Yesterday my great uncle passed away. He was old and sick and I’m very happy he’s not in pain anymore. Yet, it’s also really sad. I’m struggling with my thoughts today. It doesn’t make it any easier that I’ve said to myself at least five times a year, I really need to go and see them. Yeah….I haven’t ever actually done it. I’ve not seen him and my great aunt since my grandmother died. In 2006. Yeah. Right now I feel like a bit of a failure.
My dads family is very small. His mothers side came over from Russia right at the beginning of WWII. His dads side escaped from Poland in the middle of it. Both families were the only ones left after the war. My grandfather was one of two children, although his younger brother died as a young man. My grandmother was the oldest of three. Her younger sisters husband is the one who died yesterday. They only had one child and I’ve often wondered if that was by choice or if my great aunt has some of the issues I have. Not that I’d ever ask her. Older east coast Jews don’t discuss such things. Every few years our little family loses another member and it doesn’t seem like my generation is very good at adding people to the list.
My great uncle was a good man. He was a good husband and father and a wonderful grandfather to three girls. He provided very well for his family. He was one of the first people to have heart bypass surgery, so he has had heart issues for a very long time. He was an corporate accountant in NYC for his entire career and loved the fact that I’m now working as one. At one point a few years ago, he and my aunt even told me they’d pay for school if I wanted to go back and get an accounting degree….but I declined. Ha. Not what I want to be doing long term, although I am good at it.
We used to make jokes about him being so cheap he squeaked when he walked. Although now that I’ve spent five years working in this field, I do understand. Back then, I didn’t. The man had butt loads of money so why in the world would he need to debate the price of toilet paper at Costco? The world may never know.
My favorite two memories of him are completely odd but I thought I’d share them anyway. The first was when I was five years old. They had flown into California and rented an RV and drove us all to Vegas for Thanksgiving. Why Vegas? I’ll never know. It doesn’t seem like a great spot for a family reunion but hey it worked. He and my dad took us kids to Toys R Us in a Limo (now I know this wasn’t probably any more money than a taxi) and told us we could all buy whatever things we wanted. As we weren’t used to getting much stuff at that point in our lives, I believe my brothers and I each picked out two small things. Pretty sure I picked a purple Care Bear and a pack of bubble gum. The man probably spent less than $50 on that entire excursion. I remember him telling my dad that he was doing something right with us and him laughing and saying, you three are pretty great, I should take your out more often. I think playing with all of the toys was the highlight of his trip.
The other memory, strangely enough was when my grandmother was dying in the hospital. We’d all gathered at her bedside and basically had to leave her on life support until my uncle, the executive of the will, could get back from a trip to Vietnam to let her go. It sounds horrible and in truth it was, however it was also a time where our family connected in a way that we hadn’t. We played board games and card games in the waiting room and told each other grandma stories. That was the trip where he went to Costco and bought toilet paper. The hotel brand was crap he kept saying and he decided he needed to go buy his own, but I guess it’d been a lot of years since he’d actually bought any himself and the price was just OUTRAGOUS in his mind. He didn’t care that there were four of us sitting there laughing at him as he discussed TP prices with three separate bewildered Costco employees.
His name was Seymour and he’ll be very missed. Peace be with you uncle. Love, Melissa