I am just back from a weekend spent with family up in Western PA where we attended the wedding of my oldest niece. The event was not exactly taken from the script of the Deer Hunter but you could still feel that vibe just by reading the scorecard er, wedding program. Lots of consonants interspersed by an occasional interloping vowel. The menu was the typical fare of stuffed cabbage, potatoes, green beans, fried chicken and rigatoni. The latter two items are attributable to the American and Italian influences in the region. When I eat this food, I begin to understand what Chinese folks are talking about when they say we don't have authentic Chinese food in America. 100 years after the wave of immigration from Central and Eastern Europe and what was once authentic Slavic cuisine (those two words seem uncomfortable next to each other) has morphed into a not so reasonable facsimile. The highlight of course, besides the thick Southwestern Pennsylvanian accents (aka the Yinzer accent) was something called the bridal dance. It's a great idea where the bride fleeces the wedding goer of all his/her small and sometimes not-so-small paper currency in exchange for a 3.5 second dance, a shot of whiskey and/or a piece of wedding cake. Prospective dancers combat this crass reach into their billfolds by tying the paper currency into impossibly tight knots that would earn a Boy Scout his badge.
It was a great time indeed and it's occasions like this that remind me of what a fantastic childhood I had growing up in a region that bears little resemblance to the high tech, urban jungle in which I now exist.
While I was home.....I got to spend some QT with Mr. Cub. My apologies to Ernie Banks, Harry Caray, Ryne Sandberg or even the once beloved Sammy Sosa. My father is celebrating his 70th anniversary as a Cub fan. He was recently diagnosed with stage 3 larynx cancer for which he undergoes surgery in two days. He is 85 years old and has been a heavy smoker for 65 of those years so as far as cancer diagnoses go, this wasn't exactly a shocker. Mr. Cub also has a mild case of dementia which has resulted in the sad fact that I haven't had a conversation with him containing any original content in at least 5 years. It has saddened me that effectively, there can be no real mutual growth in our relationship but this weekend, I learned something. What I learned was that now is the time for the relationship to grow on my end not altogether unsimilar to how it was for him during the early stages of my life. It's time for me to bear a little suffering and a minimal amount of sacrifice. I sat and listened to Mr. Cub share a few stories on Friday evening. One was an account of "Sad Sam" Jones' no-hitter against the Pirates in the late '50's or early '60's. Another was my father's enduring shame that he rooted against Roger Maris. He found out a few years later in a Croatian American periodical that Rajah was a fellow Croat. Finally, Mr. Cub recounted the famous (if you are a supporter of the Monsters of the Midway) shellacking of the the Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship by a score of 73-0. I have heard each of these stories at least 100 times, perhaps more. I bore their telling patiently but I never enjoyed the experience. Friday was different. I wanted to hear some more. I could have sat there until dawn if his weary frail body would've let him. I suppose it has always been true that each time I hear one of his stories it could be the last time but now it is certain. He will lose his larynx in this operation and even if he survives, I have heard the last of his voice.
I am asking our denizens, if they are spiritually inclined, to say a little prayer for Mr. Cub. I don't ask that he be given any more days than he's due. Lord knows, he is on borrowed time. I just ask that whatever comes his and my family's way, that we possess the courage and dignity to bear it and to be thankful for all the wonder and beauty we have already enjoyed because Mr. Cub was our dad.