While in L.A. I learned of the passing of my Uncle Murray. He was the youngest of my grandfather’s five brothers. At 93, he outlived them all, and by more than a decade.
He was the last of that particular generation. All of the brothers are gone now, as are their spouses. It was that thought, last Tuesday night, that made me particularly sad. I thought back to a photo I’d seen once, all of them together at some celebration, dressed up, seated around a large table, laughing. In that photo it seemed impossible there would ever be a day when all the people in the photo were gone.
My grandfather and three of his brothers, Max (who they called “Pat”), Willie (who they called “Bill”), and Murray, owned and ran a service station on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx for more than 30 years. Murray was the baby of the bunch. He was also the jokester and prankster, well known for his, let’s say, biting sense of humor. When I was a kid and would visit the gas station, it was Uncle Murray who would always put us on the car lift and engage the hydraulics, lifting us up to what seemed to be head-dizzying heights.
Four of the brothers served in the military (the all referred to it as “the Service”) during the Second World War. Uncle Max served in the Navy in the Pacific. The others were in the Army. My grandfather told me a “small world” story about how, through the magic of military bureaucratic coincidence, he and my Uncle Murray ended up at the same place at the same time somewhere on the west coast (I think it was an airport). It was an unexpected, and welcome reunion. There’s a picture of it somewhere, a sepia thing, both men in uniform looking impossibly young.
Uncle Murray retired to Florida where he kept all kinds of fish, and became a horologist. He had a small shop filled to the brim with clocks of all kinds. One of those clocks hung on the wall of my grandparents house, and to this day, I don’t understand how the hourly chirping of the cuckoo didn’t drive everyone insane. Another hangs in my parent’s house, a gift for their 25th anniversary.
Uncle Murray was, in my memory, always cheerful, always ready with a joke. The last time I saw him was just over a year ago, at a big gathering down in Florida. He was cheerful and smiling, then, too. His passing represents the end of an era in the family. The living history of that generation is gone now, and all that’s left are the memories, which evolve and alter with time.