My flight to Detroit left Hobby Airport on time, at 10:00 am, and was scheduled to arrive at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport at 2:30 pm, September 31.
I was anxious to see my family, especially my younger seven siblings. Tom, the older of my four brothers, was starting his senior year of high school. Bobby was beginning eighth grade at Transfiguration School. Mike was in fourth grade. And James was three years old and the only one not in school yet. Marilyn was in tenth grade at Saint Lads (after having spent a year in a convent); while Joan would have begun ninth grade at the Catholic convent in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Carole was in second grade at Transfiguration, along with Mike and Bobby.
Football season had started, and I was anxious to see Tom practice and play in games. Through a telephone conversation I had with Mom, she said Tom was playing “fullback/quarterback” this year on offence. He was a “safety” on defense. He was called upon to do most of the running as fullback. When a passing play was necessary, the ball was pitched to him, and he had the option of running or passing (just like me when I was at Saint Lads). But he had incurred a slight concussion in the last game and was not allowed to play in the one coming up this weekend.
I was disappointed to hear the news—both about Tom’s concussion and the fact that I might not be able to watch him play in a game. I would be reporting to Florida before the middle of October. Both Dad and Mom said he had been doing very well, running fast, hard, and over and through defenders. He now weighed over two hundred pounds. He was a power runner and never hesitated to make head-to-head contact with an opposing player, from fullback or his safety position on defense. The season was almost over, so I hoped he’d be OK to play in the last two games.
On the plane, while browsing through the reading material the airlines provided, a magazine whose cover featured a picture of a skeleton caught my eye. Next to the skeleton was a man wearing what I assumed was a doctor’s cloak, so I assumed he was a doctor. The caption read, “An Alternative to Medicine and Surgery.” That statement certainly caught my attention. The magazine included articles about the
work of individuals who were known as chiropractors. One of the articles spoke at length about the history of the Chiropractic Art.
In 1909, B. J. Palmer wrote that:
Chiropractic’s founder, D. D. Palmer, attempted to merge science and metaphysics. In 1896, D. D. Palmer’s first descriptions and underlying philosophy of chiropractic was strikingly similar to the principles of osteopathy established a decade earlier. Both described the body as a “machine” whose parts could be manipulated to produce drugless and non-surgical cures. D. D. Palmer was a religious eclectic who viewed chiropractic as the culmination of his spiritual explorations. A self-styled “Spiritualist,” Palmer attributed chiropractic principles to spiritual “communications.” Palmer coined the term “chiropractic” in 1896, after asking a patient, the Presbyterian Reverend Samuel H. Weed, to suggest several Greek names. Combining the words cheir, hand, and praktos, done, chiropractic means “done by hand.” Just as palmists “read human destiny in nature’s imprint on each individual human hand,” chiropractors were spiritual visionaries who “read health or disease in the body structure of the spine. But unlike the “Palm-Reader” the Chiropractor could actually use his hands and do something constructive about a condition.
(The Bible’s reference to healing by the “laying on of hands” surely alerted me here!)
The plane landed before I could finish the article. Since there were other articles I wanted to read, I asked the stewardess if I could take the magazine with me. She said I could, so I folded it lengthwise and put it in the inside breast pocket of my trench coat as I exited the plane. Arriving at the baggage claim, I quickly grabbed a “carrier” upon which I could place my bags as I maneuvered my way toward the limousine service. After exiting the baggage area, I found a “limo” to take me home. The driver quickly unloaded the carrier, placing all bags into the trunk. He gently placed the last “small bag” and closed the trunk. It eventually dawned on me, while we were en route, that the “small bag” was not mine. I felt it was too late to say something at the time, so I said nothing. Instead, I went back to reading my “chiropractor” magazine:
Chiropractic has far-reaching implications for understanding the interconnectedness of scientific, metaphysical, and evangelical practices. As one of the many widely utilized forms of alternative medicine, chiropractic enjoys dual cultural citizenship.
From the perspective of many consumers, it shares the prestige of modem science while appealing to anti-modern longings for “natural,” spiritually pure remedies. As the chiropractic profession developed and fragmented after Palmer’s discovery, the label “chiropractic” proved remarkably malleable to evolving public discourses of medicine, metaphysics, and Christianity. In a bid for acceptance within the medical mainstream, spokespersons for the major chiropractic organizations developed promotional literature using scientific-sounding terminology that muted the religious overtones of chiropractic philosophy. Simultaneously, chiropractors who combined ideas derived from Palmerian metaphysics and conservative Christianity appealed to spiritually hungry seekers and pain-free motivated evangelical and Charismatic co-religionists.
