Harold Leaf, the father of my good friend and cousin David Leaf, passed away last week.
David is my cousin, by marriage - to my cousin Eva.
I say this only to clarify why I have not referred to Harold as my Uncle Harold.
But he may as well have been. He was as down-to-earth and approachable as any "real" uncle I have ever known. And he never had to be.
A successful business man, a world traveler and cultured from the word "go," Harold could have easily waxed arrogance - particularly because he also was blessed with an artistic ability to create beautiful images on once-blank canvases. Instead, he was charming - while his very life became a stunning mosaic in and of itself.
Because of his many gifts, Harold could have easily been flip. Instead, he tripped you up with his kind and gentle manner. He went out of his way to make sure you never felt that you were in his way.
I first met Harold, his wife Bernice and their other sons, Bobby and Ricky, when, years ago, along with Eva and David, we all went for an ice cream - following an elegant dinner. The dinner was optimum. But the ice cream afterwards was what I recall the most. In recent days, going for an ice cream has become a lost art...an unapreciated simple treasure.
But not so on that short trek to the ice cream parlor with Harold and company. He was well-aware of the power that stems from such an ordinary event - with regard to bringing, holding and/or casting together a family or group of friends.
The Greek Isles, Egypt, Italy, France...those were all wonderful adventures for Harold. And he was sure to capture them, at one point or another, in many of his artistic creations.
But somehow he never painted a trip to Carvels, or Haagan Daz, or Dairy Queen. Somehow, such a simple treasure escaped his observent, painted perspective. Somehow, he knew that painting a run to the ice cream store was not nearly as much fun as visiting one.
Europe, he knew, would always be there - as would be the Great Pyramid.
But chocolate, chocolate chip? Surely, it would all be gone one day. There was not time to paint the latest visit. There was only time to visit the vanilla forest again and again.
The painted forest of banana splits and waffled sugar cones as a feast for the eyes was far outweighed by the melted morsels that were moleculed together for a real-life dessert.
We should all eat so well, and live so long as to never paint about the simple treasures. Instead, we should live them...like Harold lived them - with that down-to-Earth demeanor - that assuredly cleared his untethered path to Heaven.