Monthly Archives: October 2018

A Hero: Everyone Wants To Be One

 

“Hero-worshipping” is merely a mortal means of aspiring to something more than individuals are typically capable of achieving as themselves. Those who are actual Heroes (of any sort) usually become such out of moments of desperation whereby they are inspired by an internal force to bring the body’s scattered inherent energies into the focus of “self-determination” to overcome a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to their maximum intent. 
As in Bonnie Tyler’s limited mortal plea for solace, her song reveals:
Late at night I toss and I turn
And I dream of what I need
I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
Then she says:
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight…
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light
He’s gotta be sure
And it’s gotta be soon
And he’s gotta be larger than life! 

Those ingenious creators of imaginary heroes of Song, T V, Movie, and Comic-Book fame have captured the essence of the “virtual-reality” their imaginative thinking have presented to them in their dreams. And their artistic talent has projected the exaggerated images of characters for whom they might have aspired to become in “Physical-Reality”!
Super-Heroes have been depicted in Comic-Books for years. Superman and Marvel Comics have captured popular appeal as means of escaping the mundane portrayal of ordinary semi-impotent Lives. And modern technological advancement has enhanced the product of “special-effects” to a point of close-proximity to the virtual-reality of dreams.
Songs, Comic Books and exaggerated depictions of Science Fiction Movies don’t appeal much to my taste unless they include a mental, metaphysical component that provides relevancy to the prospect of an underlying, unseen cause to every effect.

Intelligent, practical minds have concluded the impracticality of placing faith in the recent onslaught of promises from “virtual-reality.” But, if new and higher aspirations arise from the ashes of the false hopes in Matter’s ethereal insubstantiality to the spiritual dimension of Heaven’s Vibrational Reality, then the product manifested in Earth’s physical reality can be more practically and consistently applied.

Mariah Carey’s song by Enrique Iglesias fashions a greater sense a “true-hero”:
There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart 
You don’t have to be afraid…
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know 
Will melt away
And then a hero comes along 
With the strength to carry on

And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong 
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you. 

Real-life heroes in Citizenship, Science, Art&Cinema, Medicine, Technology, Business, Sports, and Government are those whose examples of success depict more than superficial material temporal personal-gain but divulge the underlying pre-eminent cause that would be the inspiration for all who would aspire to emulate the highest standard for Achievement. Movies and Books sometimes (but often inaccurately) portray individuals as instantaneous heroes who at precise moments in Time disregard circumstance and act instinctively while responding to critical situations with uncommon valor or unperturbed confidence.

From where does the power come in those brief instances, and why does it seem more infrequent than anyone would desire or expect? On my website, www.johnpaciorek.com and in my latest Book, If I Knew Then What I Know Now, I often refer to Principle and abiding within its infinite parameters as the bases for “ultimate-success” in Sports as well as other fields of endeavor.
On my website, the title of which is, Paciorek’s Principle of Perfect Practice – Simplicity, I’ve written almost 200 essays elaborating on many aspects comprising the Game of Baseball, while breaking down the fundamental mechanics that would facilitate the Perfect practice to insure the proper application of Principle to a baseball player’s batting, throwing, and fielding of a baseball. The Book afore-mentioned is the third of a series that began with The Principle of Baseball: And All There is to Know about Hitting. The second is entitled, Plato and Socrates: Baseball’s Wisest Fans (Unpublished).
Since the first two Books were more on a level of the Work-Book variety, I later realized that its boring “instructional” format and its minute descriptions of the intricate mechanically precise detail would not hold the interest of those who were not sincerely intent on improving their skills to the highest level of proficiency. Even one prominent Big-League player to whom I offered my particular-service found it difficult to accept the valid points I brought out to his agent who agreed and attempted to persuade him of the veracity thereof.
I thought that Shawn Green, whom I felt had enormous potential to be the next Ted Williams, was an outstanding baseball player. He was tall, sleek, and a powerful hitter because of the speed at which he swung a bat. (He was similar in physical dimensions and potential to current Dodger “Phenom” Cory Bellinger.) In the letter I sent to him via his agent, Jeff Moorad, I explained why he was having difficulty hitting the inside fastball and/or keeping it fair. He responded kindly, as the gentleman he was, but said he was intent on retaining the batting stance that he felt was instrumental in getting him to the Big-Leagues. 
What Shawn and many lesser-skilled batters do not understand is that if they do not measure their success by the Principle of Perfect Bats-man-ship but prefer rather to express their natural, phenomenal artistic talent, they will soon find that the youthful vigor upon which they relied heavily to display their physical prowess with acute flexibility and quick reflexes will eventually diminish and inexplicable futility will abound.

