Sunday, June 15, 2014

The LuLac Edition #2675, June 15th, 2014


My father in his early 30s. 

My father at Christmas 1979, his last.
This month my father would have turned 100 years old. For years we celebrated his birthday on June 29th but when he went on Social Security we actually found out he was baptized on that day. It turns out he was actually born on the 19th. Given the sketchy record keeping at the growing St. John the Baptist Church in Pittston in 1914, it came as no surprise to our family when we found out.
As I grow closer to the age of my father at the time of his death, he constantly flashes into my mind at the strangest times. I’d describe it as just a flash memory that comes and goes. And for reasons only a trained psychiatrist (maybe) could conjure up, the memories are short, scattered but intense. To make sense of them, I jotted them down on my IPhone and categorized them by the decades in my life. That made sense to me because he died at 66 and I am now 60.


When I was about 4 or 5 I was pretending to be a bull (damn Disney’s Zorro and that Guy Williams!) in my bedroom and decided to imitate a charging animal. Hands around my forehead, index fingers pointed, I took off but promptly slipped on a carpet and landed head first into a radiator. A gash opened up above my right eye and there was blood everywhere. I only remember my father carrying me down the stairs crying as he got me into a car of a visiting neighbor and rushed me to the hospital.

Maybe that’s why I feel so strongly about historical frame of references).

When I was 9 and already into news, sports and politics, my family lived through the assassination of President Kennedy. We sat there transfixed in front of the TV only taking breaks for meals and church that Sunday during that horrible weekend. Throughout the entire four day non stop broadcast, my father kept on murmuring “TV is a wonderful thing”. He later told me that that when Roosevelt died, there was only radio. He also said that when he was born, there was no electronic media to speak of. Later on in that tumultuous decade of the 60s when man landed on the moon and my father saw that from his living room on Dewitt Street in the Junction he was over the moon himself.


Throughout my years as a teenager my father impressed upon me the importance of work. But more importantly the quality of work. Showing up on time, respecting the bosses and doing the work. He also advised not to get involved in areas outside of work with other people’s lives. In other words, no drama.
When I did fall short of the mark at Detato’s, he knew because during his weekly visits to the market he’d speak with one of the Detato brothers to see how I was doing. When I started writing my column at the age of 15 for The Sunday Dispatch, he gave the same advice. Head down, concentrate on the task at hand and go home knowing you accomplished something. That work ethic has seen me through my entire professional life. I also think it is one of the reasons why I have continued to do this site as long as I have.


When I was in my 20s attending King’s College he pretty much stayed out of my way in terms of my education there. But he did stress that I had an obligation to the entities putting me through school. He never stopped me from what some people call over reaching in terms of career and meeting people we saw on the news. He never mentioned it to me but I’d hear him on the phone with his railroad buddies saying, “Yeah David interviewed Shapp, yeah Shapp the Governor, how ‘bout that?”


My father died when I was 26. It was Sunday January 6th 1980 and the last words he said to me were, “What time are the football games? That was back when the Super Bowl was still played in the middle of January. They took him to Pittston Hospital but my sister and I knew he was dead before he hit the floor. My aunt Mary, a registered nurse straightened out his leg so the undertaker didn’t have to. Nurses know about rigor mortis. After we got his things from the hospital, my mother handed me his wallet. Not much except for a Social Security card, Medical identifications and a few dollars. He didn’t have a driver’s license either so the wallet was light. It was one of those wallets that you got in the 60s where you’d get a section where you kept photos. There were pictures he took of his big three, my mom, my sister and me. Many of my friends lament the fact that those Depression era dads were never effusive with their praise or affections blurting out “I love you”. Those photos in the wallet told me everything I needed to know and hear from my dad on that subject.
By the time I was in my thirties he was gone. The only really good choice I made in my late twenties and thirties was my marriage to Mrs. LuLac. There were a series of really bad decisions (personal and employment) that I’m sure he would have been appalled at. What pulled me from the brink was the fact that I might be dishonoring his name with my behavior. When my father had his first heart attack in 1975, he was saved by a young co worker who drove him at breakneck speed to the Wyoming Valley hospital on Dana Street in Wilkes Barre. A few years later that young man died violently. The details were sketchy but a woman was involved. My father always warned me that “The wrong woman will kill you”. I thought about that often in my thirties and now with experience in the rear view mirror, I see what he was trying to tell me.


