Memories Of My Cousin Thomas (Tom) Schweich
If you don’t know what this post is about, you can read this article from the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Tom Schweich (he was never Thomas to us) was my 1st cousin. Tom is the same age as my brother Tom, so if it wasn’t clear which Tom we were talking about, he was TS and my brother was TM. Tom’s sister Sally is my age and when we were growing up we were all pretty close.
I’m the youngest of four children, and when I was three we moved out of our house and the Schweichs moved in. We moved a few minutes away, and decades later when my parents were ready to downsize, Tom bought it and he and his wife and family moved in. I thought that was pretty cool and was happy that the house stayed in the family. That’s the house you may have seen in pictures or on news reports; it’s the house I grew up in.
Being first cousins doesn’t necessarily mean being close, but we were, especially when we were younger. In the days since his death I’ve found myself thinking of the things we did together when we were kids, and I’m going to share some here. These are how I will remember Tom; not as a politician or lawyer, but as one of the companions of my childhood.
Stop Motion Movies
One of the things I remember most is the stop motion movies we would make with our old 8 millimeter film camera. I don’t even know whose camera it was, but I do know that it was well used. I remember one with my model triceratops attacking and killing a llama doll, toy car races in the driveway complete with crashes and explosions thanks to flash paper, and one of my model planes being blown up in a raid on an army base. I also remember us doing a Monkee’s-esque sequence of each of us jumping and timing the shot to change us in mid-air. In a relatively recent discussion with Tom I learned that he had those movies and they needed to be digitized; I hope some day we can do that and watch those movies again.
Our families would get together several times a year at various houses: ours, theirs or my mom’s (his dad’s) parent’s. These were fun times, except if they were sit-down dinners I never got to sit next to Tom; you see we were both left handed, the only two in the two families apparently, so we were always seated at opposite corners to avoid elbow issues. That bummed me out that I never got to talk to him during dinner, especially as we got older and saw each other less frequently.
You might have read that Tom collected coins. Boy did he. I don’t know if I became a coin collector because of him, but we certainly shared that passion, though our collecting interests were different. Tom ended up focusing on Roman coins while I took an interest in US colonial coins and Confederate currency. Far from stopping us talking about coins, it allowed us to share our interests within the field. Some of Tom’s earliest publications were articles in The Numismatist, the official journal of the American Numismatic Association (ANA). I remember thinking how cool it was to know the person whose article I was reading. Coins were something we continued to discuss as adults in our less frequent time together.
Some articles have also noted Tom’s love of and talent for music. A noted Rolling Stones fan, he was a very talented guitarist and song writer. You might think no one could write a rocking song about the French Revolution, but Tom Schweich could and did. Though I haven’t heard it in probably 30 or more years, parts of that song is still ingrained in my memory.
In addition to having us over on Christmas in the evening, for years the Marx kids were invited over to the Schweich house to help decorate the tree. I loved that, with the old glass ornaments, the big bulb lights and yes, the tinsel tossing.
And then Christmas, which for us was like a bonus holiday; we usually had already celebrated or were in the midst of celebrating Chanukah, then we got to go over there and get a few more presents. Plus that was a buffet, so we ate when and where we wanted and hung out in various groups throughout the house the rest of the time. Awesome.
Oh, and how could I almost forget the wrapped candy cane that the two Toms passed back and forth as a present for more years than I can remember. That was definitely a family tradition.
I was as shocked as everyone else by what happened, and am still struggling to find a reason where none seems to exist. And I’ve debated whether to include this, but it’s in the news and the way it’s been portrayed has been bothering me. Tom had more than just a Jewish grandfather, as the news keeps repeating. Both his grandparents on his father’s side were Jewish and his father was raised Jewish (we have his menorah). We all attended Sunday School at Temple Emanuel and celebrated Passover together. Obviously he wasn’t a practicing Jew anymore, and that’s fine, but his Jewish heritage goes beyond having a Jewish grandfather.
But in the end what I’ll remember of Tom is someone I always enjoyed talking to, someone I shared interests with, and someone who was an indelible part of my childhood. I’ll miss the conversations we never had, and will regret missed chances to spend more time together, thinking they would always be there later.
Rest in peace TS, and may your memory always be for a blessing.