Two Little Devils

June 2011 16555

Ahhh, the 1950′s, southside Chicago:  one shade less than being classified as juvenile delinquents, my father and his best friend, Uncle Kenny, were always up to no good.  The stories they told to grandchildren around the campfires decades later were legendary.

Their shenanigans began during early childhood; my grandma dreaded each phone call from Pasteur Elementary School. Uncle Kenny had something like 12 brothers and sisters so the Peto house was where all the action was.  Ma Peto once had a bee fly up her skirt and the kids still tell about that day as she dashed around the yard screaming.

The only physical thing separating Uncle Kenny and my dad’s Chicago brick bungalows was an 8′ gangway between their houses.  There was about 3′ of grass, a sidewalk, a chain link fence on the property line, and then 3′ of more grass.  They could look into each other’s bedroom windows.  Sign language worked for a while, but they figured they could improve upon it.  Each ” borrowed” enough parts from local pay phone booths to construct a working line suspended between their windows.   Piece by piece, by trial and error, they mastered a voice system that worked.  Only God knows what they talked about into the wee hours.  Ma Bell was on a need to know basis and she didn’t need to know.

Jimmy (my dad) at 6247 So. Kilpatrick Ave., Chicago

There was the time when my dad, who contracted polio in 1945 at the age of 4, was famous for hitting other kindergarten kids with his crutches in the school playground.  Grandma damn near expected a call once a week telling her how her Jimmy was a bad boy.  He sought revenge the summer of 6th grade by breaking into the school and smashing garlic cloves real hard with his “good foot” into the wood classroom floors.   By September, the school was ripe and could not open.

In 8th grade he and Uncle Kenny blew up the science lab.

No one was more relieved when my dad graduated 8th grade than his mother!


For winter kicks, the two of them would crawl up a fire escape attached to a two story brick building at the corner of 63rd and Cicero, onto  Pete the Shoemaker’s flat roof, (Pete turned the soles and made all of my dad’s shoes with a 7″ left foot lift).  Pete’s brick building had a  rook tower facade, perfect for striking innocents and hiding hoodlums.  Together, the two boys would spend hours making ice balls.  They would wait for the city buses to stop at the corner and then bomb the folks getting on board.  At the first sound of sirens, they would climb down the fire escape and run back to safety at their homes, just across the alley.   A couple of real sharpies.

They never stopped making trouble.  In their 40′s, they decided it would be a good idea to burn a rubber tire pile which resulted in the Edens Expressway being shut down.  Did I mention their fixation with M-80′s?  “Fire in the hole” at Devils Lake State Park in Wisconsin every 4th of July.  They blew them off in the water to watch the fish float and also wedged firecrackers into tree forks to “light ‘em and run”.

One summer, in the late 60′s, they built a “motor chopper” for my little brother.  They designed and manufactured a bike with an 8 horse Briggs & Stratton engine and a seat built for two.  Woody and I rode that thing up and down the alleys at 52nd and Kedzie.  We even brought it up north to explore logging trails near Crystal Falls, MI.

Back before adolescents had video games and cell phones, there were plenty of innocent troublemakers and real life “games” being played!





Our Baby Girl

1988.   Jennifer Elaine Kupiec, our baby girl, arrived on a sunny August afternoon at 9 lbs. 4 oz.  bringing with her big, brown angel eyes and a softness that I can’t explain.  Proof that hearts can be stolen.

Too soon, she started weaving string potholders on a metal loom and riding a pink two wheeler.  Next came a tackle box full of glass beads which Jennifer spent hours threading into hand crafted lizards and turtles, some of which still hang from my office drawers.

She cared for yellow, fluffy spring chicks each year and sipped tea with  lions and tigers and bears.  Dollies, sparkly pillows, and Leo DiCaprio posters filled her room.  Giggles, braids, and hopscotch certainly were a breath of fresh air after raising two sons.  The boys reminded her every day that “Pink Stinks” and that she is lucky they let her live with them.