My father would have been amused at my employment in my forties. I worked in factories, drove a cab and in radio and TV sales. In each job I might not have excelled (the Italian Ice plant in Moosic is an example, they wear hair nets there now because of me) but I showed up on time.


As I entered my fifties, I thought often of the words of a political friend John Pitcavage who once told me, “In a political campaign, time is your biggest enemy”. I took that one step further and applied it to my life. My father rarely wasted time. He was always on the move, doing some project and just moving. In my fifties I wrote three books, started two blogs, reformulated my previous work in broadcasting, worked full time jobs, battled three illnesses and embarked on a few other ventures you may be hearing about. My mother used to say that “there was no rest in my father’s ass”. When Mrs. LuLac said the same thing a few years ago, I knew then I was truly my father’s son. My father said that when you die, it's a long, long sleep. Try to stay awake as long as you can.

1914-1980 A VIEW FROM 66 YEARS

My father was alive as a child during the first World War. He witnessed Prohibition and the Great Depression. There were the wars, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. There was the invention of both radio and TV. I have no idea what he would make of IPhones, the Internet, Twitter or Face Book. But I think one of the reasons why those memories are so potent is because of the photos I am finding for Face book. My dad was always eager to see what the next big thing was and I think he’d have been a gadget guy if he had lived in the Internet age.


At the age of 60 I think of the two and a half decades I had with him and the three and a half  I had without him. Obviously I wish I had more time. There have been so many events in sports and politics that I’m sure we would have enjoyed sharing. There are times I wish I can step back in a time machine and spend more time. Maybe ask more probing questions. Possibly not being allowed to be dismissed by one word answers when I asked, “How come I never saw you smile in any of the pictures they took of you when you were a kid?” Or “What was it like to be working right out of grade school?” Or “What did you mean you’d be a Philadelphia lawyer if you finished high school?” Or “What was Pittston like when you were growing up?” Maybe I’d still get the same answers I got back then, a shrug and a nod. But it would be worth the effort to ask once more.
Would I have liked my father around longer? Of course but I truly feel the two and half decades I had with him prepared me for what I needed to learn, survive and now thrive in my life. My friends say he would have been blown away by the type of person I am today. I think they are just being friends and being way too kind.
As the ads for Father’s Day ramped up, I started to think back when I’d get him gifts for his birthday or Father’s Day. He’d accept the gifts, smile and say thanks. As a kid, in the weeks prior to that big day, Father’s Day, I’d ask my mother or my sister what they think he’d want from me. Both would say, “Just be good”.
My father set the bar pretty low on that one so I hope I’m meeting the standard. This month my dad Stephen “Jake” Yonki would have been 100. But to me, he was one in a million.


At 4:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done, David!

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Fathers Day to the Father of Lulac! Cant wait for those teenage years. Well done Dad.

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Sandee said...

Oh David you write so well in the middle of the night you always did.I wish I had your writing talent. Sitting here crying and remembering. Well done or as Dad would say" way to go kid" and shrug and nod

At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Dad was several years older than Jake. He told me of a friend who built a crystal radio set they used to listen to on headphones. In later years the man still lived in our neighborhood and had a huge antenna in his backyard. I always wondered what he was picking up on that thing. The changes those guys saw...

At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the things that make your site so interesting is the fact that when you share personal stories they are not only entertaining but revealing. Not to mention the people and events you choose to remember and pay tribute to.
Looking at your fifth decade, I must ask the question, do you fear death?

At 8:00 PM, Blogger David Yonki said...

Looking at your fifth decade, I must ask the question, do you fear death?


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