Monday, January 23, 2012

He Was My Dad

He came came home from Korea when I was 8 months old to be my Dad.

When he was in Korea, he was doing night watch at a guard post. It was blown up while right underneath him as he was standing guard, and he survived. He worked in the army kitchen for a bit of time, and went back to his regular posts once he was physically 100%. He often talked about climbing to the top of a sheer sided mountain. It was really hard & he said he had to plan every move and dig his fingers into the mud just to make any headway. He figured that once he got to the top, that it was likely that there was an easy slope on the other side to climb down. When he got to the top, there was no easy way down. It was sheer sided on every side. Before he set about figuring a way down, he stopped to take in the view.

He brought back photos, pictures and slides when he came home, and he would set up the projector on family evenings, showing us his adventures. He would show us the cities and towns in Korea, how they lived and how the beauty of the the country was breathtaking. He showed us what true poverty looked like. We looked forward to these photo nights. It was part of who he was and it became part of who we were because he was our father. He was protective, but He wanted us to know, he shared himself and his adventures with us both good, bad and tragic.

He came home from Korea with hemorrhagic fever. There was no cure for it, I don't know if there's any cure for it even today. He got a job at the gas company in Chicago to support us and he worked the graveyard shift in the dead of night during the winter reading meters, conducting emergency repairs, and fixing one crisis after another as they cropped up. He came home in the morning to get some rest, and he would get up and go back to work, because most of the time, he was also on call.

He survived a roll over car accident in 1972. By that time, there were four of us kids ... all daughters. He went out at about midnight because we were out of milk. Some teenagers ran a red light and plowed into his VW bus. It rolled over four times, and the last thing he remembered was being ejected out of the driver side door, and feeling like his head landed on a pillow. The doctors were amazed that he survived.

He sang 2nd Tenor in the Lyric Opera House in Chicago ... while he continued to work at the gas company. I remember going on a school field trip to the Lyric knowing he was singing in The Flying Dutchman. I could hear his voice over and above all the chorus, I could close my eyes & know it was him. He would fill our home with his voice. I grew up hearing La Traviata. He would to hang out with some of the world's operatic greats. He sang all his life even up to the week before he died.

He was a Priest and built a church for a congregation who had only a run down little white building to worship in. The new church still stands today. It is beautiful. I can see his work in every door he stained, the tile he laid and the art work he & my mother put into around the windows. When he spoke, You would hear poetry, the language of the heart.

When I went into adolescence, he would track me down for fear I was in danger. If he couldn't find me, (I had lots of friends) ... He would wait up alone for me in the dark all night, I would sneak in through a window, he would check my bed hoping I would be in it ... and eventually hoped I would realize that I was being an idiot girl to the family who loved me.

He began his own HVAC business after we moved to the southwest. He ran that business successfully for almost 40 years. My mother died 2002, and still he continued to work his business. He was hauling furnaces by sheer strength alone onto rooftops and completing commercial installs with no assistance from a team.

He survived a second auto accident where he was T-Boned by an SUV in 2006. He was making a left hand turn on a suburban street when an SUV plowed into his driver side at 60 MPH. He survived that and he attributed it to being in a Lincoln. In 2008 he had acute appendicitis, and because it was the weekend, he refused to go to the hospital until. I sat with him all Saturday night knowing he was in a health crisis. Suddenly at 2am he got up and said, "okay, let's go" ... When we got to ER, after all the tests, found his appendix had ruptured and he needed emergency surgery. He survived that too.

With a dad that is that strong, tenacious and focused, you would think he would live to be at least 100 years old. His mother did. She was just as strong. He came down with pneumonia and he stayed his course for a week before he finally went in on a Tuesday for an office visit with his primary care doctor. The diagnosis came as Pneumonia ... it was bad and he needed hospitalization. At the hospital, more news ... acute renal failure. He minimized it ... for he was incredibly stoic. "It's only a little bit of renal failure going on. I'll be fine,"

Surgery was needed to drain fluid from his lungs, they needed to keep drainage tubes in his longs to keep the fluid from building up. They got his kidneys back and so, you see ... He BEAT pneumonia and acute renal failure. Then he caught the superbug, C-Diffile & he beat that too ... the first time.

