The story so far:
I have already written about people I have wondered about. Now, I realize that my family may have produced a person others may wonder about. I kind of feel this is in a way more of a confession than an explanation.
It seems in every major city, where there is a low-rent apartment building, one of its residents has a story about a fellow resident, usually an elderly gentleman, who died alone, and nobody discovered him for days or weeks. Usually when discovered, usually by the building manager, a fellow resident would wonder "Who was he?", "Did he have any family", "What were they like? Did they even care? Were they a wolfpack?" and "What was his life like anyway?". I am sad to say my greatuncle may have been one such story.
I cannot describe my uncle without talking about my grandfather, his brother. My grandfather was someone I was very close to. He was always upbeat and optimistic, and believed life should be fun. Naturally, a kid would get along well with him, but I think we were the black sheep of the family. The rest of the family looked down on my grandfather for the reasons I loved him. They felt he was too much of a kid at heart, never serious enough, and a little silly. My grandfather also inspired me a lot. Not only was he successful in his career as a life insurance salesman, but he was one of the few people I have met who genuinely loved his work. He put a whole new spin on the occupation, and brought his own personality into his work. He genuinely felt good about his whole life, without being boastful. Being around my grandfather made me feel like I was around a TV star.
But like many celebrities, there was a mystique about him, making you wonder about his background, along with his accomplishments, and there were somethings I had to figure out piece by piece. Looking back, I realized he had a lot to be proud of, and overcome many obstacles, a kind of a rags-to-riches story, well, kind of, middle class riches. But middle class was still a great leap from where he came from, and he would tell you that.
But beyond rising above the poverty of New York's Lower East Side, there were personal sadnesses my grandfather had to overcome. Diabetes played a large part in his family's life. His mother had it, and often untreated, it affected her ability to function, and as a consequence, he and his brothers and sister were left to play unsupervised, and he lost his little sister to an accident at the age of 4, and my greatuncle sustained a head injury, which made him a dependent his whole life. In fact my grandfather's whole family of origin only furthered making him an object of the rest of my family's scorn. They were uneducated immigrants, who collectively were financially dependent, and they were high-strung and hyperreligious, to boot.
Nonetheless, my grandfather and his other brother spent their entire adult lives giving financial and other kinds of support to their parents and brother, and my grandfather would breezily laugh off their quirks.
Then my grandfather passed away when I was close to 12 years old, and my grandmother talked about them. She said she offered some of my grandfather's posessions to his brother, and he was grateful. But subsequently, my grandmother became very involved in her own affairs, and lost touch, or perhaps didn't even think about her brother-in-law, since then, at least not in a good way, since he had been a mouthpiece for a mother-in-law she considered difficult. My mother only met her uncle once or twice, when she was a kid, and wrote him off as a kind of weird because of his disability. He lived in a not very good neighborhood, and my grandparents just wanted her to free to play with her friends on weekends. Yet, I had a relationship with him of sorts, since my grandfather would put me on the phone when he would routinely call. My greatuncle seemed kind of like my grandfather, playful, joyful and friendly, only with a little bit of a stutter, and repetition which I thought was funny.
So, in recent years, when I head somebody tell a story about a tenant who died alone in a cheap apartment building, I wondered, "What happened to my Uncle Max?", and I asked my mom, if that's what could have happened, and she said coolly, "That could have been the case.", and said she never realized I even met him. Needless to say, he had no children of his own, never married, never even held a job beyond one stab, and his other brother was divorce soon after marrying, so there were no other nieces or nephews.
So, I am the only living relative who knew him, and it was too late for me to realize what happened and even try to do something for him, except type this meager memorial. I am not sure if I have his correct last name, since his brothers changed theirs to accomodate the business preferences of their time and place, but then again he didn't work. So, I'll make this attempt:
In Loving Memory of
1896(?) - 1980 (?)
Son of William and Clara Leibowitz (these names are
the only things I certain of)
And greatuncle of an online writer who goes by Catscratches.