When I first returned home from Hawaii in the 70’s, damaged from being raped, I started working the counter at a Bob’s Big Boy in Hacienda Heights. My father would come in for a cup of coffee, stay awhile and when he left he’d leave 50cents on the counter, but bills under his plate. I was shy and apprehensive interacting with the customers, hating to be touched in anyway, claustrophobic in tight quarters, which continued for many years.
One day this really nice, pleasant looking young fellow came in and sat in my station. We became friendly, with many chats and soon I introduced him to my sister Julie. He became my sister’s boyfriend, and even more interestingly, one of my Father’s dearest friends. My Father became John’s musical mentor, which influenced John’s entire life, becoming a saxaphone player himself.
John got himself an older VW Bug. He was driving, Julie was in the passenger seat and my Dad in the back. When Dad told the story he said, “I don’t know if John was showing off”… But John took the corner of the street too fast, spinning out and crashing into the parked car in the tract housing near our home. Dad knew John didn’t have car insurance, as he hired John as one of his journeyman house painters. They car pooled to many jobs together, sharing stories, and life. In this predicament, my Father said “quick, change places!” I could just see my 6’1″ father crawling over the front seat of a Bug while John clearly over 5’10” nose diving into the back seat, before witnesses or police arrived.
John Loved our family, my Mother’s cooking, and even after he knew the relationship with my sister had run it’s course, he didn’t want to break up with the Kicielinskis. We were all so unique to him. He once called us Hacienda Height’s Adams Family. John was the brother-in-law I wish I had, and when he and Julie did in fact grow apart, my Dad & John continued to hang out. Julie didn’t like this at all and told my Father he couldn’t see John anymore. Dad stubbornly said no, he and John were friends and she was going to have to understand.
When my father passed away in 1998, I called John who was now living in Oregon, and asked him if he would come down to the service and play Dad’s Tenor sax. He said of course, and Gary picked John up at the airport a couple of days before the service. We had our own mini “Big Chill” as we gathered at my parent’s home in Victorville. Julie and John shared many touching stories with the wisdom of time on their side, a closure of sorts for my stubborn Scorpian grudge holding sister. John played Amazing Grace on Dad’s horn, and it made the service all the more perfect.
John and I continue to have long distance phone conversations. He brings to life my Father recalling stories and imitating my Dad to perfection. John has taken on some of my Father’s cadence, and even when he calls him by his name Joe it’s endearing. He soaked up my parents living Love story and recalls things about them together that I forgot. He knows me well, and he knew me then, sometimes calling me the Catholic matriarch picking up the torch, and unjustly being denied recognition. His words, not mine.
Thanksgiving 2012 we received a call from John wishing us a Happy Thanksgiving and he played the piano for us over the phone with the message that his life, his Love of music, and all his talent & musical therory is from my Father. Forty-two years later we continue on with an enduring friendship, always appreciated and valued by him. My Father living on in our recollections and hearts.