|Title||Survival: The Autobiography and Poetry Collection of Mrs. Virginia Dabonka.|
|Collection||Family & Friends Memorabilia Collection|
|Credit||Gift in memory of Virginia Dabonka by grandson Adam J. Dabonka.|
Survival: The Autobiography and Poetry Collection of Mrs. Virginia Dabonka. By Virginia Dabonka. N.p.: AJD Publishing, Inc., . First edition. 8vo softcover. 80 pp, photographs. Text PDF on file. Copy 1.
Virginia Cook Dabonka (1923-2010) lived in Hoboken for a brief period as a child (ca. 1929-1933?) Her recollections of that time are vivid and describe a difficult childhood in the era of the Great Depression. The book was done over the last ten years of her life with the assistance of her grandson, Adam Dabonka. Full text is in notes.
|Publisher||AJD Publishing, Inc.|
|Physical Description||8vo softcover|
|Year Range from||2010.0|
|Year Range to||2010.0|
Text of 2010.078.0001 as provided by donor in PDF format; labeled "Proof"
The autobiography and poetry collection of Mrs. Virginia Dabonka
Copyright © 2010 by Virginia Dabonka
AJD Publishing, Inc. email@example.com
All Rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher.
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The Trail of the Lonesome Pine14
The Ball Game31
My Shining Star40
Names On The Wall47
A Heavenly Gift49
What Might Have Been57
My Babe of Yesterday59
The Lady Killer- Frank De Angelo70
I Am Your Flag73
God Bless America (9/11/01)75
My Adam - my grandson77
To My Lost Soldier79
Thank you to all who have donated money to make this book a reality. Every dollar you gave went towards this book. Stuart Anderson Bruno B. Arteaga Tom (Barney the Bomb) Barnhart Adam J. Dabonka Edna M. Dabonka James M. Dabonka Joan E. Dabonka John C. Dabonka
Ryan Daughtridge - Bustin Boards NYC (www.bustinboards.com)
James V. Marchetti Jr.
Alwin Narvaez - Soy Longboards
Candice Martinez Rodriguez Marianna Sgherza Christopher Spitaletto
*Mayor Brian P. Stack and the City of Union City, NJ *Mayor Richard Turner, Weehawken & You Civic Association, Felix Vazquez
*Thank you to the Township of Weehawken and the City of Union City, NJ for donating money. I was so impressed at how quickly they jumped at the opportunity to help out. Throughout her life, Virginia has lived in Weehawken, Union City, and West New York, NJ; always proud to call Hudson County home, especially Weehawken.
For the last ten years, I have been compiling this book for my grandmother, Virginia Dabonka. Growing up as a kid, I can admit that we didn't have the best relationship. I was restless, always wanted to go outside, play around and would usually end up doing something wrong and mischievous. "C'mon, hurry up and get ready... we're going to Nanna's house", my mother would say. Those words usually meant going to 2 Potter Place in Weehawken, NJ, to her house for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We watched marathon re-runs of Godzilla in black and white on Channel 11, while we ate food that really wasn't that good. Smoke filled the air while "Poppy" sat all day at the table in his pajamas, smoking Alpine menthol cigarettes, usually complaining to Nanna about something. I really didn't like going there.
In my teens and college years I used to visit her at the senior citizens building in Weehawken and ring bell No. 5C. Admittedly, sometimes I would visit just to get a drink of orange juice, a peanut butter sandwich and some chocolate cookies. No matter how many doctors told her to lay off the sweets, it was guaranteed that she would have a stash of ice cream, potato chips and cookies at any given moment.
When my father Jimmy and my aunt Cathy both moved to Florida, I started to help Nanna by driving her around town doing simple chores. Here and there, it wasn't much, but it saved her a lot of money that would have been spent on taxis. At one point after college, I didn't have a job for a few months. She never judged me or criticized, but rather offered a helping hand if I needed it. She lent me money to buy a car and I paid her back every penny in a few months. She always played scratch-off lottery tickets and would keep a little pile of her winning tickets and cash them out before going on a seniors trip to Atlantic City. Sometimes she would give
me a winning $10 ticket if I was short on money ... and with some chocolate cookies in my other hand, visits to Nanna started getting a lot better! I started to realize what a gem of a person she is - always happy to see me, even if it was just for a few minutes while I drank up her orange juice. I started popping in unannounced and she would love my little surprise visits. Not your typical grandmother, Nanna would tell me a new dirty joke the second I walked into her house. Her ability to recall jokes amazed me. She would talk to me not how a grandmother usually talks to a grandson, but rather like a friend - a real friend. Some secrets never to be revealed!