C-difficile  is a It is an intestinal infection, a type of superbug; It is the MRSA of intestinal bugs. You know ... he had lost at least 30 lbs by that time and had no appetite ... but he still beat the C-Diff. But he couldn't beat it when it came back. He had a relapse of C-Diff and he just didn't have the resources to fight it the second time around. When he went back to the hospital from the nursing facility, the admitting doctor went over the records from the beginning. He said, "Your dad got C-Diff from the hospital" .... and then there were phrases like "relapse", "Prognosis not good", ... But for me, they didn't know my dad; My Dad could survive anything; But he couldn't survive it this time.

The bad news is that C-Diff is on the rise. If you need hospitalization for anything, the longer your stay in the hospital, the larger your chances of catching a hospital related superbug. When dad got C-diff, we did the research. C-diff cannot be killed with any alcohol based sanitizer. Hand sanitizer, wipes ... they won't kill it. C-diff is a spore that enables the hard outside shell to survive almost any adverse conditions for weeks on end until it finds it's way into a moist enabling environment.

What kills C-Diff? Bleach, soap and hot water ... and friction, scrubbing to break down the outer spore.

If you land in a hospital and they are not cleaning everyday with bleach, soap, water and scrubbing, you need to get to a cleaner hospital. Half of Critical Care where dad was at was in quarantine from superbugs. Yet day after day, even though the staff would "clean", they were not cleaning thoroughly or not at all. The dirt in the corners were there day after day. We thought we could get clorox wipes and wipe everything down. The bad news is ... Clorox wipes have NO bleach in them. You virtually need to make your own bleach wipes if the hospital staff is not doing their job. You can advocate for your loved one as much as you can; Research the best & cleanest hospitals in your city in advance just so you know where you want to go if you ever get ill, or if your loved ones might get sick.

I would hate to see anyone else go through the loss like our family has. .

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Sunday, January 22, 2012


There is a little township outside of Chicago called Bellwood. It seems small enough; But it was my whole world when I was little. We lived in a beautiful bungalow built by my great grandfather and my great uncles. They were new to America, coming in on a steamship from Germany. They passed through Ellis Island and boarded a train to Chicago. They were relatively wealthy when they arrived, and bought land when they got off the train. They named their township Bellwood.

They built the homes and they built our family. I could walk next door and visit my Aunt Annie. My cousins lived right down the street. My cousin, Lloyd lived a block away. He died in a car accident when he was a teenager. Aunt Lettie lived a few more blocks down. She had a son who had trouble with depression. Aunt Lettie was very emotional and would walk everywhere ... but her home was right on the corner of North Avenue and 26th, so she was close to everything anyway. Mrs. Owl lived a couple doors down. She collected candy in closed glass jars. My grandmother and I went to visit her once. One of the jars fell when she offered me some candy beads. The little beads tumbled all across the floor. They sparkled as they bounced and rolled over the wood and carpet.

There was a little boy, Danny who lived next door. He was always causing trouble and eventually, I wasn't to play with him anymore. I could walk down the street and turn the corner and not feel lost. I was only four years old. I remember doing just that one late afternoon. I turned the corner and saw my dad in the butcher shop buying dinner. I wasn't supposed to be out of the back yard and knew I had better get back home before he rounded the corner or I was really in for it. Ultimately, my conscience got the best of me and I confessed to my unsuspecting parents during dinner. Only after I became a mother myself could I appreciate the full impact of that moment ... of retroactive panic.

Yet at the time, I was secretly proud that I raced home and actually beat my dad to the front door. I could have gotten away with it ... but I had a conscience. Damn. Stupid.