They taught their baby sister important life skills:  to always be the banker when playing Monopoly and how to survive on a little, red sled while being towed at 30 mph by two beasts on a snowmobile.  She  learned how important life jackets are after her oldest brother took her for a “little” boat ride.  He brought her back to our cabin soaking wet–apparently, she wasn’t holding on for dear life good enough and she cartwheeled overboard.  Her other brother, bless his heart, taught her not to volunteer to be buried in the sand or to breathe under water.

High school came and went in a flash filled with dances, gymnastics, puppy love, and tennis.  She became a Michigan State Spartan and opened a business where she met Will, a nice guy from Ann Arbor who did not attend U of M and whom accepts all things Sparty!

2014.  One blink, and she’s in Chicago, at the Signature Restaurant atop the John Hancock Building and calls home to say,  “Mom, I’m engaged!”  Will had the waiter tie the ring onto a purple ribbon wrapped around the wine bottle.  He dropped down on one knee and proposed.  She began to cry and then he wrapped his strong arms around her.  All he needed was a horse and a beautiful sunset to ride off into.

Our baby girl is getting married.  When I first held her in my arms that warm, August day in 1988, I prayed for her to have a happy life full of adventure, love, health, and happiness.  She has found all of these things with Will.  We love him and trust him with her heart.  Will has met her two older brothers and they approve–proving that there is a God and that Will and Jennifer’s love a match made in heaven!

Epic Fail

Okay, so I have this friend.  Let’s call her Sally.    “Sally”  is coming up on 33 years years of marriage and is always looking for ways to grow old gracefully.  One day she was feeling so dang bloated; her tummy was distended and her jeans wouldn’t snap.  It was painfully apparent that something bad was going to happen.

It was during this realization that her husband came home early, sat down on the couch, and started working on his computer.  Her living room furniture floats out in the middle of the room, just like mine.  Knowing that her muscles were fully taxed and accepting that there is only so much one can blame on a dog, she decided to make the most out of a bad situation.

Sally knew that  she was going to have to “own it” sooner or later–so she stood just behind the couch, near the back of his head, pretending to pick up dog toys, and relaxed.  And relaxed again.  And relaxed one more glorious time.

Not yet a pro at practical jokes (and this was practical) she tried to keep her sniggling silent…in truth, she tried to keep everything silent.  By this time her eyes were watering as she doubled over in agony, holding her laughing in.   Did you know that it is very hard to hold one thing in while letting another thing out?

Getting no response, she finally burst into heaving waves of laughter.   The End.



Simply Too Cute


Sixty six shelter/rescue puppies will race back and forth between the gridirons and some will score as they take part in some friendly canine mayhem.  Once they literally poop out, more than 20 kittens will put on a feline half-time show.  Sideline reporter “Meep the Bird” will return to tweet live updates throughout the game.  Hold on to your lug nuts, it is time for the (epic) 10th Annual Puppy Bowl and Kitty Halftime Show!

If you won’t be among more than 100 million people in 198 countries watching the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos battle for the sterling silver Vince Lombardi Trophy, there’s another competition that I wholeHEARTedly recommend.   Gwamma and I are GUILTY of recording past bowl games and watching them together as a salve to hold us over until the next game.  Tune in on Sunday, Feb. 2 (Ground Hog Day!) at 3 pm (ET and PT) on the Animal Planet TV channel LIVE from Animal Planet Stadium.  Tailgating highlights from the barking lot high to follow.

Don’t miss a slice of  kitty halftime heaven during the Denver/Seattle Superbowl–switch over to Animal Planet, where Internet-famous feline Keyboard Cat will be tickling the ivories during the Kitty Halftime Show.  Another Interweb sensation, Lil’ Bub, is scheduled to perform but is “iffy” because he was just busted at the border for 2 kilos of catnip hidden in his suitcase.  The canine cop that busted him will be honored right before the game whistle blows.

