October 5th, 2005


RIP Mike Supnik

Much of what I am can be traced right back to my various grandparents. The mulish stubbornness (and the creativity) comes from Grandpa Waks; what quiet calm I manage comes from Grandma Waks; the passion for a good cause was instilled by Grandma Supnik. From Grandpa came the sense of humor, and the sharp perspective.

There was a bit of a surface contradiction there. On the one hand, he sometimes seemed a bit of a cynic, with a lawyer's eye for the shadings of truth and reality. But he coupled it with a persistent refusal to get dragged down by that -- his was the readiest laugh in the family, and he prided himself as a raconteur, good with a joke or a story at any moment. That sardonic humor passed through Mom to me; I may not pull it out often, but the satiric streak does grab me occasionally.

Grandpa also had a very subtle sense of the strange and funny. The bedroom I always took when visiting them was filled with oddments; I was especially fond of both the first-edition Tom Lehrer albums and the odd wire sculptures of musicians and street scenes. While he cultivated a conventional surface image, there was always a tinge of eccentricity under the surface that I quite appreciated.

Grandma passed away a couple of years ago, and that was probably a blessing. Her last few years had gone badly, as her crippling arthitis gave way to dementia, and Grandpa had to devote all his time and energy to caring for her. After she passed, he was able to unfold a bit, and his last few years seemed to mostly be good ones. He knew he didn't have all that long, so he set about passing on what information he could (msmemory, the family genealogist, had a couple of fruitful conversations with him), but he didn't seem to be too bothered by it. When the end came, it was mercifully quick -- he only started really fading badly in the past couple of months.

I'll be skipping dance practice this week, driving down to NJ for the funeral tomorrow. I expect it to be a melancholy affair, especially now that that entire generation has gone, but hopefully it'll retain some humor and perspective -- he would have wanted that, I think...