Damn stupid. (interjected retroactive humor)

There was a beautiful porch in the front, one of those swinging benches off on the side. A gigantic old elm tree stood in the front yard. The wind would whisper through it's branches and make music to my ears. One evening, a really bad storm eventually brought the old veteran down - with a bold of lighting, it lit ablaze. It was a huge event in my little four year old perspective. A sight I'll never forget.

The dining room had a huge bay window I could sit in the sun and take in the world. Grandma had a flower garden under the window full of the most beautiful flowers with the most amazing intense colors. The rest of the yard was deep green grass. Dad used to get the lawn mower out and cut it every weekend. There was an old spinning wheel in the basement my great grandma Sophia brought from the old country. It sat down there, collecting dust, sad and lonely for more productive days gone by.

I began kindergarten while we lived there. I remember getting up early mornings and bundling up in layers to walk down the street with my older cousins to get to school. I remember snack time and donuts and milk.

In the evening, you could hear the sound of the train as it passed through, and gave that high melancholic goodbye.

I miss Bellwood, Illinois a lot. I miss it because it was home. I can never go home again

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012 ,,, A New Year Begins

In a rush, the New Year has begun.   My Father died on October 26th, 2011 after a battle that at the time, seemed as though he would win.   We buried him on November 2nd on a picturesque late afternoon with a soft breeze sifting through the air..  The services were beautiful, recognizing and honoring his life, his Priesthood, his service to his congregations, his love and devotion to his family, his amazing journey through life as an opera singer in Chicago, his belief in living a life with integrity and commitment.  He was given full Military Honors for his service in Korea;  Taps played in the background and the sun setting softly on the horizon.   I try to tell myself that he would have loved it.  In truth, he would have smiled that all if us four daughters were by his side, all received flags in his honor, he had the casket he requested and everyone had more than enough time to come out to pay their respect.

We shared stories, funny Dad-sayings and moments in our childhood that made us smile.
He was an amazing Father,  It's unfortunate that we do not understand the full value of our parents until they have passed away.   There's is a priceless lesson hidden in that heartache.

Now is time to pick up the pieces.  He left behind a business to run;  He had a household he maintained.  He had family, friends, neighbors ,,, He had a life and now he has an estate to settle.

I miss my Father intensely.  He was so supportive of everything I loved to do.  He valued creativity, inventiveness, resilience and individuality.  He found great pride in each and every one of his children, his grandchildren and his great grandchildren.   Some of his favorite times were during family gatherings and dinners at his home,  We would often have dinner on the huge patio, always echoing the unique 'Donald'  distinctive laugh.

It seemed I had just recover from Mom's passing... then Dad died so soon after.   I became so emotionally invested in making sure he would live as long as his mom did.  Just a little more time is what we all wanted.  But there is never enough time ... never. 

I cannot believe they would have left without the full confidence of knowing their children were capable of moving forward and that we would be Okay. 
I have more to say, but later would be better to write it.

Thank You everyone for your condolences received!   Each & everyone is taken to heart & means so much!

Brightest Blessings in the New Year of  2012

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

September Blur ...October ...

On Tuesday, September 13, 2011, my father was admitted into the hospital for acute renal failure.  He had been ill since September 8th, but declined to get medical attention for several reasons; But I believe the number one reason was that he believed he was stronger & that he could beat it.  .

We know that he felt well on September 7th and was sick with what he thought was a flu or food poisoning at about 1:30pm on September 8th.  September 8th was my sister Celest's birthday.  September 7th was my birthday.  He emailed two birthday cards out one a minute before midnight, the other a minute past midnight.  To this, we thought Dad was sharp as a tac; It was a false sense of security. 

