The recent abrupt end to the Cubs baseball season made me think of this painting, which is a tribute to my grandfather, Stanley Traczyk. He came to the USA from Poland via Ellis Island in 1910. He was a skilled machinist, and he put his skills to work helping build his adopted country. He was widowed at a very young age, and he lived with my family from the time my parents were married until he passed away when I was 16.
My grandfather was not very chatty, possibly because his English was a bit limited, but we never had any problems communicating. We would spend many summer afternoons quietly playing checkers and watching the Cubs on Chanel 9 (Jack Brickhouse doing the play-by-play, Santo, Kessinger, Beckert and Banks the infield third to first…).
As the game would draw to a close with the Cubs usually behind by several runs, he would try to reassure me in broken English by saying, “Gim not over ’till last batter out” (the game is not over until the last batter is out). After the game, which they would inevitably lose, he would angrily click around the TV dial in search of a cowboy-themed show while, in an angry mumble of broken English he would say, “Cups, e stink!” (Cubs, they stink!). Then, in Polish, “Psia krew! Cholera!!!” (pronounced: sha creff! Holetta!). Meaning roughly, “Dog’s blood! Cholera!” (as in cholera, the disease that causes explosive diarrhea… which, you know, is never a good thing).
We never had any real deep discussions. It was just something to do. Many years later I came to realize the true value of our time together.
The title of this painting is “Rōshi”. Rōshi is a Japanese honorific title used in Zen Buddhism that literally means “old teacher” or “elder master”.
Image and text © 2015 James Golaszewski