We started working on this book and some progress was made. Sometimes I would take a break and forget about the book for a few months. Then I'd get a birthday card in the mail with a little P.S. "I hope you haven't forgotten about the book." Then I'd start up again. This went on for a few years. My visits to Nanna's house weren't usually anything more than that. We'd sit on the couch and watch "M.A.S.H" for an hour or so while I had a turkey sandwich on white Wonder Bread and a glass of ginger ale. There was always a peaceful southern breeze entering windows that she always kept open in warmer months. We'd discuss the progress of the book and ways to improve upon it. Sometimes I would put a nail in the wall and hang a picture frame. Always busy, she would show me her latest craftwork and floral arrangements. I helped her with a few attempts to get rich by selling her crafts at flea markets - which never really panned out.
She was the star tenant in her building, famous in her own right, and everyone was her friend. Her poems were always in The Weehawken Reporter. Everyone in the Weehawken seniors building knew the name Virginia, even the old Hispanic neighbors who barely spoke English would call out her name just to say hello. I was happy to be doing something for a lady that has lived the life that she has lived. She enjoyed my company and I loved her cookies, and
she was thrilled at the idea of her story being read by thousands - possibly even by Oprah, or turned into a movie, perhaps!
This book has been authored solely by Virginia. Thank you for taking the time to read it. In doing so, you have made someone's dream come true. That someone is who I am proud to call my grandmother, "Nanna," and my friend.
-Adam J. Dabonka
"Don't try getting away from me, you lying, conniving, ungrateful little bitch. You're rotten to the core just like your mother, and neither one of you is worth the powder to blow you to hell! If me and your uncle had half a brain we would have left you in the Home where we found you. Everyone warned me you couldn't take someone else's dirt and make something out of them, and how right they were. Why didn't I listen to them and heed their words? You'll pay for what you did this day and learn respect; you'll see!"
How those words hurt and stung in my ears, but the sting from the belt hurt even more as she slammed it down across my buttocks and legs.
"Your mother is a rummy and you'll wind up just like her in a furnished room some day, just mark my words. Now brat, take off every stitch of clothes as I'll beat you black and blue."
With those words ringing in my ears, she opened the kitchen door and shoved me out into the hall. Oh, the shame and humiliation of it all just because I lost the handkerchief she had pinned on my dress as I left for school that morning. I begged Aunt Annie to let me in and promised to be better in the future. With what little compassion her 200-lb. frame could hold, she let me come back inside as someone was coming down from one of the upper floors. As usual, I ran the eight blocks back to school, red-eyed from crying and out of breath. There I was, only 10 years old and I had been through more suffering in those ten years than most people endure in a lifetime; but little did I know the nightmare was just beginning.
I was born, April 13, 1923, which with my luck happened to
be on a Friday. What a vintage year that was, 29th President of the United States Warren G. Harding dies in office and is succeeded by Calvin Coolidge, Time Magazine hits newsstands for the first time and the N.Y. Yankees win the World Series! Poor mom - by the time I arrived - six of her eight children had died, and the only survivors were me and my older brother John. As it so happens, he was born on April 12, but four years earlier than I.
My mother was a big, strapping, handsome woman of Irish descent, born in New York City; and what a beautiful voice she had. She loved to sing Helen Morgan type songs and when she sang, the angels applauded. Her ambition was to sing on the stage, but her mom wouldn't hear of it as it wasn't considered proper in those days. So mom put her dreams on hold and went to work in a ribbon factory where she met my dad, as he worked there also. Good old Dad, he of English extraction and with his name of Abram Chauncey Woodrow Halsey Cook. As fate would have it, they dated, fell in love, got married and started a family. It was love at its finest.
