Cinco de Mayo Redux ~ Ode to our ‘Leader of the Band’

cinco-de-mayoWhen Cinco De Mayo hits us this year, our family will solemnly raise Margarita toasts in honor and memory of our Dad, whose broken heart and badly infected toe felled him one year ago to the day.

The infection was of diabetic origin. Heart/blood pressure circumstances complicated Dad’s situation and ruled out any surgery. The way he went out was an unworthy plot twist in the script of his illustrious lifetime: alone, in bed, early in the morning.

Dad’s heartbreak began years earlier, when our Mom — the love of his life — left us… a survivor and, ultimately, victim of a cantankerous cancer. Dad never expected to outlive his wife. (He had already outlived every one of his brothers and sisters and his parents.)

1944: Dad on the left, my future Mom, her Mom and her brother

Dad always felt he had “won the lottery” because he was able to marry a Chilean/Colombian debutante he’d met while assigned to Naval Intelligence, hydrographic department, duty with the Navy during WW II. At least, they made it past their Golden Wedding anniversary together.

The Lily Lake-loving youngster who later became our father — there are eight of us siblings — was born in a sleepy, coal-mining town, Glen Lyon, nestled among the Pocono mountains in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. He was the last in a long line of children born to Rose and John Sekulski — themselves offspring of parents who had emigrated from Poland and entered the USA through Ellis Island in New York.

LILY LAKE

Lily Lake, Bernie Kule’s boyhood haven for largemouth bass, yellow perch, chain pickerel, bullhead brown and rainbow trout, bluegill, pumpkinseed and northern pike fishing.

coal miners glen lyonThough some of his elder brothers worked deep underground in the coal mines, Dad never did. His respect, though, for the hazardous occupation with its fearful challenges within the mines and union-goaded struggles against management officials above ground, never waned in his 92 years of living.

Dad, we knew, wanted to own and run a farm operation. He had attended Rutgers College and earned his B. Scn. degree in animal husbandry. Later, for some years, he rented out a farmhouse and property in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. There, at least the first three of us lived on the farm, watching neighbors seed, grow and harvest crops as the seasons changed.

IMG_0073When more children arrived, the farm and farming no longer remained viable options. Necessity forced the family to re-locate to Levittown, Pennsylvania, where the majority of us kids grew up. Dad took on what would become a short string of sales jobs, albeit representing farm,food and plant-related product lines.

We never heard him complain. He did what he felt he had to do to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We were not rich in materiel, but we never went without, or so we thought as we grew up. All of us attended college — a feat that was among his most-cherished goals.

We like to think we turned out alright in the long run. Though we’re all a bit spread out geographically these days, there is little distance among us within our hearts and memories, which will forever include our Mom and Dad. And we like to think we all have quite a few years to go, because, as Dad always reminded us, “We come from ‘Good Stock’ people.”

So, this Cinco De Mayo we’ll celebrate our first-year anniversary of Dad’s passing with raised, salted glasses filled with a wondrous mixture of South-of-the-border ingredients, and only the best label stuff will do. Maybe a few tears will melt the salt rings, but we won’t mind our emotions: it means we’re still alive and kicking — all eight of us and our offspring!

After all, we have a mission to fulfill: we’re passing on Mom and Dad’s legacy to our children, their children and, one day, their children’s children.

A PAPÁ!

The Kule Eight Siblings

The Kule Eight Siblings

margaritasMargarita Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 ounces tequila
  • 1/2 ounce triple sec (Cointreau)
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Lime wedge for garnish
  • Salt or sugar to rim the glass (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
  2. Shake well.
  3. If desired, salt the rim of a chilled margarita glass.
  4. Pour contents, with ice, into the glass.
  5. Garnish with the lime wedge.

Alternative Margarita Recipe:

(Recipe source: http://cocktails.about.com/od/atozcocktailrecipes/r/marg_cktl.htm)

Okay, Dan Fogelberg, you can come in and sing now: “The Leader of the Band.”

 © 2014 by Ronald Joseph Kule. All Rights Reserved.

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