Saturday, October 01, 2005

Uncle Stanley: 1918-1993

Oh, dear. What is there to say about an Uncle Stanley? It was the biggest shock of our lives when we learned that he had cancer, and something like three weeks later, he was gone. He was just one of those people who was larger than life, and who influenced everyone who came into contact with him -- for good or ill.

My first memory of him is not a happy one. I don't know if I was even four yet, but I recall sitting in the big kitchen of my step-grandmother, on my stepfather's lap, and in walked Uncle Stanley with his partner, both in the heavy blue-serge winter uniforms of the New York City Police Dept., and Uncle Stanley roared (he never spoke), "Hup, there he is, there's Frinky-Dink! Come on, Frank, you're under arrest, we're gonna lock you up!"

Now, Mom and Dad weren't even married a year, and I think I must still have been trying to cope with my own father's death. At any rate, I burst into tears, and I remember Grandma scolding him, "Stanley, don't, you scared her," and Dad saying, "He's just joking." Let me tell you, it wasn't funny to think I was going to lose someone else! I never cared for Uncle Stanley after that, and he cordially returned the favor -- he hated crybabies.

Extrovert that he was, he was the one who hosted all the family parties, and there were dozens a year: birthday parties (for his kids), weddings and showers and christenings and First Communions, all accompanied by yards of Grandma's homemade kielbasa and salads (macaroni, potato, cucumber, and beet) and kegs of beer on tap -- heaven alone knows how he acquired those, and I don't think I want to know -- he was probably the most corrupt cop on the Force. He knew everyone, and he knew who was "touchable" and who wasn't. He probably felt it was the only way he could feed and clothe his nine kids -- his wife wasn't going out to work! (Ironically, after he died, she did just that, and as far as I know, is still at it, at age 75.)

His kids adored him. Some of them were quiet, and some extroverted, just like him, but they all had his blue eyes and flashing smile, and his competitive spirit. Why he was so competitive, I'll never know; Dad, the oldest of his parents' five children, is the most mild-mannered guy I know, and his other two brothers are equally low-key. But Stanley and his sister, Millie -- both had to have the best of everything in life, nothing was too good for them or for their kids, and both would do whatever they had to, to get it.

Whatever the cause, when he died, his kids were devastated. And maybe that's his greatest legacy, that despite all his faults (and who among us has none?), his kids were enormously proud of him and of the job he had done raising them. Which is not a bad way to be remembered at all.

1 comment:

Mimi said...

I never cared for Uncle Stanley after that, and he cordially returned the favor -- he hated crybabies.

I have an uncle who used to tease me, he was being nice, I was petrified.

Thankfully, we got over it, but I can certainly relate with your story!

May Stanley's Memory be Eternal. Indeed, being devestatinly missed by your family is indeed a legacy!