As I wrote before, mom had already lost six of her eight children, four boys and four girls, including two sets of twins. Only my brother John and I survived. This of course depressed her immensely and with each child that died, she drank more and more. By the time John and I were born, she was already an alcoholic. She cared less and less about her two living children. Back in those days, ladies weren't allowed to drink in taverns, but they could take out their beer in containers or cans for 5 cents each, and mom was always "rushing the can." I can recall her drinking beer at the kitchen table and eating kelp from the local fish market, and the usual pickled pig's feet. How she enjoyed that. Dad did a little drinking, but could never keep up with mom, as he had to go to work every day. I would meet up with him at the 14th street subway station on his way home from work and give him the latest account of what shape
mom was in and whether to expect supper to be ready or not.
We lived on Bank Street, New York City. Most of the time, dad would do the cooking and his favorite meal had to be with pork chops. As far back as I can remember, there were always parties going on in the evenings, as mom had lots of friends over who drank and encouraged her to sing. It was because dad loved to hear her sing "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" which was also known as "The Blue Ridge Mountains ofVirginia" that he named me after that song. One thing I did inherit from her was a decent singing voice, or so my friends tell me - and they never lie!
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine
On a mountain in Virginia stands a lonesome pine Far below it, is the cabin home of that little girl of mine Her name is June and very, very soon, she'll belong to me For I know she's waiting there for me underneath that lonesome tree In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia,
On the trail of the lonesome pine. In the pale moonshine, our hearts entwine, Where she carved her name and I carved mine, Oh June, like the mountains I'm blue Like the pine, I am lonesome for you. In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, On the trail of the lonesome pine.
-By MacDonald and Carroll
We moved around a lot in New York City; and when I was 6 years old the family moved across the river to Hoboken, N.J. As usual, mom made her daily trips to the nearest neighborhood tavern. The Depression years had set in, yet she managed to drink herself into a stupor every day without fail. We moved around quite a few times in Hoboken and lived on many streets; some of which I remember included Garden Street, Willow Avenue, 1st Street, and of course, Washington Street. Apartments were easy to get in those days and the rents were cheap. I attended Saint Mary's School but was absent many days at a time due to neglect.
There were no support groups around at that time like Alcoholics Anonymous and who knows if she would have gone to any of their meetings, as they only serve coffee there, no beer. So while she was having drinking buddies over for parties, my brother John and I roamed the streets of Hoboken till the wee hours of the morning looking for pennies, empty soda cans or whatever else we could sell. Oh mama, why couldn't you stop that cursed drinking which was ruining your whole family and which became your only desire? I can recall on one occasion when mom tried to give me a bath in our kitchen tub which was filled with dead roaches - yuk! Many times we had nothing to eat, yet she managed to get her favorite brew and was so happy in her own little world, as it seems nothing else was important to her.
Perhaps if her other children had lived, my life might have been different, who knows? Maybe the ones who died before me were the lucky ones, for they escaped the harried life I was about to enter into.
In spite of mom's neglect, John and I tried to survive the best way we could, but it did not go unnoticed by our neighbors. What a pathetic sight we must have presented to them. John would take his shoeshine box and I would follow him like a puppy dog all over 4th Street Park in Hoboken. After all, he was four years older than
I, and how I looked up to him. He was my knight in shining armor. Shoe shines were only 5 cents back then, and on a good day he made enough to afford to take us to a nearby restaurant for a bowl of delicious clam chowder with real clams in it - to this day my favorite soup.
John and I were always close, but being he was a little older than I, he had his own circle of friends who were into sports and hanging out in the schoolyard. In the meantime, I found a good friend in one of my classmates who was also named Virginia and was the same age as I. She lived only a few blocks away from me with her mom, dad, and three brothers and one sister. Also living with them was their Uncle George, who was her mom's brother.
Virginia's mom was a real nice lady who had invited me to come to her house almost every afternoon for a sandwich and a soda, as she knew my predicament at home. I can recall that Uncle George didn't work for some reason or other and was always home when we got there. He was in his mid-40s I assumed, and looked quite healthy to me, but because I was 7 years old, it didn't enter my mind to ask questions about such things. That was not on my priority list at that time. I do remember the fun times we had in the evenings when Virginia, her siblings and I played with Uncle George as her mom and dad watched while listening to the radio. Uncle George would take turns with the boys, putting them through their various exercises as he'd lie on the floor with his knees up and toss the boys over his head and then would do the same with us girls. What fun that was and how I wished my dad could have done that with John and me, but he was too busy working while trying to keep us together.
