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Guenter J Szczuka 1940 ~ 2017

July 27, 2017 8 comments

I had the honor of writing and delivering my Dad’s eulogy at his funeral this week and wanted to share it with those who knew him but were unable to attend.

my dad

My Dad was born in 1940.

Family en Szczuka

(R-L) Guenter, Papa, George, Irene, Mama, Christine

His early childhood was spent in war-torn Germany where he experienced firsthand the horrifying atrocities of war. He witnessed things no child  should ever have to see or suffer through.

At age 18, he left his parents, a sister and a brother to immigrate to this country. He followed in the footsteps of his older sister, my Tante Christine, in search of a better life.

For my Dad, that “better life” began when he met a beautiful, Irish-born woman who made my sister, myself and my brother, first generation Americans and to whom my Dad lovingly referred to as his Dah-ling.  Always.

They married in September, 1961 and while there were many things we didn’t understand about my Dad, there was never a doubt that he adored and cherished our mom. This year they would have celebrated 56 years of marriage.

kiss

My Dad had a strong work ethic, something he passed along to myself and my siblings.

He worked hard at everything he did, although work didn’t always come easy to him in the early years. Initially, he was a painter’s apprentice. My mom used to say it was “Feast or Famine” in the beginning of their marriage.

He was resourceful though and my mom would also, often, tell the story of how during one of those famine-years, when my older sister was first born, my Dad scoured the streets picking up discarded bottles in order to collect enough “return” money to  make sure there was a gift from Santa under the tree for her first Christmas.

young dad

Food was always a big part of my Dad’s life. I think because he had so little of it during the war.

He couldn’t bear to see it wasted.

He loved cooking and baking and was pretty good at it — most of the time. smile

treats
Special thanks to my niece Veronica for making “Opa’s -famous- Treats” in his honor for the luncheon after his funeral.

I have fond memories of my Dad making caramelized candy and fonder memories of him making donuts — real old-fashioned, delicious donuts in our kitchen.

The hardest part for us kids would be waiting for the dough to rise. It felt like forever but once it did, he would roll it out on the counter, flour the end of a drinking glass and drop the dough into hot oil. He’d sit us up on top of the refrigerator so we could watch the doughy-circle-molds expand into pure donut yummy-ness!

kds

My Dad loved chocolate, dressing up for masquerade parties, soccer and hockey. Pele was his man and the Islanders were his team. For most of our childhood, we lived on the 4th floor of an apartment building in New Rochelle and everyone, I mean EVERYONE in the building knew when the Islanders scored a goal.

He loved music. While other kids grew up listening to the Beatles, we grew up listening to the ever-popular, traditional volksmusik-singing-sensation & one man wonder — Heino.

Over 50-million records sold!smile

My Dad’s childhood left many scars on him. He was a complicated man.

As a teenager in High School I tried to make a connection with him. I would make his lunch every night for work the next day and leave a small note in his bag letting him know if I had a test, a game or if something special was happening that day. Sometimes I would just write “Have a good day!” but he never responded, acknowledged or mentioned them to me.

Many years later I found out that he had kept those notes, each and every one of them, in a box in his drawer.

He and I walked a similar path in some respects. We shared some of the same struggles. It was difficult for him to express his feelings — until recently.

What happened to my Dad changed him.

circle

I’ve come to view his recent stroke — as devastating as it was to all of us, especially him — as a blessing in a way.

He showed us again and again how strong he was at the core of his being.

After 3 weeks in the ICU, we were pretty much lead to believe that the chances of him ever speaking or walking again were slim to none. And although his dementia progressed during this time as well — so did his ability to let go of the chains of his past, allowing him to be the man I think he always wanted to be. He became oddly contented. He was more open and mellow. He was always happy to see us. He had a pleasant demeanor. He was clever and funny, full of playful humor, eager to engage in any way he could, be it a nod, lifting a hand, pointing a finger or sticking out his tongue.

tongue

He worked hard at his recovery. Not surprisingly, he DEFIED the odds.

We saw him walk AND heard him speak again — in English AND in German.

walk

Some might say that was a miracle. At a minimum, it was a gift.

And as difficult as this has been for our family — especially my brother who so gallantly & lovingly navigated my Dad’s care — we are blessed and feel grateful to have had this time with him.

Ihre arbeit ist getan Papa. Wir Lieben dich. Mögest du in Frieden ruhen.

all

Your work is done Daddy. We love you. May you rest in Peace.

Obituary

Photo Credits: ©2017 Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

 

#26Acts – Are You In?