Whoa. And if penguin cheerleaders and a parachuting cat aren’t enough to persuade you to touch that dial, then think about the hamster announcers, seated in the cockpit of the blimp, hovering over the field.

It’s an afternoon of scrappy puppies, their real time stats, and the potential for high-speed collisions, rollovers, and maybe even biting.  “Accidents” may happen in the end zone, but none of those boastful touchdown displays.

Puppy Bowl X brings viewers a loveable lineup full of terrier tackles, touchdowns, puppy penalties, fumbles and Fido first downs.  The referees ARE zebras.

To cool off, there will be some good shots of thirst quenching, overlapping tongues, and puppy feet tumbling into the water bowl, courtesy of the underwater puppy cam.

Among the starting lineup:

Twelve week-old Labrador Retriever/Sato mix Artemis, who “goes nuts for cat videos.”

Bernese Mountain Dog/Poodle mix Bach (14 weeks), who “thinks Mozart is overrated.”

Spaniel Cody (12 weeks), who “thinks fatherhood has mellowed Kanye.”

Bassett Hound Lily (13 weeks), who “tries not to step on her own ears.”

Siberian Husky Suri (14 weeks), who thinks “they should cut Miley Cyrus some slack.”

Nobody keeps score, but an MVP is named (that’s Most Valuable Puppy). If prior years are a guide, all will be quickly adopted from their shelters or rescue organizations. 

Hey, pass the popcorn.

Billie Bo-Beggins and the Bear


When Adam picked out an eight week old mini dachshund, a black and tan smooth coat, he thought only a German name would do.  Wilhelmina.  That quickly morphed into Willie.  This breed is notorious for mischief and since Willie, a two syllable name, sometimes took too long to say, her naughty name was shortened to  Bill!  (Get out of the garbage.)

Then Jennifer brought home an adorable mini dachshund of her own (because Willie was lonely and needed a friend, they come in collectable colors, AND, Mom,  it will be so fun).  Lola is a tan smooth coat with soft eyes and a sweet heart.  Lola was so stinking cute that her name quickly became Lola Bear.  When potty training proved difficult, Jennifer would say, “Where’s My Little Poopie Pants?”

Together, we have a pinto bean and a black bean. 

The little beans. The little beanie weenies.

One day the black bean had to be rushed to the hospital.  She couldn’t eat and she couldn’t poop and her sausage body was dragging on the floor.   She had a bowel obstruction.  X-rays showed a cute little thing stuck in her intestines that looked like a mouse with a long tail.  It turned out to be a $3,000  tampon.  From that day on, she was called “The Black Rat.”

The Black Rat has since perfected the art of sitting pretty.  For hours.  For As Long As It Takes to break all human resistance.  As soon as the fridge opens, a bag is rattled, or she smells anything, up she goes like a miniature T-Rex waving those little hands.   Her stage name is Billy Bo-Beggins.

Lola da Bear has been spotted recently in Chicago playdating with a young gent twice her size who sports a curly coat and a healthy appetite for humping legs.  Go, Polo, go.  You just go ahead and tire your bad self out.  That’s right, try and keep your tongue in your mouth.  Do you need a cigarette old boy?

There really are no bad dogs.  The best ones can be naughty and entertaining and frustrating and hilarious and goofy and totally endearing all at the same time.  The smartest ones answer to any name you call them within earshot of a cellophane wrapper being twisted but feign utter deafness when a squirrel cuts loose and they give chase.

In the end, we nickname these rats to save face–to justify our continuing to love such cute, naughty little devils who are only too happy to humiliate us in public.

Hold on, I hear my dog.  Hey, Remi!  Get out of that toilet bowl.  Rem-Tard!!!!!

I said  S T O P   D R I N K I N G   O U T   O F   T H E   T O I L E T.

Oh, wait, Daddy’s home…you go give daddy kisses–lots of wet doggie kisses.