Baseball is a complex game, whose primary component of “hitting a baseball” effectively is the most difficult thing to do in all of Sport.That is why I decided to write my third Book as a Novel. Perhaps, I thought, if I presented the essential ingredients for Baseball Batting Prowess in a format that would relax the reader into a mesmeric state of following the simple-life of a recognizable  “One-day Wonder” from birth to a 17 year old adult, the tantalizing experiences of youth might captivate a sports-oriented audience and elicit from readers who would aspire to “greatness” the motivation to “go and do likewise.”
(An excerpt from the final chapter of my Book comments on Greatness:
As I pondered the ramifications of greatness, I remembered Socrates reading a short essay by J. F. P. It read as follows:
Greatness is a humanly exaggerated or a spiritually magnified sense of being. To be extolled with greatness, one must step up above one’s peers, beyond the casualness of conformity, into the altitude of “Uniqueness,” wherein the atmosphere of Soul the inspiration of life a lesser man cannot inhale. The greatest man that ever walked the earth was once asked by his disciples, “Who is the greatest among us?” At one time, he told them that “. . . of a man born of a woman, none was greater than John the Baptist. Albeit, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Later, he answered by taking a little child and placing him/her in their midst and saying, “. . . of such is the kingdom of heaven. He who would be greatest among you, let him humble himself and become as a little child.”)
The Book was meant to occupy the literary genre of Auto-Biographical Fiction, which means it is mostly a true story. But the author would have the reader presume, from the authentic continuum of sequential facts of historical significance, that all of the story could be true, if some notoriously implausible displays of athletic prowess were indeed possible. Thus, the author’s literary license to embellish the protagonist’s character with what could be referred to as a “Super-Human” Caricature – but only after my “Super-Hero” explored and discovered the functionable Principle and the Absolute means for impeccably applying IT! The reader should think – It would be nice if “this is possible”!

After not receiving the critical acclaim nor the Bookstore receipts that I expected for what I personally felt was a masterpiece not only in Baseball literary history, but also from the standpoint of accomplished Literature, I initially surmised that the only mistake I made in writing this Novel was that it took 415 pages to complete it. Then I realized that this Story could not have been told Perfectly without every word that embraced its content!
Even though the beginning chapters may have been of keen interest to the readers who were family and friends, the daunting task of proceeding through another 300 more pages to the concluding “Post-Script,“ when time may have been of the essence, might have dissuaded many from reconnecting to the adventure – especially those who might have found repugnant the author’s penchant for acquiescing to a newly discovered metaphysical disposition.
But, if the readers were reluctant or reticent in following the continuum of an evolutionary chain of physical and mental development of character or skipped ahead to chapters involving sports action more to their liking, they would not have totally understood how a mere mortal was transformed beyond “Super-star” status. The Process was integral!
Also, the fact that the Publisher over-priced the Book at $56.00 was probably a deterrent to those who might ordinarily be interested in what the Cover had displayed as a high prospect of content but were unwilling to spend exorbitantly on a relatively “unknown-author”! It will probably take the input from a prominent and famous person whose providential “guiding-angel” leads him to the opportunity to purview the contents of a book that will immediately register its validity as a worthwhile project to be enhanced to even greater heights of glory than originally presumed possible.

