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Life Lessons from Dr. Sanford Blecker BE LIKE THE UNC
“‘Think twice and react once,’ he always said. ” “
“What’s it going to be: a doctor or a lawyer?”
When I was a child, my grandfather would ask this question to each and every one of his grandchildren. For me, it was a no-brainer. From the time I was 8 years old, I wanted to be like my uncle, Dr. Sanford Blecker. “The Godfather” or “The Unc” as my family called him, passed away last year on Oct. 30. He was like a second father to me, and I want to share some stories about this amazing man. The Unc was an oral surgeon and the best man I’ve ever known. I looked up to The Unc my entire life. He was smart, loving, caring, successful, and always down for a good time. Wherever he went — whether it was his monthly trips, his wild car rides, hitting golf balls over a major highway at my Nan and Pop’s bungalow, the restaurants, boxing matches, card games, or skiing — The Unc was on the hunt for the action. All he wanted to do was have a good time. We should all live that way. One of my defining memories of The Unc was his arrival at his 45th birthday party. It was a surprise party, and all his friends and family members, over 100 people, were crowded at his house in Whitestone. We were so excited to surprise him with this gorgeous Peugeot mountain bike everyone chipped in for. From the backyard where everyone waited in silence, we heard an extremely loud rumbling pull up the driveway. There was The Unc, jumping out of his brand-new Porsche he’d bought himself for his birthday. He surprised all of us that year. It was at that point that I knew I really wanted to be like him. It wasn’t the beautiful cars or the exciting lifestyle that made me idolize The Unc. He was a true mensch. As Leo Rosten put it in “The Joys of Yiddish,” a mensch is “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being ‘a real mensch’ is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.” This was The Unc in every way. He always wanted to help everyone. The Unc probably handed out tens of thousands of dollars throughout the homeless community in New York City.
most stressful conditions, and he would never lose his cool. Even after I crashed his car as an adolescent, he didn’t even blink an eye.
I became an oral surgeon because I wanted to be like The Unc. It was my mission for 22 years, and The Unc guided me through my journey. He taught me how to study, to condense everything on one sheet of paper. I worked for him for four years in college, and I learned a lot about the person he was both in and out of the office. He treated his patients and his staff the same way he treated his family, with kindness and support. I’ll never forget how close The Unc was to my grandparents. He talked to them multiple times a day. As a child, I thought that was a little crazy; as an adult, I see how special it is to have that kind of bond with your parents. A fewweeks ago, I was lying on my bed with my son, Derek, speaking on the phone with my parents. When I hung up, my son asked, “Daddy, do you talk to Nanny and Pop-Pop every day? Why do you talk to them that much?” I told him that one day he’ll do the same with me. At that moment, I realized I’m a lot like my uncle after all. Life is too short, but The Unc knew how to live it. He touched so many people’s lives, and his spirit will live on through us all. Like my mom always says, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
–Dr. Michael Graffeo
The Unc knew how to roll with the punches. “Think twice and react once,” he always said. He stood by that saying. I saw that man under the
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