We love daddy.


Do You Have Your Father’s Will?

A while back I wrote about my father’s passing in 2007  in a story titled, “Now You Know” and promised in Paul Harvey fashion to tell readers, “The rest of the story.”

My father was respected and was the clear leader of our family, the “Godfather” if you will.  Whenever crisis struck,  he  was  the voice of reason and solution–if not absolution.   This story, however, concerns my father’s Last Will and Testament, an item he and Mother mailed to me over fourteen years ago for safe keeping. It is an item I literally kept in my floor safe, unopened.   I couldn’t stomach opening it, reading it, or even handling the envelope.  I don’t care who gets what.  What I want is my parents forever.   The Will sat there for years among insurance policies, birth and stock certificates, and bars of gold.   Okay, one gold coin.

From the day the document arrived in my mailbox until the day my father died, I let it sit there safe in the safe, year after year, in denial that I would ever have to open it.    On March 20, 2007 in the last hour of the winter season, not willing to fight through spring and all the new-life bullshit associated with spring, my dad took the last breath of a full and complete life.

A few days later, my mother called asking me for my copy of “the will”  because she couldn’t find hers. 

The dial on the safe clicked left, three times around, and then right, two times around, and left again, one time around, until landing on the final number.  With a click, the heavy door handle released and I pulled the lead five foot high and eight inch thick door open.  Knowing right where the will was kept, I reached in; my cell phone was wedged between my shoulder and ear, telling Mother to hold on, “I got this.”  Surprisingly, I couldn’t find it.  I would have to snearch around some more and call her back, telling her not to worry and assuring her that I know I have it.

After an eternity, I started pulling out every document, one at a time–along with all the ammo, guns, gold, okay one gold coin, old tax returns, insurance policies, and junk, becoming desperate as the clock ticked.  I know I have never touched or moved it.  In the end, it simply wasn’t there and, inexplicably lost.   I had to call Mother back and tell her this without any sensible explanation.  In the meantime, she told me that she had located her copy.  Disaster avoided, and, just as well with me, because I never ever wanted to open that envelope anyway.

Jump from March to August that year.  I was early.  Mother was due up north in a few hours so I thought I would kill some time by doing paperwork.  We were meeting in Crystal Falls, Michigan, a place so dear to our hearts–having spent every summer of our lives there fishing on the Michigamme Reservoir.  Mother, barely 17 years my senior, and I did a lot of growing up there.   This was the place, these were the waters, where we were spreading his ashes.

Father taught me to tie a hook, clean a fish, and start an outboard motor here.  He taught me to poop in the woods when I was three years old, run a chainsaw when I was twelve years old, and net a fish as soon as I was trustworthy.  Way Dam Resort is hallowed ground for generations of Ashbauchers.  My grandfather discovered the spot in the 1940′s and took his son, who in turn, took his family including his only daughter–me–and his son, Woody.  Our children and their children swim in the orange, upper peninsula iron stained waters, catch crawdads at night using a flashlight, and bait hooks–five generations.

That year, waiting, I dumped my everyday briefcase on the bed in our cabin and expected to see business bills, statements, and lists.  Then it happened.  My father’s will dropped out, face up on top of the pile; a white envelope with the word “WILL” on the front of it in his unique southpaw handwriting.   I broke down.

There are some things in this world that can not be explained.  This is one of them.  This is a true and exact description of events.   That year “up north” I did not tell Mother what happened because it was too raw, too unreal, and unreconciled in my mind.  I didn’t want to upset her or accept the fact that I was just wishful or certifiably crazy.

To this day I have not opened that envelope and it is back in my safe where it belongs.  

When supernatural things like this happen to ordinary people–people who are not expecting anything extraordinary, they (me) have to believe it in spite of the impossibility.

Three more things happened of this magnitude that I am saving for another day.  But I will tell you, friend, that once all doubt left my mind–once pure acceptance was in my heart– the incidences stopped.




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