by Roy Tschudy
(Suffern NY 10901)
He was 89, one month short of his 90th year. Six foot tall with broad shoulders , still a strapping figure after all these years. One could not look at "Grandpa" and not notice those legs, oh those legs, long and bowed at the knees, as if he spent years on the rodeo circuit busting Broncs instead of a kid who grew up on the streets of the Bronx. His hands were akin to the size of a baseball glove; big and strong, yet gentle to the touch. George had many physical characteristics that made him unique in a funny kind of way, but then again nothing to laugh about. Way before he became "Grandpa" or even "Dad", he was just George. George was born in the spring of 1915 to immigrant parents who arrived in the states just a few years earlier from Yugoslavia.His father was named Mirko, or Michael in translation, like many others who came before him from all different areas of the world to seek a new and better life. After a short while in Mirkos new country, he became involved with other Serbian folks and helped to build the Serbian Orthodox church located in Manhattan New York. All life and activities centered around the church: social events, political views, everything and anything in life, the church was the center for more than worship. She was just seventeen, alone , a little bit afraid, yet determined to find her path in life. Her name was Mileva, but better known as Millie to her family and friends. She arrived knowing only her native language and nothing else.It was here in Manhattan in the small Serbian community that both Millie and Mirko crossed paths and as it so happens on an every day basis from the beginning of time, the two fell in love and married. From this union two children were born and raised in the borough of New York, named THE BRONX. George was the first born to Mirko and Millie in what is now a long gone hospital in N.Y. As the family story has been recounted many times over, when the new born babe was presented to Millie, she cried out, "this is not my baby!; you have given me the wrong child!" After the Doctors and NURSES CONFERRED, SURE ENOUGH A MISTAKE HAD BEEN MADE and the proper " switch" was conducted. To think, if not for a mothers intuitive love and instinctive resolve, then our Grandpa, our Dad, could have been named MIGUEL! George could have been the biggest and oddest looking Puerto Rican in the entire Bronx! The long road of life for grandpa had just begun and a collision was averted right there at the inception. Whew! Who knows, maybe there was a reason why for so many years George would travel to Manhattan to watch the Puerto Rican day parade, he always said it was so very colorful and the people are all so very happy and friendly, kinda makes one think, hmm... A few short years after George was born, a baby sister arrived and completed the Baranin family. Darinka, or Dari, as she came to be called through her life was a dark haired beauty, who gratefully nerver inherited the same set of legs as " Bronco bustin " George. Through out the years that I came to know Grandpa George, he would often reminisce about his early years and many other aspects as well. " Ten o clock, lights out!" this was a story that Grandpa reflected upon every other visit at the Tschudy's.It seems that when Grandpa was a mere lad and even until young adult hood, Mirko would shut the house lights at ten p.m. sharp every night, no questions asked. "When my father said lights out, he meant ,lights out, end of story," recalled Grandpa. For some reason he took great delight in retelling this story. It seems that Grandpa like many Senior Citizens in that he would recount memories and repeat them many times over with the same enthusiam as he had the first time telling them. Of course the Tschudy's would react with the same " oh really.I never knew that" each time Grandpa came up with a "new" story. As a matter of fact I never had a birthday cake growing up as a kid." Now if that wasn't enough to cheer one up , we were then treated to the news that Christmas presents were but a mere dream to little George, Just when you think that you have hit rock bottom with these heart breaking, gut wrenching, eye watering tales, Grandpa would chime in with "you know what else? , my father never said the words , I love you to me." I would think to myself , gee whiz, thanks for sharing Gramps, we needed that story like a hole in the head! But you had to know Grandpa, for to know him meant you had to love him. Because what ever sad story or tale George would recount about the years spent with his parents, he always , and I mean always, unequivocally proclaimed his own deep love and admirationfor both his Mother and his Father, this was just a small part of who George was. A man who loved his family first and foremost, everything else in life was second. This was truly a great man. George would share stories of shooting marbles on the sidewalks along with the other kids and playing stickball until all