I will always remember my Uncle Steve in his work clothing, coming home from a long day of repairing cars and trucks. His boots were worn, and his clothing stained with grease. He would be so tired that he would lie down on the carpet. Often, he would fall asleep there from sheer exhaustion. When dinner was ready, I would go over to him and say, “Rise and shine!”
On May 10th, he passed away after battling cancer. He was on hospice and lived for two and half years after his diagnosis, even though the doctors only gave him three to six months to live. He was well taken care of. I have written many chapters over the years about my process of dealing with his impending loss in my Open to Hope series, “A Forever Decision”.
Uncle Steve was my second father, because I lived with him for a few years when I was a child. I am lucky to have my own father, who is still with me.
At 96-and-a half-years-old by the time of his death, he was a World War II veteran, and a well-known member of his community in western Pennsylvania. He collected antiques and was known to leave the house well before dawn with his flashlight so that he could arrive at the flea market and search boxes for good stuff before the vendors had even unloaded them from their vehicles. He was always looking for a bargain, and he had a practiced eye from thousands of hours of evaluating items.
I accompanied him once on one of these trips before daybreak. A car pulled up with its lights on and the driver spoke to Uncle Steve as he began to pull over. Suddenly, my uncle’s pace picked up and other regulars in the parking lot took notice. When he made a beeline for the car, they knew that something good must be in there, because they followed him, like a swarm of bees which widened from its base. His flashlight was lit before he went to the car’s trunk, and he pulled out items and chose them with lightning speed. I could hardly believe that a man in his nineties could move that fast. At auctions, he used to bid by blinking his eye to keep others from knowing his identity. This is because everyone knew that if Steve was bidding on an item, it must be good, and they would jump in on the action.
Uncle Steve kept a running tally in his head about what he was willing to pay for any item, according to its value. He could make a near-instant judgement about what he wanted, and when he did, he moved quickly to secure it. In all the transactions he made, I seldom heard him say, “I should have done….”
I think that what I learned from him is to constantly survey my environment – to sweep through my surroundings and pounce on what I desire. This application has run the gamut in my life from surveying NYC rental apartments, to buying real estate, to keeping up with trends in my business, which includes the theatre and literary worlds. I look for talent and value. I try to enhance my life every day. And I am constantly training my eyes to see value in the world around me.
I appreciate the wisdom of my elders. I inherited my work ethic, my curiosity, and my restless search for something new from him.
As Father’s Day approaches, I keenly feel the loss. The shock of his death is still with me, as well as the sadness and feeling of being unbalanced and out of sorts. One of my anchors is missing.
It has been a long time since I watched him go to work and come home in his work uniform while I was a child. Although it seems impossible, I will try to remember the good times in the middle, as I grew into adulthood. Right now, as an adult, I am trying to find the good stuff in the middle of the loss I feel today. I’ll keep looking and keep trying. With any luck, I’ll pluck those gems from the middle of my piles of memories and put them in a place of honor.