There are people that are family by blood and then there are people in your family that you choose… and Uncle Nate (otherwise known as Mr. Peiss or Marla’s dad) was one of those people that was in my life by chose. I am sad to report that he passed away yesterday after a brief stay in the hospital. We are all still in shock that he is gone and will be sorely missed. But as I think about him, it brings a smile to my face because he was literally one of the kindest and warmest men I knew. He was content, enjoyed life, valued family and comfortable in his own skin which was refreshing and rare to see.
For as long as I can remember Uncle Nate had been part of my life too. The Peiss family lived across the street from us in the Oak Park Manor. For those who don’t know the history here is a quick snapshot. Marla (Nate’s daughter) and I met when we were about three years old and from all accounts we were sitting on a curb. Nate always supported this cute story, however in the last twenty years, Marla and I (especially after a few cocktails) did question the parenting style in the 1960’s/1970’s. I mean was it really safe for your child to be left unattended near the street at such a young age? I believe the Oakland County Child Killer was out during that time too, but who am I to judge… and it really is not relevant to the story. Anyways moving on, Marla and I enjoyed a friendship where we frequently spent time between both homes and I always felt very welcomed and comfortable with them.
I will forever be grateful for how Uncle Nate and Aunt Marilyn just stepped in when my mom died at the age of 7. I remember they always tried to make me feel special and part of their family. They even hosted a super fab birthday party with me with the coolest Teddy Bear Cake. When my dad was trying to cope with raising two young kids alone, they gave me a day where I could just have fun. I had the time of my life and was able to just be a kid without being sad about my mom’s death and our family situation at the time.
Uncle Nate was always generous and would frequently invite me to dinner or other social events with their family. I always laughed when going out with them as I hummed my favorite Sesame Street song… “one of these things are not like the other.” Their entire family were extremely short and little and I was big and tall for my age. It was clear that I was the thing not like the other in this scenario.
Uncle Nate was a big deal in Oak Park and everyone knew him. He was very involved in the community (on the school board I believe) and was the best printer in town. He had the lock on wedding and bat/bar mitzvah invitations. He later expanded his store into cards, office supplies and other knick knacks. I loved hanging out in the store especially because it was positioned conveniently near Pubs – the best candy store ever. I just have the fondest memories growing up and he was a big part of my childhood. It’s funny too when I reconnect with friends on Facebook, almost every kid in Oak Park knows Nate Peiss – just a real icon in the community.
Fast forward to adulthood, it was very important for me to stay close and have Nate and Marilyn at all my family gatherings. They attended my wedding, baby naming, all Isabelle’s first few birthdays, Father’s Day and unfortunately Robin’s funeral – they were always there for me. After my parents were gone, I viewed them as my surrogate parents and needed to stay close even when Marla was living out of town. I always loved catching up and seeing what was going on with them. Nate would constantly say “tell your girlfriend to move back to Michigan (referring to Marla obviously). He never missed a moment to let me know he wanted Marla, Bob, Matt and Zach closer to him. Although based on this week’s weather, it really affirms why Marla, Bob and the kids chose to stay in Atlanta brrr…. 🙂
When Nate was going thru his cancer treatments, I called him to see how he was doing. He shared with me that he was a little backed up from the chemotherapy but otherwise everything else was ok. Totally knowing how agonizing chemo constipation was I had the perfect solution. I sent him a squatty potty and was convinced this would solve all his bathroom issues. Basically it is a bench you place under your feet when you are sitting on the toilet. It repositions your tushie to be angled properly to slide out a good one. I followed up a week or so later to see if there was any significant progress to report? He told me that his legs were too short and it did not work for him. Now, this was a head scratcher comment because the squatty potty literally would make it easier for anyone with short legs to use because it was elevated off the ground. I never understood his response and was convinced that he had no idea how to use it. I guess it was better for me not to know all the details. On a side note, it really is a great invention – highly recommend – 5 thumbs up to take care of problems that no one wants to discuss or acknowledge.
Just recently, Uncle Nate attended our Christmakah Party and I am so happy that Marla and Bev (Marla’s sister) were there too. A good time was had by all with lots of laughs and confusion with our annual gift exchange. Not only did I enjoy having them at the house but all my brothers, sister in laws , mother in law, daughter and extended family looked forward to celebrating with Nate and Marilyn too. It just was a tradition… assumed and that was nice. See the Christmakah blog for more info.
As we all try to process that Nate is gone, it feels a little bit like an era has closed. However, I feel truly blessed to have had him in my life for almost fifty years. I admired how sweet, upbeat, warm he was just a really lovely soul. In this world where people are not always so kind and focused on the right thing, it is reassuring to see men like Nate Peiss who had his priorities in check. He adored his wife, daughters, son-in laws and grandchildren. He just wanted everyone to be together, happy and healthy. Nate lived a rich life which included strong connections with everyone around him. He extended his love to friends (such as me) and I feel like I learned a ton from him. He showed me how to maneuver life and be focused on the things that really matter. Rest in peace … Uncle Nate – you are missed already!!!