Sometimes Uncle George would lift us up on his shoulders and parade around to our squeals of delight. Now that was fun! Each one of us patiently awaited our turn to be picked up. Mom couldn't have cared less where we were as long as she had her can of beer on
the table, as that was her priority and nothing else mattered. That was what she lived for and I guess John and I were just as dead to her as were her other children.
On this particular Saturday morning in October, the sun was bright and the day was just beginning. I had gone to my friend Virginia's house. Her mom and dad had gone to visit her sick sister who lived in another town and they would return early in the evening. They had relied on Uncle George to keep us entertained, which we were excited to be a part of! He played the usual games with us and we couldn't wait to be lifted up on his shoulders where we felt we were up in the clouds. For whatever reason, on this day he chose me to be the last, as it suited his plans for me. While he had me up on his shoulders screeching with innocent delight, he pulled out a wad of bills and gave the kids money to go to the Saturday matinee movie. They wanted me to go too, and I wanted to go, but he wouldn't let me down, saying he would take me to meet them there a little later. The door closed while the other children ran down the stairs to the matinee. I was a little confounded to say the least; I figured Uncle George wanted to give me some extra playtime on his shoulders.
The next thing I remember is him throwing me on the bed. He threatened to kill me if I told anyone about what took place in that apartment. I recall him taking my clothes off and slapping me in the face with his open hand every time he tried to put his penis in my mouth - how horrible and I was so frightened. It was really happening; it was a horror movie in real life. I never imagined that someone so nice to me one minute could be so violent and evil the next. Then he got on top of me and did that awful thing that hurt so much. "Oh God," I thought. Why was this happening to me as I did nothing to deserve it? Perhaps it would have been better if he had killed me.
I never knew the meaning of rape or the sexual parts of the
human body. My mom never explained such things to me as she was never sober long enough. I had to find out the hard way and I can remember crying hysterically when I saw the blood on my panties. Remembering what Uncle George had threatened me with, I told no one of the incident, especially mom. I knew she was incapable of caring at that time and I didn't even know I had been raped. I was terrified and confused.
At around this time, unbeknownst to mom, the neighbors had complained to the local authorities about John and I being neglected, missing school and roaming the streets late at night as her drinking problems became worse and worse. Things came to a head one afternoon when a police officer came and took me right out of the classroom at St. Mary's School. And from there right to the police station in Hoboken where mom was drunk and sat crying her eyes out. I don't know where they took mom or what they did with her, but I was put in jail right there in Hoboken! Can you imagine what it was like for an 8-year-old girl to be placed in this strange place, and kept overnight? I had no idea of what was going on or why I was there. I must say, I was indeed lucky that I wasn't put in a cell with bars, but instead in a basement room with a bed in it. They were very kind to me and made me feel comfortable under the circumstances. As best they could, bless their hearts, they got me to stop crying and plied me with hamburgers, cookies and milk. That was the first good meal I had in a long time, and oh my, did that taste good!
In the meantime, mom was declared an "unfit mother" unable to properly care for us. The next few days were a blur, but off we went. John and I were placed in an institutional home for wayward children somewhere in Bayonne, N.J. The first day I was there I was given a bath and my head was doused with kerosene, as of course I had lice. As is customary at any institution, you must undergo a complete physical examination - yuk! It was there that they
discovered I had been raped and the police were brought in. They asked me what seemed like a zillion questions until I told them about Uncle George ... and then all hell broke loose. The police found him back at the apartment in Hoboken, and he was arrested. Of course his whole family was mad at me at that time instead of being furious with him, as I was the victim and he was the one who raped me. He was brought to trial, which lasted more than two weeks. I remember I was questioned on the witness stand and told the truth about what happened on that fateful day as best I could. The judge sentenced him to three years in prison, and I'll never forget my dad trying to beat him up only to be stopped by the guards. How lucky for Uncle George.
