11-22-2004 Joe Sack

It's been one helluva weekend. The little ones, both Gage and Taylor, came on down to Wilkes-Barre for the weekend sick as dogs. I'll give you a great example of how sick these two were. I asked Gage if he wanted to accompany me to "Oh Yes," his favorite place this side of Pottsville, and he didn't want to go. Wow. And when I was about ready to set foot to the sidewalk, a structure fire broke out on North Main Street, right around the corner from here. Gage, wanna go see the fire? No? No??? Somebody, quick! Go call an ambulance.

I was off to Bobby's corner store with children's cough syrup added to my short list of things to buy.

381 N. Main

Plus we had this other thing going on. Very early Saturday morning the phone rang and the voice at the other end had some bad news to deliver. Wifey's father had passed away.

By being completely honest on this lonely cyber outpost of mine, I always run the risk of pissing somebody off, but I don't see any point in abruptly changing my modus operandi at this late stage of the game.

Wifey's...father. Well, then. When I was very young and very, very stupid, (You know, a teenager) I could neither stand him, nor could I find a way to respect him in the least. And the feelings were completely mutual. The guy mocked me on a daily basis by calling me "Elvis" only because I had the Paul Stanley hair thing going on, vinyl albums were more important to me than breathing, and I was well, well beyond the point where any adult could influence me in any way. Unbeknownst to your not so intrepid reporter at the time, father's of teen-aged girls typically tended to not like the sort of rebellious rock 'n' rollers I was so thrilled to present myself as. Live and learn. Heyna?

He constantly mocked my long hair. He mocked my clothes. He mocked my propensity for blowing my entire paycheck at the downtown Gallery of Sound. And he even made fun of my job, which I toiled away at five days a week. A cook? A cook will never be able to support you? Sounds logical. I imagine.

During those days, I walked to Coughlin from the top of Coal Street every day. And then I walked to Percy's after school. I took my salt tablet and proceeded to sweat up a flood in that hell hole of a kitchen. And then, after dark, I walked to his house so that I could spend one measly hour with his daughter before the nine o'clock curfew took effect. In my mind, despite the recurring Mick Ronson and Glen Buxton flashbacks; I was taking care of business the best I knew how and I was not asking anything of anyone. But still, I got my balls stepped on every time I came anywhere near the guy. The temptation to lash out was increasingly seductive for this less than diplomatic "ABC: In Concert" junkie, but when you're not quite old enough to shave, beating up on the potential future father-in-law is probably not in your best interests. Even this former long-haired slacker realized that much.

And there were times when I just couldn't catch a freakin' break. I mean, it's not like I was running amok slashing tires, or breaking windows while out and about. One night, some kid threw a pumpkin off of a second-floor porch on Amber Lane and nailed Mike right on the shoulder. The thing split, smashed off of the street and turned our jeans and sneaks an ugly shade of orange. We banged on that building until the kid finally came out of the house offering a peace pipe, and we beat the holy snot out of every inch of him. Of course, the lady across the way recognized me and only me, and a report was duly filed with wifey's parents. And once again, wifey was grounded, meaning I was back on her parents personal terrorist watch list. Whatever, man. She was grounded more often than Ozzy Osbourne slurred his words.

One sunny afternoon, I was on my way up to the Heights firehouse with Joe and we were going to hang out with the hose dudes for a spell. Innocent enough, right? Could have been much worse, coming from those heinous teen-aged boys. We could have been bustin' expensive windows, or stealing inexpensive Gibbons off of back porches. Well, as we were zeroing in on the place, I decided to enjoy a cigar and guess who I ran right into?

Wifey was grounded again.

And there was the time I called her little brother a pussy and he ran in the house wailing like a stuck pig. Oh, great. The kid was like freakin' seven years-old, or something. I don't know. I could have called him a spaz. Or a fem. Or a Bay City Rollers fan. I didn't. Pussy just flowed off of my always loose lips. Wifey was immediately grounded again, and another mental footnote was made of my continuing transgressions against humanity.

The biggest screwing I ever got during the Dating Wars was the one year at Christmas. Thanks entirely to me, wifey had become quite the Alice Cooper fan. So I bought her, among other nifty things, an Alice Cooper album. I owned the cassette, so I knew nothing of the album packaging. And there we were on Christmas Eve all settled around the tree and wreaking havoc on innocent wrapping paper. Wifey knew by the looks of the thing that it was an album. And being that most American households at that time had more toothpicks than her's had musical albums, she was just friggin' dying to see what awaited her under that wrapping paper.

