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Wednesday, May 21

gray skies

My uncle taught me about the beauty of gray days.

 He was an artist who painted on nights and weekends,  taught Spanish to Long Island teenagers during the week. He moved to New York when it became too difficult to be a closeted gay man in Buffalo. I missed him so much when he moved and nobody would explain why he gave up a job he loved to move 400 miles down the highway to do the same job somewhere else. He came home for a couple of weeks in the Summer and every Christmas the holiday officially started when he got off the plane carrying bags from Bloomingdales and Macy's.

I loved him because he "got" me. He wanted me to be a writer and he would critique my fumbling attempts with tact. He taught me about art and theater and both of those things became large in my life.  When I got married and we moved into our first little house, he helped me paint orange crates with red enamel for shelving and bought us a beautiful black, gray and white Raya rug to make us feel like millionaires. He was an art collector and shared his excess with all of us. When I shared a growing fascination with Magritte, he swelled with pride.

Finally, he retired and made plans to move home. He rented an apartment in a complex near Mom's house and they spent their days reminiscing about growing up in a neighborhood of immigrants and ne'er do wells, bringing us to tears with their funny stories. He and Mom dragged out the family recipes and tried to recreate my Grandmother's flan or rice pudding. They went to auctions and flea markets. We all blossomed under this new fresh air and light.

But it wasn't long before he got sick, his 4 pack a day habit turning his move home to a farewell instead of a long 3rd act. It was devastating.

Before that happened, though, while we were unpacking his boxes one October afternoon, he taught me one more thing. I looked outside and sighed and complained about the dark, gray Fall sky and wished for sunshine. He stopped and walked me to the big glass sliders that led to his deck and told me to look, really look. To look at how vibrant the leaves were against the gray. How the light, diffused, brought the world into sharp focus. How the branches looked like pen and ink.

So, this morning, when I pulled the drapes open, I saw a dark gray sky and noticed how my neighbors gingerbread house looked so colorful with that backdrop and how the new tender green of the trees almost glowed with life and I thought of him, 20  years gone now, and how we never know what we leave behind, how our lives touch others.

I thought the best gifts he brought were in the Bloomies bags at Christmas, but it turns out his most important gift was presented on a gray Fall day, surrounded by cartons and chaos, one hand on my shoulder, the other pointing to the beautiful gray sky above.

1 comment:

Joanne Noragon said...

I hope everyone has a most beloved relative to think back on.