Daddy – Celebrating His Wedding Anniversary in Hawaii

Rudolph (Rudja) Joseph Slotwinski (daddy to me) was as formidable in my life as his name.  A product of his Catholic faith and the mores of the times, he was named after a saint as well as a member of his family. A serious and stoic man with high morals, he raised us with a heavy hand, but underneath that stern veneer lay a very protected, soft heart, one that reared its head at unexpected times in unexpected ways.

As a post-depression family, money was often tight. We never did without, but we didn’t live in luxury either, and funds for entertainment were limited. It was the simple things in life that provided us with our recreation.

One of my fondest memories includes an unexpected night ride in the winter of 1949. Awakened from a sound sleep, my sister and I were asked to get up and bundle up … we were going for a ride. Confused and sleepy-eyed we complied, and as we exited the house toward the garage we discovered snow falling all around us. It was such a phenomenon for snow to be falling in the city of Los Angeles, that daddy didn’t want us to miss it.

That experience was a simple pleasure, but one long-remembered along with other night rides we took every year during  Christmas. On those rides daddy would situate us comfortably in the family car, and drive us around town to view the holiday decorations and lights. I carried that tradition forward with my sons and my grandchildren, and I still get a kick out of witnessing those same sights on night rides today.

As happens in many adult lives, at the end of daddy’s life I became the parent and he the child. Suffering from dementia, he often didn’t know who I was or where he was.  But during Christmas 1986 just before he passed, I had opportunity to take him on a night ride to see the holiday lights. “Pretty lights,” he remarked, like the child he had become.

Today, whenever thoughts of him come to mind, I like to think he got the same pleasure out of that final ride we took together that I did on those many rides we took as a family in my youth.

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