And then that special moment came. She ripped the paper away and Alice Cooper's "Schools Out" was staring her right in the kisser. The LP was styled after a "Duck & Cover" era grade school desk, and when she flipped the album cover, the desk top, open, a pair of women's panties were stretched over the disc from one side to the other. At that very moment, I just knew that God wanted to go toe-to-toe with me for something I had done before my reincarnation. No one could be this unlucky. Something bigger was going on here. So, needless to say, I didn't see her for awhile after Christmas came and went.

And so it went for a few years that seemed like a few decades at times. I never seemed to score any points for perseverance with these people. I was the evil impregnator that just refused to go away. And her dad's verbal abuse continued to rain down harder than Soviet MIRVs on Doomsday. And we all have our breaking points.

Luckily, when I had finally had enough, and it came time to trade some serious blows, I found it impossible to wade through the entire family that had jumped in between us.

This led to a very troubling period when wifey was told to remove herself and none of her belongings from her homestead. My mom stepped in and steered her towards some free legal help and wifey never, ever returned. A couple of years passed and the hostilities were at a fever pitch at times. I never enjoyed being viewed as some sort of homewrecker, but there was no way I could bridge the growing divide. There was just no way.

And then a funny thing happened on the way to the promised nowhere. Wifey's parent's greatest fears where finally realized. Wifey went and killed some innocent rabbit. Oh, yeah. She was pregnant.

I, of course, was all but accepting the fact that I was going to have my throat cut from ear-to-ear while one day wafting along with my eyes closed and my headphones on. And while I awaited the not so ninjaed Polish assassins, I planned on seeking out more overtime, and grabbing some health insurance lickety split. Oh, and, the new Cars album.

And wifey needed to inform her parents that she was "with child." What came next is to this date the biggest flummoxing ever laid on my skinny ass.

Where once I was feared as one of the invading hordes looking to impregnate every teen-aged girl in sight, now I was welcomed as a conquering hero of sorts. No more "Elvis." No more verbal abuse. No more looking to pick needless fights. A couple of forty-something folks were going to be grandparents for the very first time and they couldn't be happier. A chill pill suddenly dropped from the sky. Well, it dropped from somewhere, but let's not get too graphic here.

My hair was no longer a concern. My devout worship of Gibson SGs was suddenly forgotten. And nobody cared how little I was likely to earn. You figure it out. I'm good at rock history and sh*t, but that's about it.

After the passage of a few months, Peace was born at Mercy Hospital and two brand new grandparents beamed with delight. And it didn't take very long before wifey's father and Peace were the absolute bestest of buddies. He called her "Princess," and he was her "Pop Pop." To call this bonding would be a gross understatement. I watched the guy mellow out more than I could have believed possible almost overnight. I certainly can't explain why, nor would I ever try to. But I was struck by it at the time. I was confounded by it way back when. Maybe this was one of those little lessons life teaches you if you're not too completely pigheaded to pay attention. All I knew was, if he was so content with playing Pop Pop, and making nice; maybe I could reciprocate and knock the intensity down a few notches. I've never had a single problem with the guy since those days.

Twenty-five years have passed and Peace has two little handfuls of her own. And during those twenty-five years, "Pop Pop," the forty-something became Pop Pop the seventy-something. And sadly, on Saturday morning, he took his very last breathe.

Being that my three kids can barely remember my mom's funeral, the only funeral that ever came close to affecting them, I had no inkling as to how they would react to the goings-on this weekend. I had no idea. Would they be strangely detached? Would they cry? Would they collapse? I had no clue. They asked for some sort of guidance and we told them what they should probably expect. Then it came time to pay their last respects to Pop Pop and they did themselves proud.

They held their composure to a great degree. They were polite and respectful. And for the very first time, I think they were beginning to explore what roads might lie ahead. Ebon cried. Peace sobbed. And Marque (pink hair and all) carried the only grandfather he ever knew to his final resting place.

And me? Well, I just kinda took it all in and wondered to myself why family must do battle against family for years on end. I'm not going to air all of the dirty family laundry that's been soiled over the years. But from what I've seen and heard, if we'd all spend less time backstabbing and gossiping about those we'll all miss when they're finally gone; we'd surely rejoice in having been close to them while they were still alive and kicking. We should not be feeling guilt when a celebration is clearly called for.

And that's really about it. That's what I did this weekend. I said my private goodbyes to the only "Pop Pop" that my kids will ever know. And despite everything that went on in the past, I had a rather sizeable lump in my throat.