Over more than half of this twentieth century, chiropractic spokespersons seeking a clientele adopted vocabularies that reconstituted what chiropractic’s founders had envisioned as a philosophical alternative to Christianity as a profession at once scientific, spiritual, and Christian. Those patients who worried about theological orthodoxy yet desired pain relief reclassified chiropractic as a legitimate, scientific complement to medicine and prayer for divine healing. In a culture in which pain has been emptied of positive religious meanings, the drive to avoid pain led many Americans to bring together their understandings of science, chiropractic, and Christianity so that they are experienced as complementary. Although Chiropractic began as a culturally marginal movement that rejected Christianity as well as modern medicine, by the 1960s it began being noticed by practical, conservative Christians who had come to view chiropractic as consonant with their spiritual and scientific views. This major cultural adjustment occurred because chiropractic practitioners are finding a clientele among Americans whose need for healing makes them receptive to chiropractic claims.
Good stuff, I thought. I hoped to find out more at some time.
When the limousine pulled up in front of my house at 4:00 pm, the neighborhood was quiet, but the customary line of parked cars alongside the curbs, on both sides of the street, provided no parking space for the driver to pull into. So he double-parked for a moment or two, to get my bags for me. (If we didn’t hurry, a line of cars would soon be backed up for at least half a block. The streets were so narrow that if cars were parked at the curb, with two cars coming from different directions, one would have to do a “courtesy slide” into an empty parking spot and wait for the oncoming car to pass before it could move on.)
Onto the sidewalk, in front of my house, the driver placed one big suitcase, a small canvas bag, and a large sports bag for my baseball equipment. The bag included two Wilson fielding mitts, two pair of cleats, woolen and cotton undergarments, a few baseballs, couple of hats, four pairs of sanitary socks, one pair of “handball gloves,” a set of golf gloves, a box of Topps baseball cards and bubble gum, as well as a small carton of Sen-Sen gum and mints.
(After signing an endorsement contract with Topps, “they” periodically supplied me with cards, gum, and other treats, as well as the initial few hundred-dollar signing bonus and a set of golf clubs that I gave to my dad.) There was also one thirty-five-inch, thirty-four-ounce M110 Louisville Slugger with my name inscribed on the barrel.
Dad and Mom came to the door, and my three-year-old “baby” brother James raced through the screen door, bounced down the stairs, and offered to carry something. I let him carry the “small bag” (of books). I thought he could carry that with a minimum of difficulty; he was very strong.
* * *
James (Jimbo, as he grew older) was quite precocious in many ways. I was a senior on my high school baseball team in the spring of 1962. All my relatives and sometimes professional baseball scouts would come out to see me show off my particular talents.
Our team often played its games on Jayne-Sandlot fields with three other adjacent fields back-to-back-to-back. Sometimes all fields were being used at the same time. Other times, only one field was in use. It became a common occurrence that, while my game was proceeding on field 1, my little brother, two-year-old James, would look forward to watching my game for a while. Then after moments of gaining inspiration and enthusiasm, he would run off to field 2, directly behind mine. And there he would stay for seven to nine innings, mimicking all the action he saw displayed on field 1—pretending to pitch the ball, then hitting the pretend ball, then running the (real) ninety-foot bases, sliding into second, third, and home bases. He would usually continue this exuberant activity for my entire game. And it wouldn’t be uncommon to observe the people in “our” stands looking over the guard railing onto the adjacent field, watching the antics of a remarkable young baseball prospect in the initial stages of his long baseball career.
* * *
We walked up the six steeply set front steps to the porch (every house on our block, and most other streets in the neighborhood, had fairly high steps, a front porch, and railings extending outwardly from the body of the house and traversing the entire area of the porch, widthwise to the house, rectangular in form). Beyond and below the railings were two patches of grass. The one on the left was an area eight square feet, while on the right side of the porch the area was about six square feet.
* * *
There was not much of a grassy area to keep manicured, but we all still complained about having to cut it with our push mower as we got older. And with all the wear and tear it took while we were trampling it during improvised games, it hardly seemed necessary to cut it at all. When I was about ten, I started using the porch and railing on the left as a springboard as I would mimic one of my “action heroes.” I would bound over it onto the grass six or seven feet below. After which I would sprint over curbs and tree stumps, and across Moenart, from in between parked cars, on my way to Lasky Field for a game of “something or other.” It was not uncommon for my hyperactive temperament to break the monotony of my six-block walk to and from school in the morning and afternoon by improvising an obstacle-type run. While zigzagging randomly and deliberately running full speed at parked cars and trees, to see how close I could come to them, I would then spin and/or cut away safely to the next obstacle, then to the next, until I reached home! Later, when I was making a name for myself in high school as a powerful and elusive running back, people would ask my dad or relatives how I got to be such a runner. They’d reply, “Don’t know—guess he’s just a natural!”
