Henry K. Bruck and Children
Copyright © Erik Pennebaker, All rights reserved

I've had the box of my grandpa's stuff in the basement for a while. Photos, documents. I'd accepted it to eventually scan and immediately retired it to the lower deck for a rainy day. There has simply been no time, and aside from the slow creep of fading and mildew there wasn't a hurry.

My grandpa passed away almost three years ago from Alzheimer's. He's made a blog appearance a few times - here pretty early after diagnosis (standing next to my step-grandmother who just passed away recently), and here in the depths of it. I saw him a couple weeks later and things were even worse, and finally he let go.

So, I got the box. I've been working a lot, not going out a lot to take picts, so I thought maybe it would be a good time to slowly work through the photos. I dragged it up and began paging through.

I guess I had a certain bond with my grandpa, despite that I wasn't into sports (which would have been the easy common ground). Actually we didn't have much in common at all when I think of it, but we spent time together pretty easily. Still I didn't really know him deeply, which made looking through the box was a like jumping into a puzzle. Strangers in photos, documents from his life, his sisters', his parents'. The individual items can be a mystery, but also the types of things included and not included is its own mystery. There are few pictures of my grandma, but hundreds of pictures of fishing trips to Canada.

He liked to take cartoons, the simple black and white drawings you might find in magazines with some quote under them like "Well honey, that's why we only have three ducks", and write someone's name in the white space with an arrow to one of the characters in the drawing, implying perhaps a behavioral relation between the person and the character. There are dozens of these. I would assume he often gave them to the assigned person (or what would the fun be?) so maybe these are the ones he didn't give, or just liked for his own amusement. Or maybe they were just in a pile on his desk, something he did for a week randomly, and they got tossed in the box along with other more significant things.

Grandpa (aka Henry Bruck) was complicated and had a complicated history, in the way that all of us will after decades of decisions and compromises and consequences. He started with little and worked hard, eventually running a successful company and retiring very wealthy. He quit drinking and smoking, the teeth gritted approach old timers pull off but younger generations can't manage. By the time I met him I never sensed he missed the habits though. He was always kind with me and happy to see me. On the other hand he left his wife (my grandma), who he had five children with, for his secretary. I don't hear a lot of details but it sounds like he wasn't always the best father. There is no small amount of destruction in his story.

I guess I'm going to hedge the scope of what I'm doing here. I'm not making a big archive, scanning and documenting every shred. I'm not going to make a VH-1 special about my grandpa on the blog. I'll scan what interests me, which might be pictures and documents of grandpa, and also fun pictures of strangers from the 70s with amazing mustaches and large, tinted glasses. I may scan a few things that seem important just because I'm in the area, but overall it will be incomplete, capricious, moody, and maybe fun. Some friends and family will take some interest for a while.

That's about the most we can hope for.

[ tags: archive bruck family grandpa hank henry notmine oldtimes ]

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