Monday, September 10, 2018

44 Regular

My crazy uncle passed away this weekend. That's him on the right, seated next to my father on the left.

I use the term crazy uncle literally, figuratively and lovingly. Because let's face it, we all have a crazy uncle, some more than one. Typically they have weird views about aliens, vaccines and Alex Jones. And they drink excessively, eventually turning Thanksgiving into a food free for all.

My Uncle Jackie was crazy in the other way.

He was mentally challenged. Semi-functional, in a limited way, but never all there. And, as you might expect from a Siegel, it manifested itself in somewhat hilarious ways.

About a dozen years ago, he showed up at my mother's funeral armed with a notepad and a ballpoint pen. When the coast was clear, he would hound dog any woman at the service, scribble his phone number on a scrap of paper and tell her to call him the she wanted to 'get busy.'

It was shocking at the time.
It's hilarious now.

Uncle Jackie spent his last years at an assisted living apartment in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He loved it there, but I will tell you they put the grim in grimy. As my friend from North Jersey eloquently put it, "Atlantic City was built in the key of Sad."

For a while Jackie and I had a regularly scheduled phone call every Thursday Night. The call would never last more than two minutes and it was always be the same.

JACKIE: Hey Richie, how you doing?

ME: I'm fine Jackie, how are you?

JACKIE: Fine, fine. Just enjoying the apartment. Enjoying the TV. You know.

ME: That's good. Do you need anything?

JACKIE: Winter coats. It gets really cold here.

ME: I sent you three winter coats last week.

JACKIE: Oh yeah.

ME: Do you need anything else?

JACKIE: Some winter coats.

I suspect he had similar calls with other relatives as well. When they cleaned out his apartment to move him to hospice care, he had enough winter coats to clothe a small Eskimo village.

My uncle was 84 years. He drove a NYC gypsy cab for a while but never held a real job. Never married. And other than his small home grown haberdashery, never had a dime to his name.

But my Uncle Jackie had something else, a Zen-ness about him. He did not possess the hard-edged, Bronx-born warrior-like mentality that is quite common in my family. Instead he had the remarkable ability to stay quiet when everyone else was yelling and fighting. And always with a smile. A smile I won't forget.

I will miss my uncle.

Does anybody need a winter coat?

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