Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Passing of Cousin Marvin

My mother just called me to tell me that my cousin Marvin will be dead tonight. They had just pulled the plugs that were keeping him alive . Although he was still breathing, she said he would be dead before the night was over. This was not a surprise. He fell down a couple of days ago, hit his head, was rushed to the hospital, and had been in a coma with no chance of recovery since the accident. It was his wish that he not be kept alive if he could not live normally.

I loved and respected my cousin. He was an inspiration to me when I was young. He was idolized by my father who considered Marvin one of the smartest guys in America. The story in our family was that he had the fourth highest IQ of any soldier in World War II. He was a lawyer, a movie producer, and ultimately a college professor. He introduced me to Clarence Darrow, one his heroes who ultimately became one of mine. He seemed to know everything about history, politics, and literature, and was a great story teller with literally thousands of stories. He could talk, and usually did for hours, about his time in Japan after the War, his days as an entertainment lawyer, and what it was like growing up in my family during the depression in Newark New Jersey.

He told me about my Uncle Izzy who was a gambler and street person and was always surrounded by beautiful women until he died at age 100. He spoke of my Aunt Fanny who also lived to a 100 Marvin's mother, my Aunt Pauline died at 102. Marvin was only 85 when he died, but he was active until the last day of his life. One of his problems and one of his strengths was that he never complained no matter what was bothering him physically or emotionally. He fell because he did not take his walker with him to a restaurant he was going to with a friend. He felt he was OK and didn't need it. He was the youngest 85 year old person you could possibly know, mainly because he never accepted that he was old.

One of the things that interested me most about him was that he was an atheist who did not consider the existence of God as even possible. Yet he was constantly reading and studying books about Judaism and his best friends were a female congregational minister, and a Muslim women who followed the teachings of the Aga Khan. His second wife who died before him, was a religious Catholic from the Phillipines. For many years with his wife and later with his friends he attended Church on a regular basis. When I questioned him about it he said it was no big deal, although I suspected that he was a little more open than he admitted.

He was a true intellectual, a student and a teacher. Most of those who knew him marvelled at his wealth of knowledge and his unlimited stories. As smart as he was though, and he was really smart he seemed to lose all of his logic when it came to gambling. For the last twenty years of his life, what he primarily wanted to talk to me about were his gambling theories. For the past five years he had been working on a baseball betting system that he believed would make him and me rich. He would call me every few days with an update on his results. He bet every game every day. He spent a couple of days a week at OTB betting the ponies. He actually gave me a tip last year on a horse that won at 9-1. I shared it with my friend Marty who won $1500.00 on the race and was every grateful to Cousin Marvin.

For some reason, I'm not sad at his passing. He had a tough life in many ways but was able to deal with all kinds of problems and bounce back from many different setbacks. He was optimistic and seemed to enjoy himself up until his last days. I guess you can't ask for much more.

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