Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Blogging from the beach

Greetings from Fort Lauderdale. Here's is what I had planned:

In the middle of the two weeks of neverending snow, I laid down on the couch and said I couldn't take it anymore. Mr. Snarkshelf, stomping the snow off his boots and leaning the ergonomically correct shovel against the door, said "Take my Marriott miles, please." (Translation: In the name of JW Marriott, stop complaining for three seconds, please).

Mr. Snarkshelf travels a lot, and what we sometimes lack in gabillions of dollars we make up for in travel perks. So I planned a little getaway at a Marriott resort. Hammocks on the beach. In-house Starbucks. Spa. Polled my BFFs for a potential travel companion, but the snow wreaked so much havoc with school and work and whatnot it was a no-go. Whatever. Yay! I was scheduled to leave on a Sunday.

Here's what happened:

On Wednesday, my uncle went to sleep. On Thursday, he never woke up. Died in his sleep three weeks after his 80th birthday. Aside from diabetes, he was never sick. Still working. Just returned from his annual anniversary cruise with my aunt. They were married 58 years. High school sweethearts and still best friends, enjoying the good life near Boca Raton.

I kept the reservation at the fab resort - I am here now and intend to be poolside right up until my flight leaves - but here's what the first part of the getaway looked like:

Reservation changes. Made my brother's travel plans. Shared a room with him at a Holiday Inn
Express. Tears. Chopped liver. Cousins. Rugulah. Hugs. Bagels. Minyan. Cookies. Good stories. Corned Beef. Look at old pictures. Egg salad. Funeral. Hugs. Coffee cake.

Oy. But don't misunderstand - I am not complaining. Things happen and family comes first.

I don't know the tradition in other cultures, but in Judaism everyone reverts to eating like it is 1945 and we might starve like wartime without a little kugel. The tradition is to host mourners after the funeral and for a few days afterward. I guess it is like an Irish wake with less whiskey and more cholesterol. Well-wishers don't send flowers, they send food. "I am sorry for your loss - I brought knish."
One does not need to look at the six kinds of cream cheese on that dining room table to know my uncle was a well-loved man. He was an old-school, self-made cool dude. He knew how to make a buck. Started out as a Mad Men-era hairstylist and owned a bunch of businesses over the years. He liked Vegas and nice cars and off-color jokes and jewelry and good clothes. He had a boat called the "You Got It," because that was his motto. He made things happen.

"Your uncle," said one Boca lady, tennis bracelets jangling. "Was a prince among men. A prince."

That's the truth.

He was a guys-guy surrounded by girls: His wife, three daughters and four granddaughters (and one grandson). Growing up, their house was a fascinating place to me. My house was my brother, my father and my mom, who neither understood nor wanted to participate in girl world.

At the Shaws, it was all girl world, all the time. My girl cousins - two of them identical twins - are a decade older than me. They were cool high schoolers who would do my hair and show me how to wear bell bottoms and really high platform shoes.

The age gap has narrowed considerably over the years, and my house is mostly boys. But spending time with them and their twentysomething aged daughters is still my entre into that world.

So in addition to the mourning, the days went something like this: Talking about bridesmaid dresses. Talking about work and exercise. Talking about hairstyles and purses. Talking about how many calories are in the rugelah.

No joke, in the anteroom at the funeral home, there was talk about shoes. My uncle would have loved it. You want those Christian Laboutins? Go get 'em. You Got it. Life is too short to not have the shoes that make you happy.

Later, in the laundry room, I found some plastic glasses with the "You Got It" logo. We toasted to my uncle. You could have red wine or Diet Coke. Because that's what we drink in girl world.


  1. Great entry, Karen! Your uncle will surely be missed.

  2. is that your gunboat in the picture?

  3. Good tale. I love your Uncle, bless his soul.

  4. I almost felt like I was there. Good stuff. I am very sorry for your loss. It sounds like he knew the secret of life. I could only be so lucky.

  5. Karen great Poppa was Poppa the best and he loved you and Michael as his own this David did not know how to select an account type LOL

  6. Glad I finally sat still long enough to read this. Could you bring me a piece of rugulah? You got me in the mood....