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  • Writer's pictureEvan Wolkenstein

Two Uncles In My Genes: 30 DAYS OF WRITING. EPISODE 10/30

This is day 10 of a New Year’s Resolution.


If you’re keeping up with this 30 day write-o-rama, you know I’m in Milwaukee doing the serious business of grieving the passing of my Uncle in the way that Jews do: we eat. We tell stories. We nag each other.

My father and mother picked me up at the airport, we bought some frozen custard (my Uncle’s favorite), and we brought it to my Aunt and Uncle’s condo. There, in the living room sat my Uncle’s chair. I suppose it’s no longer actually my Uncle’s living room or my Uncle’s chair, but memories linger. Old Jewish texts describe the soul of the deceased person leaving the body and kind of… hanging around for a while. The mourners say kaddish (the original, not the Ginsberg poem), we’ll wait a year before we dedicate a tombstone — we make space for those who are gone to be “not gone.” 

Which in turn reminds me of the joke: What’s the difference between how Jews and Goyim say goodbye? Goyim leave without saying goodbye, but Jews say goodbye and don’t leave.

Well, jingoistic jokes aside, my Uncle was there, and when I said goodbye (and left), I shouted to the room full of relatives: goodnight everyone, see you tomorrow. Goodnight, Uncle David.


Another Uncle visited me tonight, one who’s been gone/not gone a long time. My Uncle Bill died suddenly, over ten years ago – I got the call while I was leading a group of 9th graders on a ropes course.

Supposedly, I am a lot like him. He had an odd-ball sense of humor, adored jazz, and was nimble with a drawing pen.

When my parents and I got home from the shiva, tonight, they told me they had a gift for me. Inside a flat package was a picture frame, and there, in black and white, was a well-dressed man. My parents had found the old photo in a drawer and had it restored and framed.

“We know that family is very much about sharing genes,” said my father. “But it’s also very much about sharing jeans.”



Behold the family resemblance. Scary, huh? The striped sweater, the jeans, the wide cuffs.

To my Uncle David; may every comfy chair I sit in remind me of you. And to my Uncle Bill, may every joke I tell be… off the cuffs.

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