hours. The boy's would accept challenges from other neighboring kids regarding these games, to hear George tell it, one would think that they were listening to a story about the "o.k. corral." Inevitably, whenever Grandpa would join us for a Sunday dinner, and my bride, Lois, 'his daughter , his heartbeat, his Dusha' would make a fine spread with baked potatos. We would soon be informed with, " you know , did I ever tell you that when I was a kid, me and the guys would sit around one of those old garbage cans, we would put bricks in em,paper,wood, and what ever we could find and start a little fire, It could be ten below, we did'nt care at all, we would get a hold of some potatos and roast em up. What a meal! We would tell stories and my pals and I, we just really enjoyed each others company" If I heard the potato story once , I heard it a thousand times. Funny, but I wish that I could hear it again, just one more time. Speaking of eating dinner, this was an event that always would be talked about days and sometimes weeks afterward. Admittedly, it was mostly me who was doing the talking, but I also had my little son, Andrew, as my side kick. You see, whenever Grandpa joined us at the table it was something out of midieval times! God love him, but the belching and the flatulence was as normal to him as a duck to water."Dad" Lois would chide, "please say excuse me when you belch at the table." This,of course, was meant to set good manners for our kids, Dawn and Andrew. As well intentioned as Lois was, the usual reply received from Gramps was, "what, you never belch?" Score another one for the oldtimer.Of course when Grandpa decided to join in the conversation it would seem that he always had a mouthful of food at the same time. Me, being an army veteran was prepared for mortar attacks, but poor little Andrew!He was usually bombarded with the peas and corn kernels rocketed out of Gramps mouth. The poor kid was shell shocked! On the other hand,Dawn would half smile,I guess because she smart enough to sit out of firing range. " Dad, close your mouth when you are talking with food,please," Lois would beg. A plea is just a plea, and that plea lasted until the next mouthful of dinner, the incomming rounds were relentless. Once again, I would'nt mind another "attack", just one more time. Additional stories included working at the railway express where "it was so cold , I had to stand IN the icebox to get warm." Thank goodness Gramps never had any fishing stories Grandpa never ever flew in anairplane,"I'm not going up in one of those things for nothing," he would often say. " If God wanted me to fly ,he would have given me wings!" Grandpa further recounted how during WW2 in London, he would see many a plane come limping in full of holes . When it was explained that German anti-aircraft fire may just have had a little something to do with that, he replied,"I don't care, I still remember." So the closest Gramps came to flying was taking the elevator to the top of the Empire State building. In his day, George was a baseball player, not just any player mind you, he was the very best pitcher in and around the entire area. He was so good that he was dubbed the nick name "Monty", which is the same as, the ace,#1, the big kahuna...well, you get the idea. Other than his family, which was his true love, nothing except baseball brought more passion and meaning to his life. He even signed a contract with the NewYork Giants, not to shabby, he was that good! However, love is greater than passion, and as much as passion means at that moment, love lasts longer and runs deeper. In this case, love came in the form of a pretty , young sweetheart...Shirley. The first time that Monty saw her in the candy store drinking a malt, he knew that was the girl for him,and to whom he would marry. So George gave up his dream of becomming a big league ball player and married the girllof his dreams. Make no mistake about it, if he wanted to pitch in the bigs,he could have. As told to me in person by a gentleman named Vito Valentinetti, who himself played in the major leagues,seven years with the Chicago Whitesox and Cubs. " he was better than all of us," claimed Vito. You see, Vito came from the same neighborhood as George and knew well of the exploits of the well known "Monty". After a few years of marriage, George and Shirl started a family of their own. Richard was his given name and the passion of baseball was passed on with little to no effort. Father played and taught the game to a most loving son. They were inseperable, as if joined at the hip.They shared the same passion for the game that George alone had in his youth. Monty was there for many a game that Richard pitched in, high school and college. Richard went on to pitch in a semi-pro league and George was present to root him on. Although Richard had the same passion for baseball as Grandpa, alas, he did not share the same fastball. E-Mail continued:
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