The initial and ultimate purpose of all three of my Books is to inform all “prospects” in pursuance of success in playing baseball that there is a Principle of which Its “simple-applications” will enhance individual skills to points corresponding to each person’s determination to excel. My third Book, as a Novel, illustrates the evolutionary passage from innocent but naïve childhood through painstaking mortal aspirations to the ultimate heroic-heights of Baseball and Athletic Glory via the Practice of Principle. The Book is tailor-made to become a Movie somewhat after the fashion of Marvel – Enterprises but giving audiences more hopeful ambitions to exceed mere affectations of “virtual-reality” for the concrete and tangible prospects of “Vibrational-Reality transcending to “Physical-Reality”! – Everyone could be his own Hero! As Mariah would conclude:
Lord knows
Dreams are hard to follow
But don’t let anyone
Tear them away
Hold on
There will be tomorrow
And then a hero comes along
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in Me! 

Next: Continuation of my Book – Chapter 8 – Respite and Re-Evaluation!

John Paciorek’s Book: If I Knew Then What I Know Now – Chapter 7

 

CHAPTER 7
New Revelations

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.[2] 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.

Nostalgic Reawakening

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!

John Paciorek’s Book: If I Knew Then What I Know Now – Chapter 6

 

CHAPTER 6
Home: Sweet—Home?

It will be nice to be home (I thought apprehensively), although the living conditions at 13432 Moenart would not have the comfort and privacy I had grown accustomed to as an eighteen-year-old bachelor. Roaming the “world” for the past eight months, I enjoyed an uncommon freedom from the watchful eyes of caring and diligent Catholic parents. All my life (at least from third grade on), I felt an uneasy yearning to escape the fetters of parental supervision and the dogmatic practices of Catholicism.

I unconsciously appreciated the cloistered protection that both afforded, but I felt restricted with a lack of individual freedom. The parochial school discipline, exacted by the nuns who guided my questionable educational progress, carried with it moral and academic suspicions. And my own parents reinforced the common code of corporal punishment for “crimes” venial and mortal. Both adhered strictly to an “old-testament” admonition: “Spare the rod, and risk spoiling the child!”

The psychology of that era, and those preceding it, must have been to “burn down the barn to make sure you got rid of all the rats.” The “God of mercy” was conveniently lost sight of during trying times, like the “Inquisition” and child-rearing. And where exactly did Christian philosophy (dogma) begin adulterating Jesus’s practice of extolling highest virtue to children (Jesus’s request of those field hands not to tear out the weeds before the wheat grew to maturity surely rings true here).

I suppose there was some benefit, somewhere, in my parents’ adherence to strict Church doctrine. But a child under its absolute enforcement would be hard-pressed to commit his own life to its rigidity and merciless extraction. I can’t forget being slapped (on an almost daily basis) across the face or on back of the head by parents and teachers alike—for simple acts of omission or using language and tones of voice that didn’t sit right with the offended adult.

It was not uncommon for me to be “bludgeoned” at school by a teacher who would afterward send for one of my younger siblings and give him or her a note to give to my parents. When my dad got home from work, he would remorsefully yet without hesitation administer another ration of what came to be standard procedure in a typical day in the life of a certain young Catholic boy. But I also can recall that on many of those occasions, the supervising adults would grimace slightly and then apply what seemed the mandatory response to their religious obligation. I believe they thought it was their duty to do what they did. (I didn’t then, but I now feel sorry for them.)

When—and if—I ever have kids, I hope the “psychology of the day” will have instituted a more soothing means for reaching children, other than by “corporal punishment.” It doesn’t work! Especially if adults want to gain the genuine respect and appreciation of children and young adults that they proclaim to enlist—and not “spoil the child”!

