by Victoria Moser
So, for school, I had to write a paper describing a person who was a place, and the place was the person. If you wanna read a little something about one of the most amazing men I know, my Pappy, I’ll put it here…
Larry Bruce May was an amazing man and, apart from his family, there was nothing he loved more than his business. He ran the Emmitsburg Auction, and it was his life. He was integrated into every aspect of the business. When you walked in, you could count on seeing Bruce in his pink button down flannel, a pair of medium wash jeans, suspenders crisscrossed in the back, and a pair of snakeskin cowboy boots. If you did not hear his deep, husky voice on the phone, schmoozing a customer, you would hear it singing the oldies. His favorite song was “Amazing Grace,” and the radio was always playing. He was the best grandfather I could ever ask for.
Pappy Bruce spent his life at the auction. I stayed with my grandparents a lot when I was younger. He was always up before the sun, around four or five in the morning. He would go to the Exxon, get a cup of coffee and a newspaper, go check on the auction, and come home. Then he left again to go in to work for the day, around seven. He was never home before six in the evening—hungry and happy.
The auction was a direct reflection of Pappy. The dusty, dirty floors came in on his boots from the rocky ground outside. The slow, even music was his favorite from his younger days. The old, musty smell of antiques and his cologne was everywhere, even when he was not at the auction house. Even the atmosphere of the place was completely him. It was straight to the point, business-like, but also full of love for things that were no longer new, and even more beautiful, a love of fellow human beings.
My grandfather passed away a couple of years ago, around Easter time. To this day, I remember the feel of that pink flannel, soft and thin, like a child’s favorite blanket. I remember his voice, comforting, and so, so full of love. I remember the smell of his cologne, musky and manly and just so him. I remember his smile, his stern voice when we were bad, and all of the sayings that just made Pappy Bruce who he was.
Even though he is not at the auction every single day anymore physically, every time you go in, you can still feel him there. It hasn’t been easy to keep the auction going without him. In fact, a lot of things have been almost impossibly hard without him there to guide us. That being said, it would be impossible to forget him.
Now, when you walk into the auction, the scent of his cologne is gone, the oldies are rarely ever playing, and none of the guys who work there wear pink, but his legacy lives on. It lives on in all the family that works there: my grandma, my mom, me, my dad, my uncle, and my cousins. It lives on in the auctioneers and the people that go there, who still say the things that he used to. When they call out “Cheap! Cheap!” or “We have got to sell this now…lady is having a baby” or “The only thing wrong with this is the price!” you can almost hear his voice saying it and it is impossible to not chuckle to yourself. Every time someone walks up behind me and rubs my shoulders for a second, I feel his rough hands and hear his voice saying “Where have you been?”, even though he knew I had been there working for hours. Even his jokes stuck, like how everyone picks on my cousin, Chelsea, for always, always being late.
Not much has changed about the way the business is run either. It is still open on the same days and still has the same days off. It carries the same hours. The schedule on sale day is the same. The way the clerks “clerk,” the office girls check people out, and the auctioneers handle themselves, is all the same. All of his “rules” are followed—even though he is not around—by almost everyone, merely out of his memory.
There is nothing about the auction that does not remind me of Pappy Bruce. It was his baby, and he was very good at raising it. Even when he was horribly sick with COPD, he was there more often than not. He would be tired, slow, and pale in the face, working hard through the pain, but he was there, happy and loving as ever. His humor was never ending.
My grandmother’s last promise to him was to keep the auction open, to keep it going. Now, it is even more of a family business, as my dad joined the team and we all keep his memory alive by just being influenced by him. All of the things we do reflect him, all of the things we say there. There are times when there are breaks or people will just come up to us to reminisce with us about him because something there made them think of him. All of the stories make my heart warm, all of the happy memories of him handing out lollipops to kids (which we still do), memories of him laughing or joking, memories of him putting his foot down with customers who took his kindness for weakness, and many more. There is never a negative thing to be said about him.
Every time I go to the auction, for even just a minute, if I relax and take a minute to just think, he is all I can think about. I hear him, smell him, and miss him more than I could ever express. The only thing that makes missing him better is the auction: I can go there and just feel his presence, to this day. I can sit and remember all the things he said there and did there for others. I can also remember how above-and-beyond he always went for me. He was the most generous, amazing, smartest man anyone could have ever met. All who met him loved him and many of the customers he had, still come in to the auction and remember him there, the same way I do—at least every Sunday on sale day. My Pappy, the antique master, the auctioneer, the best boss; he was the auction and the auction is him.