© 2014, Gadi Bossin
P.O. Box 20
Kiryat Bialik, Israel
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
AUNTIE DAISY: PART TWO
About fifteen years earlier, I’d started making a point of visiting the elderly people in my parents’ families. With both of my parents and many of my aunts and uncles gone, those who remained were particularly dear to me.
I visited Auntie Daisy and Uncle Joe in ’89. The next time I visited Florida was in ’92, Uncle Joe was already gone. I visited Auntie Daisy again in 1998 with Carol and Maayan and Orly and in 2000 with Shevvy.
Auntie Daisy’s life changed after Uncle Joe died. Before he died, she ran everywhere for him. At home, she brought him snacks and meals to eat in front of the television.
Outside the home, she ran his errands. She did everything for him.
My cousin Lee always said, “Auntie Daisy runs for him like a servant. She’s his slave! He takes advantage of her.”
I remember Uncle Joe reclining on the sofa, looking as decadent as an Ottoman sultan in his rotund obesity, smoking a cigarette, eating cake and drinking coffee, watching the Discovery channel.
“I’m learning things I never knew before,” he exclaimed. “Geddele, look at that! Did you ever?”
He was marveling at how a large bird of prey zeroes in on a rabbit bounding along and fleeing at full speed, how it glides down out of the sky and snatches the rabbit in one violent but smooth motion and then rises, flapping higher and higher into the sky.
The camera catches a shot of the rabbit, trapped in the bird’s claws, looking terrified yet resigned to its fate.
“Just like people,” Uncle Joe declared. “Some are birds of prey. Some are rabbits.”
“And you, Uncle Joe? What have you been in your life?”
“You know me, Geddele. You know. I know you know,” he said sighing. “I’ve lived my life as a bird of prey. Ya gotta be one or the other. And I wouldn’t be a rabbit.”
My father once told me this: “Yossele Lewis stole money from his sister.”
Dad always called him by the Yiddish diminutive, Yossele, along with his surname: Yossele Lewis. It was his way of putting Uncle Joe in his place.
During my 1989 visit, Uncle Joe and I went for walks along the beach every morning and then on to his favorite restaurant for breakfast where he flirted with the waitresses.
“Nora, you’re looking better every day.”
“Now you hush up, you, Joe,” Nora gushed. She was a woman in her forties, more than thirty years younger than Uncle Joe. You could tell she enjoyed his teasing compliments.
“Nora, this is my nephew, Geddy. He’s visiting from Israel.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Nora said.
I nodded to her, “Hi.”
Uncle Joe ordered. “I’ll have the usual.”
Nora smiled and scribbled on her pad.
“Geddy?” he said.
I ordered griddle cakes and a large orange juice.
In between bites of his toast, Uncle Joe said, out of the blue and as if rebutting a point in a debate, “Geddy, your father never made a living.”
He said this in the manner of a man who had made lots of money in his time and believed himself a better man than other men who hadn’t.
I never liked this attitude of his, but I didn’t challenge him. He wasn’t going to change. And Dad was long gone—almost eleven years—when we were having this conversation a year or two before Uncle Joe would die.
“And you. You’re a teacher in a college,” he went on. “You’re no bird of prey.”
About that he was right. But I was doing my part, supporting my family along with Carol.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll take care of you.” He looked me in the eye meaningfully and repeated. “Yeah, I’ll take care of you.”
I didn’t know what his meaning was. Later, I thought about what he said.
Maybe he intended to leave me some money. But that seemed unlikely and unreasonable. He had children and grandchildren.
Well, I never found out what he meant. He didn’t leave me money. I wasn’t disappointed. But I’m still curious. I still wonder what he meant when he said, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you.”
My father and Uncle Joe didn’t like each other. They weren’t at all alike. Maybe Uncle Joe was indeed a bird of prey.
My father most definitely wasn’t. He wasn’t a rabbit either. And he did make a living, but that was all. He never had much money. Certainly, he had no money to spare.
I wanted to ask Uncle Joe about the time he stole money from his sister, but I never did. What was the point? It had happened more than half a century before.
This is what Dad had told me:
“Yossele Lewis robbed his sister of $3000. That was back in 1938. She was carrying cash from the bank. It was payroll money for the company she worked for. It was in a briefcase. He grabbed it and ran. It was her brother. She couldn’t turn him in. She told the police she never saw the guy before in her life. They never caught him. He used the money to start his business.”
As a young wife, Auntie Daisy had to know what kind of man Yossele Lewis was.
Was she afraid of his “bird of prey” approach to life?
Had she scolded her husband for snatching that $3000 from her sister-in-law?
Did they argue about what he’d done? Did he tell her to calm down?
I can hear him saying, “Daisy, I know what I’m doing.”
And her reply: “Oh, Joe. You’re going to get caught and go to jail and leave me here all alone with Leslie.”
Walter’s older sister, Leslie, was a baby at the time of the heist. Walter hadn’t been born yet.
And then his retort: “Stella won’t say anything. She’s my sister.”
“Enough! Daisy, I did it for all of us. For you and for me and for Leslie. What kind of life is it if we have no money? I can start our business now. We can make a life for ourselves. You’ll see.”
I’m telling all this about Uncle Joe—Yossele Lewis—because he was my Auntie Daisy’s life for more than fifty years, and because, despite everything, despite his crassness and warped values and despite the way he used Auntie Daisy, he was my uncle and I cared for him.
Once I even saved his life. Well, I helped save his life.
He and Auntie Daisy were in the hotel room adjacent to ours at the Valley Hilton the night of my niece Raylee’s wedding in Encino. Raylee is my sister Shevvy’s younger daughter. It was June 1983.
Carol and I had made the trip over from Israel for the wedding. Four of us were in the room, Raviv, who was five, thirteen-month-old Maayan, and Carol and me.
A loud banging on the door between our rooms awakened us.
It was early morning after a late night. We were startled and a little bewildered.
Auntie Daisy was calling out, “Geddy! Geddy! Come quick! It’s Uncle Joe!”
We opened the door and found Auntie Daisy almost hysterical.
Uncle Joe was complaining of chest pains and was losing consciousness.
I called the desk and ordered an ambulance.
Ten minutes later we were at a nearby hospital.
Uncle Joe recovered in a couple of days. I really hadn’t done anything, but Auntie Daisy and Walter and Leslie (they were back in Florida), couldn’t stop saying “Thank you.”
Uncle Joe lived several good years after that.
Auntie Daisy’s years without Uncle Joe were probably more peaceful than all those years with him, but I know she missed him.
She was lonely.
My aunt. My lovely, beautiful Auntie Daisy.