My dad should have had sainthood bestowed on him, for all his self-sacrifice. The virtue he displayed while providing for his family of ten was truly commendable. (But nevertheless, because of the manner with which we related to each other, it wasn’t so much respect but rather fear that got my divided attention.) He worked from early adulthood on the assembly line at the Plymouth/Chrysler Plant on Mount Elliot Road, about two and half miles from where we lived. He didn’t always have a car to get to work, but he never missed a day of work. When he was ill, there were no “sick leave” and vacation days to recuperate. The health and welfare of his family were too important to miss work for any reason. I remember him walking the distance on repeated occasions in blistering, snowy conditions because the car wasn’t functional and no bus routes were available to him.

He always made sure that there was always enough good food available for Mom to prepare at mealtimes. At those harder times when we were “on Welfare,” none of us kids wanted to go with him to pick up the groceries with “food stamps” (for fear of being seen by someone we knew). I also remember seeing him waiting until the entire family finished a tasty, nutritious dinner before he sat down and finished what was left—even if they were merely the scraps from off the plates we had left behind.

He could hardly afford it, but he made sure that his children had a good Catholic school education. For some reason, he didn’t want to send us to public school, even though it was free! Transfiguration was a prosperous Polish Catholic elementary school six blocks east of Moenart, on Syracuse Street. I think the church gave us a discount, since I recall Dad doing things for “them” in his “spare time.”

White School was the public elementary school—right down the street from us on Moenart, on the south side of Luce, not even a quarter of a mile away from our house. (I sometimes wished I was going there. Then I wouldn’t be forced to learn the Polish language, which most of the kids felt was meaningless, inferior, and difficult— especially for poor students who weren’t even Polish.)

One of the many things that we—kids (at least to my personal recollection)— didn’t fully appreciate at the time was the amount of effort Dad (Mom as well) spent on seemingly trivial things concerning us rather than focusing on his own personal needs. I can still picture me and my siblings kneeling down in the living room and
saying aloud our evening prayers before we could go to sleep. Dad wanted to make sure we all knew the words and said them with conviction. From what I remember as a considerably long time, we said them together.

Eventually, he had the notion that we might learn them in Polish as well as English. The attempt was futile, since we could barely say them in English, and that was only if we said them a hundred miles per hour, remembering the rhythm.

We always started off our litany with eyes closed, in solemn reverence to the “sign of the cross.”

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,” as we uniformly performed the action with the right hand, from head to heart, to left shoulder, to right shoulder.

Immediately after, we would recite the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father, who art in heaven . . .), followed by the “Hail Mary” (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee . . .).

In Polish, it would read, “W imie Ojca I Syna I Ducha Swietego.” The Lord’s Prayer followed, “Ojcze nasz, którys jest w Niebie, swiec sie Imie Twoje . . .” And the Hail Mary, “Zdrowas Mario, laskis pelna . . .”!

Since I was the oldest, the initiating of this common ritual naturally fell upon me. Everything proceeded well, over the months that we participated in the nightly regimen. But if you can imagine the monotony that set in after weeks and weeks of this religious banter, you might wonder if something (anything) might have occurred that would have broken the monotonous stream of rhythmic cadence.

One evening, at a moment when the proceedings were to begin, and we were settling into our kneeling positions, I somehow preemptively—and apparently unconsciously—began the “sign of the cross” with a somewhat emphatic recitation of the numbers: 1, 2, 3 . . . But before I could finish “3,” Tom and Marilyn had busted out laughing, and I became deliriously conscious of the fact that I might soon be the recipient of a hard slap across the back of my head or face.

As it “miraculously” turned out, while my neck and shoulders were cowering to the right and away from where I presumed the blow would be coming, the eyes of my twisting head caught sight of what appeared to be a slight, momentary chuckle projected from the contorted lips of both my parents. It didn’t mean I wasn’t still going to be nailed, but it did offer at least a temporary reprieve from any retribution for an obviously sacrilegious, desecrating impropriety of scandalous proportion.

