she prepared a particular dish.
My mom replied that she used “the shit method,”
shocking her new sister-in-law.
My mom then explained that she meant shitarein,
a Yiddish phrase,
a little of this and that
It makes a good story.
It’s strange to think of them all so young and carefree,
children of the Great Depression who learned to navigate
the technology of the twenty-first century.
I learned that my aunt and one, perhaps two, of my cousins
lived in our house in Philadelphia for a brief time
when I was a toddler.
Of course, not something I recall,
Though I vaguely remember the big, old house
My uncle must have been in Miami,
I suppose to get settled there
before his family arrived.
A big move to a new city.
I remember their house, perhaps not their first,
but both of the Miami houses I remember had sunken living rooms—
a feature that I, as a young child, then associated with Miami,
thinking that all Miami houses must be constructed that way.
Random memories of visiting my uncle, aunt, and cousins—
their little dachshund,
(Was her name Penny?),
my aunt playing the piano late at night,
the music forming a soothing backdrop to my dreams,
swimming in their pool,
playing board games,
and when my husband and I visited
shortly after becoming engaged,
I remember my cousin baking cookies in a microwave oven,
the first one I’d even seen (See: gadgets, above).
I was a young mother when I read
my uncle’s hilarious account of pooping
while sitting out Hurricane Andrew–
sitting, you understand, taking on more than one meaning here.
He and my aunt huddled in that inside corridor–
except for that brief, and necessary foray into the bathroom,
umbrella held strategically—no shitarein story this time, the literal thing.
I wish I still had that letter,
but relieved a bit there were no selfies then.
Only my uncle could have made such a terrifying experience
laugh out loud funny—
Real-time texts might have revealed a different story.
After the storm,
they emerged to find destruction all around them,
and then the rebuilding began.
Yet their foundation was strong.
I remember my aunt and uncle coming to Philadelphia
for my mom’s 85th birthday.
My daughters said, “Uncle Irv smells so good.”
I have no idea what the scent was,
but I think it was his own—
as if kindness and genuine interest
in people and places enveloped him.
We all loved him.
He died as he lived,
gently, without a fuss
with his true love by his side.
A star has gone from our family universe
leaving a black hole
dense with memories
but without the twinkling of life and light.
Perhaps with time,
just as starlight travels
across the vastness of space,
so in our hearts
we will find that light again.