Last weekend Rebecca’s grandfather, Seymour, passed away. It wasn’t a total shock — his health had been on a slide for the last few years, worsening in recent weeks — but he wasn’t hospitalized at the time, and you can never really prepare for the still sudden-seeming void left by a loved one who leaves.
Becca’s uncle, Bruce, found a note that Seymour had apparently composed during the final days of his life. I took a picture of it on Seymour’s desk, sitting alongside an old letter addressed to him in Rockville Center, where he lived most of his life, as well as a fragment of a photograph of Bernice, Seymour’s wife and longtime life partner. It makes a pretty poignant visual vignette, I think.
The note reads:
I TRY TO SEE THE WORLD AND REACT TO IT THROUGH MY PHOTOGRAPHY —
LIGHT IS THE KEY TO THE WORLD AND SEEING IT HELPS ME FEEL I AM PART OF LIVING — AND BEING ABLE TO CHANGE THE WAY I CAN LIVE — NOTHING EVER ENDS AND I CAN ALWAYS BE PART OF IT — AND MAKE A PERMANENT RECORD OF IT — MY OWN RECORD THAT CAN CHANGE —
Clearly, Seymour saw himself through the lens of a photographer. As those who knew him know, it was photography through which Seymour chased his muses, adored his family, and framed many moments of extraordinary beauty. Speaking at the service for Seymour, Becca noted his penchant for pronouncing beautiful with a strong E in the middle, which gave it a nice effect. I always enjoyed it, especially as spoken in his gentle, semi-hoarse, post-Yiddish New York accent. Strikingly, many of the most BEAUTYful pictures Seymour took were of utterly ordinary things — the miracles of the blowing clover and the falling rain, or kids playing street hockey in Hell’s Kitchen.
A few years ago Seymour asked me if I was interested in his and Bernice’s record collection. It was taking up too much room in their house, especially among the dozens of boxes of photographs, and no one ever listened to them anymore. I gladly accepted and have been hauling several hundred extra records around ever since. It’s a wonderful collection, ranging from post-war exotica and Judaica to the classical canon (and considerably beyond) and painting a complex picture of a certain sort of ad-hoc aural heritage, dimensions of which no doubt will develop and deepen as I listen through it all — and wonder about how it sounded, & what it meant, in a Long Island living room many years ago. I’ve wondered aloud about this before, and, in tribute to Seymour, I’ll be re-running that post next, followed by another long-stewing and overdue episode of Musical Travels with Seymour and Bernice.
So long, Seymour. Thanks for the record(s) —
THAT CAN CHANGE —