Monday, February 9, 2015

My Uncle Albert sings amongst the stars now

My Uncle Albert passed this morning. A man of 90 years, he took long strides in eras and decades that reshaped this world in so many ways. More importantly to our family, he was a great, grand voice.

Eldest of my father's siblings. Glib and cheerful, full of laughter and strong will.

That's Albert Ruth.

I think about the piece of his 90 years I have been around for and it does not feel like enough time to catch every smile, hear every joke, or listen to every story. He gave so much to all of us; including when my mother passed exactly two years ago yesterday.

What follows is what I wrote for him some 10 years ago for his 80th birthday.

My Uncle Albert’s voice, resonating clearly and strongly across any room, is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of him. His voice has marked every important family gathering I can recall. When there is a wedding, expect to hear his rendition of Ave Maria floating into your ears. When there is a humorous story to be told, expect to hear his laughter punctuating the telling.
He is a devout man who has served his church as an elder and shared his graceful voice with his community as a choir member. He is a kind leader, eldest of his siblings and a guide to his grateful nieces and nephews. He is a veteran of World War II, a master of fashion and a traveler to the exotic far reaches of the globe. Few can claim to have witnessed and participated in the history he has been a party to. Fewer still can say they have affected and moved people the way he does with his voice, his stories and his presence. Listen carefully when my Uncle Albert speaks and be prepared to have your spirit stirred.

I wish I could share the tenor of his songs with others. and let them feel how he made the world rumble. There are recordings of him out there, but I have the luxury of playing back each note from my memories.

Flame and Bone

When I was made from fire
Poured into the tender vessel of caution
That keeps my smoke from rising
Quickly did I discover that apart from crisp drizzles or falling snow
The world chilled my touched
Walking the narrow cornered gap between girders and cut stone
One learns to tuck his shoulders in or risk
Jostling a neighbor passing by rapt with want
For a clear path without the distraction
Of another man's boiling eyes
The tip of a finger
That oldest of all weapons
Grown deadlier and pristine in its invention
Gathers a mote of a cinder on its bare flesh
And turns pondering how best to scratch the impious itch
Prying open the tender seam
Where the oil of thought dews
Offering a new wick to ignite
Squirming alive as a salamander of mischief
That yearns for a taste of air it is so ready to devour
The steam of breath betrays me
Before the glint of orange spreads
In popping bright waves
Eroding the fibers feeding it
Leaving naught but ash
As my shell of quietude falls away