After a few moments for all to regain the proper composure to continue, the prayers were concluded, and we all retired to what would be a “good night’s sleep”— all things considered. To what could I attribute such a heartfelt impulse of “forgiveness”? The gesture was hardly used in conjunction with disciplining children or students. So I must have unconsciously chalked it up to a previously unknown fact that, occasionally, “God has a sense of humor.”

As the days, weeks, and months passed, the ritual stopped. And we were permitted to say the evening prayers in the semiprivacy of our own bedrooms, of which there were three. Dad and Mom had one; Marilyn and Joan shared one; and Tom and I shared the other. When Bobby, Mike, Carole, and Jimbo came along, the comfort level was considerably strained with some inconvenient adaptations.

Dad could be observed as a model of virtue, mostly by others, but sometimes even by me. I would hear relatives make mention of times—in the not-so-recent history—when Dad’s generosity secured some relative’s successful venture. It ultimately provided him and his family a well-established means of financial security.

Uncle Zig and Auntie Annie lived a comfortable life, largely due to Dad’s generous loan at a time when he was the only one working. He carried the burden of assisting much of his extended family. Those recipients of his initial generosity never forgot his unselfish gestures and always made sure our family of ten was never without the “necessities” of life. And on special occasions, even a luxury or two!

His virtue extended in ways I could hardly understand, especially at a time when our family was on “Welfare.” Somehow it was evident that my eight-year-old mentality didn’t quite grasp how honesty was the best policy. When opportunities arose and a quick gain could be made if only I would deny the “honesty factor,” I would hardly abide with a policy to which my dad was a strict adherent.

One cold winter evening, my dad was putting on his boots, which five minutes earlier he had taken off after shoveling the snow from off the walkway in front of our house. He had planned to spend the rest of his evening relaxing before going to bed. I thought it odd because there seemed no legitimate reason for such action. Plus, he had to get up earlier than usual the following morning, to walk to work since the family car was at Uncle Zig’s Garage being repaired.

He had been out earlier that afternoon, walking half a mile through the snow to Bazaar’s Confectionary. He usually purchased his pack of cigarettes there, on Sundays, since nearer neighborhood stores were closed.

(In 1953, it had not yet been established that cigarette smoking could be hazardous to health. In fact, it was encouraged to promote good healthy living. As an eight-year-old, I tried it once. But when told by friends to inhale, I almost gagged in pain and never tried it again. And at seventeen cents a pack, even my dad could afford it. I can remember that he sometimes sent me, an eight-year-old, during the week to Bloom grocery—the first street east of Moenart—with a quarter to buy him a pack of Camels. I would sprint from our backyard, through the alley, and be back in less than three minutes, with the Camels and eight cents change. Once, in a while, he’d let me keep a penny to buy a thimble of pumpkin seeds.)

It was later that evening, while counting the money he had in his pants pocket, he noticed a discrepancy in the amount that was there. When he initially left home and traversed the snowy terrain between our house and “Bazaar’s,” he had a $10 bill. But when he perused the contents of his pocket afterward, he counted $19.82, nine
teen dollars and eighty-two cents. (Bazaar’s charged one penny more than the other stores for cigs.)

The store attendant gave Dad $10 too much change. To my way of thinking, Dad just made a $10 profit on his cigarette deal. So I was more than a little annoyed when Mom told me he was on his way back to the store to return the extra money. I couldn’t believe it! Who else would do that? I knew I wouldn’t. If I had an extra ten bucks, I’d be in heaven. At least temporarily! Obviously, I had not yet attained any apprehension of the “metaphysical” dimension of life. By the way, the attendant gave Dad a free pack of cigarettes for his trouble.

(I guess his “honesty” paid off when the true facts about smoking came out a few years later. Dad quit “cold turkey” and never had a problem with his lungs or his breathing before his death in 2004.)

Next: Chapter 7 – New Revelations!