Two Memories

We lost the family’s senior writer this week. My Uncle Rob.

Here are two of my favorite memories of him, which are both from 1999:

1)  Uncle Rob walked me around downtown Manhattan to teach me how to find work. We had stacks of my resume. He said something very nice about my hair– I think about the color. Then advice: “In this town you can basically just pick a building you think you want to work in and go in there and pass out resumes until someone calls you back.”

A pause. I must have looked uncertain; I was frumpy and 19 and worried I was not as smart as everyone liked to tell me I was. He must have sensed this, because he added: “They will call you back.”

Later we crowded into an elevator with a bunch of Suits. There was a plaque noting the elevator had been manufactured by the Schindler corporation. He elbowed me in the ribs and muttered “The lift is life.” We giggled through our teeth.

2) Towards the end of that same summer my cousin Tom got married to his sweetie Michele. Boyfriend #3 and I were standing on the deck at my parents’ with Rob. BF #3, an English major, brought up writing, and made some small talk with Rob, who stood above us, listening politely, nursing a drink.

BF #3 tried to impress him by quoting a few lines of something or other. Rob cleared his throat, and then, from memory, recited an enormous passage from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I’ve heard trained AC-tors read it who were nowhere near as good.

We listened, rapt. It was a humid evening in August with tree frogs calling and bars of orange sunlight cutting off the tops of the pine trees. As he finished his impromptu performance, Uncle Rob swept an arm out, taking in the lawn, the purple woods, the darkening sky.  I don’t recall exactly where he stopped, but it could have been:

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

“I win,” he said, smiling.

Bless him. And bless everyone who loves and misses him.

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