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Tag Archives: uncle

family…

Bobby and OscarMy mother had one sibling, two years older. Bob, and his movie-star-beautiful wife, Helen, and their son, Bobby (shown here in one of a series of annual magazine ads for Bob’s business), who was about my age, lived in an apartment not far from us and were a fairly regular part of our lives. Bob always had a camera in his hand and his shadow looms in the foreground of a number of my childhood photos.

Uncle Bob was big and jolly and a little crude and my mother resented him for so obviously defying the conflated images of cultured refinement, bohemian artiness and intellectualism she cultivated. If she had reasons to hate him — reasons more sinister than childhood hair-pulling and teasing — she never revealed them, but she spoke of him always with a sour face and barely-concealed contempt.

Bobby was a sweet boy and we liked each other and played together as kids. But Bob sent him off to military school and then the three of them moved to Arizona, so our visits became less frequent. At 15, Bobby was a passenger on the back of a motorcycle that was hit by a car. He died three months later. I was still reeling from the recent death of my grandmother, whom I had loved, and who had been a uniting force — socially, if not emotionally — between my mother and her brother. Now the twin losses, and the acrimonious settling of my grandmother’s affairs, meant that my mother could be nearly rid of her brother.

We saw Uncle Bob rarely after that. I exchanged a couple of letters with him, which surely would have angered my mother, had she known. She hated him, so, in her world view, I was supposed to hate him, too. But he had always been kind to me, and fun, and I didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t be friendly, even if they were not.

I was having dinner with my parents one evening much later when my mother said, offhandedly, “Before Robert died….” Pressed, she told me her brother had died “years” earlier and she hadn’t thought it would matter to me.

I guess, after all, it did.