* * *
After a few smiles and compulsory hugs, we entered the “front room,” where I temporarily lay my bags while everyone congregated for a few moments. (Tom, Bobby, and Marilyn hadn’t come home from school yet, and Joan had been in a Pittsburgh Convent since graduating from eighth grade. Mike and Carole were home and had warm smiles to greet me after I climbed the steps to the porch.)
I was told that all the relatives, especially those who mentored me in some way throughout my young baseball life, would be coming by to see me. No doubt they wanted to congratulate me and praise my Sunday performance.
Uncle Frank, Auntie Annie and Uncle Zig, Aunt Margaret and Uncle Tony, Raymond Maliszewski, “Deedie” and Barbara Trulik, Uncle Steve and Aunt Rose all supported me in some way as I was growing up and were integral to my athletic development.
* * *
Uncle Frank was my dad’s older brother and a lifelong bachelor who for a good part of his life suffered from a “drinking problem.” Being the older boy in the family of seven children, he, along with Dad, took on the responsibilities, from an early age, of supporting their family since both of their parents were presently deceased.
Frank, like Dad, went to all my (our) games and always seemed available to drive me when Dad was unavailable. Being in a car driven by Uncle Frank was never a boring occurrence, although it could sometimes be a little too intense. His own perception saw himself as the only driver on the road who knew what he was doing. Ceaseless comments spewed from his lips, from the time we disembarked until we reached our destination. I know that Tommy and Bobby experienced the same ritual. We would compare notes and attest to the absurdities to which each of us had been exposed. But how would we ever have gotten to our games and other functions without the unceasing generosity of Uncle Frank.
Auntie Annie was the oldest child in my dad’s family, born before Frank, Rose, and Dad. She married Uncle Zig at an early age and was a great help in raising the younger sisters, Mary, Margaret, and Helen. As our family of kids were growing older, Annie was a source of our (especially my) income with which to purchase our frivolous “luxury” items like “cool-looking” clothes and the like.
Uncle Zig’s garage (repair shop) provided his family with all they needed for their modest comforts. And Auntie Annie was always willing to share with us. When Frank was not able to drive us places, Annie was our next “best bet.” Annie’s driving manner was not as vociferous, nor condemning, but if she and Frank were on the road at the same time, and in the same vicinity, I’m sure she would give him much justification for public scrutiny.
Aunt Margaret and Uncle Tony seemed somewhat out of place, to my perspective eyes. They always appeared to be in a happy mood. On weekends they were known to go out dancing and carry on in a somewhat frivolous manner. We didn’t see them much, but when I started to develop my athletic skills, they were at my games and supporting me in every way.
Raymond Maliszewski was the only child of Aunt Annie and Uncle Zig. He, along with Steve Tulik Jr. (Deedie), was born in the 1930s. When I first became aware of them, they seemed more like young uncles rather than older cousins. When I think of Ray, my first thought is about how funny he always seemed. He certainly took after his dad (Zig), for his “dry” wit—especially when he told a story, any story. Even young kids (like us) got the gist of his comedic encounters with life.
“Deed” (Steve Trulik Jr.) and his younger sister, Barbara, were the children of Aunt Rose and Uncle Steve (Sr.). Deed was born in the mid-1930s, so he was about ten years my senior. Apparently, there was a fond relationship between Deed and Ray and my dad, since both were born when Dad was still a teenager, born in 1916. Steve later told me and Tom that Dad took him everywhere. Steve and Ray bragged about what a great athlete “Johnny” was. Scouts, both baseball and football, were interested in him, but because of his family obligations, he could only participate in sports when he wasn’t working.
Deed was also funny and great to be around. His dad, Steve Sr., invested in a “tool and die” company (Tru—Tool & Die) and became very successful and known to us as the “richest” of our relatives.
Steve Sr. was a true outdoorsman. He hunted and fished and even went to Africa to shoot and kill “big game.” No one else in the family seemed to be interested in wild-game hunting because no one liked the idea of killing anything. However, we never turned down the ten pounds of “venison” Uncle Steve offered to us every time he returned from deer hunting.
When we got older (eight, nine, or ten), Deed would take us golfing on the weekends. Because of his lack of golfing skills, along with his comical demeanor and self-deprecation, he kept Tom and me in stitches the entire eighteen holes. Normally you’d think it to be safe when we were around the greens. But with Deed, it wasn’t uncommon for him to be twenty yards north of the green before his shot, then twenty yards south, or southwest, after the shot.
He told us that he and Dad went golfing on infrequent occasions (Dad was a good golfer). Steve once asked Dad for some advice.