December 23, 2012 19 comments

kindness_day

There is no amount of human kindness that could come from this, that I could possibly use to make sense of this senselessness.   ~ Kavst

That’s what I said in last week’s post, A Stranger’s Grief.

Part of my despair was in having such an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. What could I possibly do to help anyone, in this situation? It is human nature to want to aid in the face of crisis and while I still can’t imagine anything coming from the senselessness that occurred last Friday in Newtown, Conn. that could possibly help to make sense of what happened, I must admit to being pretty blown-away by the now world-wide, multitude of random acts of human kindness that have spawned from Ann Curry’s tweet earlier this week.

Her remarks challenge people everywhere to DO something to honor the victims of last week’s massacre.

I have no consoling words that might help anyone and I don’t believe that in hindsight we will glean any kind of lesson or understanding from this event.      ~ Kavst

BUT……

I can be kind.

anncurrytweet

We should never really need a reason to be kind but sometimes we need inspiration and I am inspired to Act– kindly.

As borrowed from my friend Andy who posted on the same subject earlier this week over at OUR LIFE IN 3D:

The idea is simple (courtesy of NPR):

‘Do “26 acts of kindness” — one for each of the 20 children and 6 adults killed last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.’

This, I can do. Thousands of people all over the world have heard this call and are doing it, too. And while they are not meant to console, these Acts are meant to honor.

Whether it’s Making a Snowflake, saying a prayer, sending a long over-due note to a friend, paying for a stranger’s meal or groceries, giving an umbrella to someone waiting for the bus on a rainy day or buying boots for a homeless man; whether it is to someone you know or a complete stranger; whether it is public or anonymously, it’s been said, that no act of kindness is too small and that the impact of an act of kindness should never be underestimated.

I can be kind and commit to an act of kindness. I can commit to 20, 26 even 28 random acts of kindness.

This, I can do. This, I will do.

So, YES Ann Curry- I’m in.

Are you?

Wishing Everyone a Happy Holiday Season Filled With

Peace, Joy and Random Acts of Kindness!

Photo Credit #1 DO – Google Images

Photo Credit #2 Inspire To Act/NBC News

A Stranger’s Grief

December 16, 2012 10 comments

heaven

One of the things that had a profound effect on me upon giving birth and becoming a mother, was the almost instantaneous and overwhelming feeling of love I felt within my heart, for not only my child but for all children. Within the first few weeks of my son’s life, I will always remember how it struck me that what seemed like all-of-a-sudden, children were my concern, all children. It’s a gift I think we receive innately when we become parents, so I don’t think I am unique in feeling this deep sense of caring for the well-being of children in general.

Incomprehensible.

The tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday is simply incomprehensible.

Heartbroken.

Like so many other people, parents; moms, I am heartbroken. The magnitude of this loss fills me with pure, raw sadness. My heart is overflowing with deep sorrow and intense grief for the families and their suffering.

Guilty.

I am guilty of avoiding the internet and television in an attempt to circumvent reports and updates on this massacre. I desperately want to hide from the truth. I am too weak to find the strength required to stop, watch and listen to the details of what happened. I end up crying each time I try. I am afraid to hear the names; the children’s names. They have released the names of the victims and even though I am a complete stranger to all of them, I can not bear to hear their names.

Consolation.

I have no consolation for anyone. I feel foolish looking for something positive in this. I see no positive side, no possible reason for this happening. No matter how deep I reach, I can not find anything soothing to say. I have no consoling words that might help anyone and I don’t believe that in hindsight we will glean any kind of lesson or understanding from this event. There is no amount of  human kindness that could come from this, that I could possibly use to make sense of this senselessness.

Each and every parent who sent their child off to school at the end of last week had every expectation that they would meet again at the end of the day.

This is not how I want to be reminded that every day we have with our children is a gift or that life is short — although like every other parent I imagine, I took a moment this weekend to hug my children a little harder and a little longer than usual.

When I drop my children off at school this coming Monday, it will be with a heavy heart and a slight sense of trepidation but at least they will return to school. I will think of them often throughout the day as I will undoubtedly be thinking of those children who will not be returning to school:

Charlotte 6, Daniel 7, Olivia 6, Josephine 7, Ana 6, Dylan 6, Madeleine 6, Catherine 6, Chase 7, Jesse 6, James 6, Grace 7, Emilie 6, Jack 6, Noah 6, Caroline 6, Jessica 6, Avielle 6, Benjamin 6, Allison 6.

And the educators who served them:

Rachel 29, Dawn 47, Anne Marie 52, Lauren 30, Mary 56, Victoria 27.

Photo Credit #1 ~ Google Images

Newtown Victims/NYMAG.COM

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