Friday, February 24, 2006

Cleveland (Still) Rocks!

I was thinking about Cleveland today.

While I consider Cincinnati and the surrounding area my home stomping grounds, I was actually born in the opposite corner of the state. When Dad got hired by Procter & Gamble in the early fifties, they sent him up there. When an opening appeared at the home office in Cincinnati, he jumped at the chance to move closer to family. But while he and Mom were waiting -- wouldn't you know? -- I just had to show up.

Closer to the present, last night my son told me that Nana (my former mother-in-law) was very close to passing from this world. She's had a weak heart valve for most of her life, so it was only a matter of time. She was born on a farm in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, on a hill overlooking a coal-mining town which is no longer there (except for the little Catholic mission church, which has a reunion every year). Her parents came from Slovakia, and paid cash for the place. When she turned fourteen, they could no longer afford to keep Nana in school, so she had to leave for nearby Johnstown, to join her older sister as a domestic worker. Eventually she worked her way to Cleveland, which is where she met Papa.

Papa was the son of Slovak immigrants himself. His father died when he was just out of grade school. As the oldest boy, he had no choice but to be "the man of the house." So he quit school as well and eventually got a job working in the steel mills. He rose to become general foreman, bumping an Irishman out of the running (which was no small feat for a Slav in those days). His job got him a deferment from the Big War, and his hard-driving leadership style ruled the swing shift in the industrial valley known as "The Flats," for many years until his retirement.

When Papa married Nana, they moved into a one-bedroom apartment. They lived there with at least three kids before moving up to a two-bedroom, and eventually getting a Cape Cod in "the burgs."

Nana was quite a character, and I enjoyed talking with her on the phone for years after the divorce. And despite a grade-school education, Papa could lecture a college engineering class with eloquence about the manufacturing of steel. She will no doubt be with him soon. I miss them both. Vechnaya Pamyat! (Eternal memory!)

On a lighter note...

Another favorite son of Cleveland, comedian Drew Carey appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor" the other night. As Expose the Left informs us, he had some good points to make. He resents Hollywood's dabbling in politics, saying people should listen to the experts. Carey also entertains the troops for the USO. A video clip is included. (Windows Media Player required.)


Julie D. said...

Strangely enough I recently have become quite fond of Cleveland due to reading Les Roberts' Milan Jacovich mysteries. You might like them as well and not only for the homage to Cleveland that each book has.

Mr. Nixter said...

Your memories of your Nana & Papa remind me of my ex-mother-in-law.

Without revelaing all the sordid details of my first marriage's ultimate demise, let it be said that Edna was a really wonderful person who wouldn't harm a fly. She exemplified patience, understanding, kindness and innocence. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to recognize what she had to offer, & now she's gone.

I once heard it said that experience is the best teacher. I sure hope that I've learned to appreciate people for whom they are, when they're still here.