“Johnny, what am I doing wrong?”
Dad apparently turned to him and stoically remarked, “Deed, you’re standing a little too close to the ball after you hit it.”
After we heard that story, and the many others he remembered about Dad, we (at least I) started gaining a different perspective on the man of whom I previously had little understanding and no relevant communication.
I think the actual point at which Dad and I stopped communicating, from any relevant standpoint other than baseball, was when I was in first or second grade. I came home one day and thought I’d share with him a funny joke someone told me.
I said, “A woman came into a department store holding her little dog whose name was Tits.” I started to chuckle a little, but Dad had a straight face.
I continued, “She walked over to a table that contained an assortment of balls.” I looked at Dad’s face, and he apparently was not catching on, so I felt confident I could get to the end before he figured it out.
“A man came over and asked if he could be of some assistance. The woman said, ‘Yes, would you please hold my Tits while I look at your balls?’”
By this time, I was cracking up, but as I looked up, Dad had turned and walked away. My laughter quickly stopped.
“Didn’t he get it?” I asked myself.
His shoulders slumped as he entered his bedroom and closed the door behind him. I heard a faint sound, so I hoped he wasn’t crying. Why didn’t he think that was funny? Since I didn’t know what to anticipate, I quickly but quietly left the house through the back door.)
Deed also was kind enough to drive us to games and other functions that Dad was not able to. Deed was particularly fun to be with when he was driving in his car. His comedic rendering of characters and situations, although sometimes bordering on reckless driving, always provided amusement during any journey.
Since he also had ridden in a car driven by Uncle Frank, we had the opportunity to experience the novelty of disparaging remarks and tendencies we hadn’t seen or heard before. Of course, they could have been simply Stevie’s comedic license coming into play. Those occasions were more fun! With Uncle Frank, we had to resist laughing out loud, or abruptly turn aside, for fear of engaging that same growling face that oncoming cars had to endure.
* * *
The relatives were coming at 6:00 pm, and they were bringing all the food, so all we had to do was relax and eat. When Tommy, Bobby, and Marilyn got home, they helped me carry my bags to the attic, after hugs and warm greetings. (I was pleasantly surprised to see how big Tom had gotten. When I was a senior and 210 pounds, he must have weighed about 130 pounds.)
After ascending the narrow stairway and traversing the length of the cluttered walkway to the bedroom, we planted the bags on the bed that Mom had prepared for me. We came back downstairs just in time to greet the first wave of visitors.
Uncle Frank lived with Aunt Margaret and Tony, so because of limited parking on the street, they came together in a car driven by Tony. Frank was relegated (for the first time I know of) to the back seat, a place from where I’m sure he would not hesitate making an inappropriate comment or two. Tony and Margaret’s eight-yearold son, Jimmy, came also and sat in the back with Frank.
All the visitors said they were bringing the delicious Polish entrees that everyone loved. Aunt Margaret brought “city chicken,” a personal favorite of mine. But I couldn’t remember having any in years. The chicken and veal strips were tied together and cooked and seasoned to perfection in the oven. Then they were placed on wooden skewers and eaten with hands as if each was a corn on a cob. I could hardly wait to get my hands on those delicious morsels. But we weren’t allowed to start “grabbing” until everyone and all the food were present.
Not long afterward, Aunt Rose came through the front room, carrying one of four salads that she was a specialist in preparing. Following close behind Rose were Steve (Sr.), Deed (Jr.), and Barbara, each toting one of the other three salads.
I couldn’t figure out where all the food would be placed, since our kitchen counter and table didn’t seem big enough for everything that was coming in. Marilyn and Mom found and unfolded a card table, and the problem seemed resolved.
I had asked, “Maybe if I started eating some of this food, perhaps that would help?”
Apparently, no one heard me, so I backed off to the other room.
Then I saw Aunt Annie coming through the front door carrying a large platter of an assortment of Polish delicacies: gawumpki, pierogi, and pigs in a blanket. Zig and son Raymond were followed by Ray’s wife, Joyce, and their son, Michael. (I would always remember Michael because when he was little, he liked hamburgers but always pronounced them hanger-burgers.)
They brought a couple of rolls of kielbasa (Polish sausage), one smoked and the other was “fresh.” There was certainly plenty of food for everyone. In fact, I was already planning how to use the leftovers in preparing the Polish version of “hunter’s stew.” It was a great meal that consisted of a potpourri of all those delicious meats and vegetables we will have eaten separately.
After everyone left, I felt a genuine sense of gratitude that I never fully appreciated before. I pondered the thought and feeling as I walked up the narrow, steep stairs to my attic bedroom.
Next: Chapter 8 – Respite and Re-Evaluation!