On Thursday, he texted our Priest that he was unfortunately going to miss Wednesday services as he was still feeling ill.  He mistakenly also sent the text to his daughters.  That was the beginning of all worlds colliding.  I called dad to ask him how was he doing.  He, being the strong guy, said he was quite all right & he would be just fine.  On Friday, I called him & he said the same thing ...  "I'm  fine. Don't worry. I'll tough it out."      On Saturday, I called him pushing for medical attention.  Then I began texting him.   I reminded him that 4 days was too long to wait even for someone my age. One text  he sent ... "It's the weekend and ll there is 911...or the emergency room.  I want to see my own doctor on Monday" ...  I brought him chicken noodle soup and checked his vitals. They were perplexing.  His throat was terribly sore.  He was trying to push fluids, but was having trouble.  He still declined medical.  I became frustrated.   He walked me out to my car.  His eyes looked wrong.  They looked glassy and he seemed disconnected.  I couldn't stand it ... he wanted me to go home.  I called and called ... He would not see the doctor until Monday.  He had so many things to take care of.  On Monday he said he had forgotten the time and before he knew it, it was too late.  All that night I called him.  He was getting angry.  I was ready to call the paramedics.

Those who know my father, know that he is unerringly stubborn to the nth degree.  He will do things his way or not at all.  PERIOD.  He is the Dad, and he will always be the DAD.  When we were children, we were to respect him, because he knew best ... because, well ... because he was DAD.

So when it was time to call it, I hesitated out of respect & love.  I paced the floors trying to figure out a way to resolve it without having to drag him out and him be pissed off at me for eternity.   I decided to call the paramedics with no sirens and meet them outside his home.  I would call him to abide by respect to tell him I was coming over, so he would not be caught indiscreet.  A mistake .... on my part I should have just done it and tossed care out the window.   He was upset.

He was awake all that night, he said he was arguing on the phone.  We argued in the morning.  He wanted me to call my aunt.  I told him I would if he went to the ER or the doctor.  We argued some more.   He texted me .... "I'm at the doctors NOW"... It was 11:00 AM Tuesday, October 13th, 2011.   Shortly thereafter, he was in the ER and diagnosed with acute renal failure. 

When all this began, my little Sister Susan was in Montana on vacation visiting my sister littlest sister,  Celest at the time.   I can't even remember when she returned.   But she was there, in the ER and we have been there by his side since.

Today is Wednesday, October 19, 2011.   My Dad is still fighting for his life.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September Summer's Last Day ... Indian Summer is on it's way!

I've been pretty busy lately!
Here's the quick version & Thanks for catching up with me ;)

School has finally begun, both children are shopped for, supplied and in for the second week.  Our fourth grader is loving her new teacher &  had a great start!  The little one is in Montessori & I would say this:  Had I known how AMAZING this teaching method was, all my kids would have been schooled this way.  The insight is fascinating, but the way it effects children is truly a miraculous journey to watch! This is Allison's second year in Montessori.  All I can say is ... WOW!

This week we had a great start ... but I've heard flu season is beginning early this year.  It seems like I had just heard someone say that at Target when I received a phone call telling me to come get Allie ... she had a fever.  After a day was spent at the doctors, we arrived home with prescriptions and care directions.

The following day, Open House for our oldest was on the schedule.  It lasted into the evening & it was so crowded, it felt a bit like being in a sardine can!  But it was fun, hectic, loud and informative.

There's so much going on and the holidays are upcoming too. I shoot Winterhaven every year. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays.  I'm hoping to volunteer photographing on school field trips at the Pumpkin Patch & Apple Annie's Orchard.  If your school would like a volunteer photographer for a school field trip, just give me a shout out!   Anyone who would be planning a family outing at either place & would like some  photo's complimentary, just email me an inquiry and we can work out times & dates.

Last week I photographed for Jill William's Author's book signing at the Public Library (A big glass room with flourescent light & lots of reflective bounce back!) ....   I'll also be following at Antigone's Books for Their Authors series.   I'll post more events as they come up.

Sonny Says Hello

Don't forget I can be reached at:

Cindy Lukacs
Sonny Says Hello

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