With an alcoholic wife and children taken away by the state, life had taken its toll on dad and he wasn't looking well at all. After the trial, I was remanded back to the home in Bayonne and once again had to wear the pink gingham dress that all the girls there had to wear. Being the youngest one there, the older girls treated me with respect and were very nice to me. There was only one thing that would irritate me. On a daily basis one girl would stand at the back of the room with a large box on a chair and all the other girls would form a line and were given a package, yet every time I went up I was turned away. One girl later explained to me that they were giving away Kotex, which I didn't need at the time. Mom never explained the facts of life to me and I had to find out from a total stranger. Each girl there had chores to do and I was no exception. We all had to wash our bed sheets on a washboard in the basement and I could never wring them out, they were too heavy for me, so the girls would take turns helping me.
I can actually say I was happy there and could see my brother John on the "boys" side where they did their exercise and played ball. I would wave to him as I hung our clothes on the line. I was happy there and it's all that mattered to me.
How I looked forward to dad's visits every Sunday, as this was the best day of the week. He would bring me coloring books every time he came and would also visit John. I loved him so very much and I know he loved me and John. My eyes would be glued to the walkway of the institution waiting for his arrival! After a few weeks of this, I noticed, as I watched him from my window that his steps became slower and he would stop every few steps to catch his breath. Dad's health was deteriorating. His visits were becoming infrequent. Sometimes I would spend almost the whole day looking at that walkway. A few weeks had passed and came along the awful news that my dad had died from some liver problems he had. I cried so much for him as he was only 45 years old. I had never been to a funeral parlor before and it looked so scary. Seeing dad in the coffin like if he was sleeping so nice, but when someone lifted me up to kiss him, it gave me chills as he was so cold. It was good to see my brother John there and we had so much to talk about. He was living with some other relatives at the time. Mom was there also and I felt bad as she had lost a lot of weight and I could tell she was still drinking and had to be led out of the funeral parlor. I was glad that I got to hug her before she left. After all, she was my mother and a child's love for their mother never ends.
Enter Uncle Ed and Aunt Anna. As soon as the funeral was over, my father's brother Uncle Ed what adopted meant, but I went along with it. They must have made some kind of arrangement previously with the home but it sounded pretty good to this 10-year-old child.
Uncle Ed was about 5 feet 6, in his early 60s while Aunt Anna was a big, strapping German woman, about 55 years old. Mom lived only three blocks away from us on 10th Street in Hoboken and on several occasions came by to see me. Because she had alcohol on her breath, she was asked to stop her visits and she never came
again. She told them the only time she would come back was if I was dead. Poor mom, I felt so sorry for her as in my own special way, I still loved her. Aunt Anna was a proud stoic German. She and Uncle Ed had no children of their own and she reminded me every day what a nuisance I was, never as good as other neighborhood children.
From the start, I could tell that Aunt Anna hated me but put on a good act for the neighbors. She made sure that when I went to school every day, I looked picture-perfect with a freshly ironed dress with a handkerchief pinned to it and a pretty bow in my hair. Her plan was for the neighbors to see me leaving the house and how nice she dressed me. To the window she ran every morning to see how many neighbors were looking out their window. What a farce that was! What they didn't see was the real story. The abuse I suffered when I came home for lunch happened every day. Aunt Anna never prepared lunch ahead of time. I had to go four blocks to the supermarket, even though we had a small grocery store on our corner. After all the supermarket charged two or three pennies less and rarely did I return to school without huffing and puffing from running, and red-eyed from crying. The good times were few and far apart. The home for wayward children was looking really good at this time.
I looked forward to the weekends, as on Saturdays there was a matinee at the local theatre only two blocks from where we lived. For 15 cents they showed a double feature, a cartoon, world news, coming attractions plus whatever serial was playing that week such as Buck Rogers, Johnny Weissmuller, or Tarzan. The thing is, to get to that movie on the sly posed a big problem as I had no money. So I figured out a good way to get the money for the movie. When Aunt Anna sent me to her local butcher for a pound of chop meat, I would ask for % [percent] of a pound, which I thought was very clever and thus saved a few pennies. My savings, I would put in a small
paper bag, go up to the rooftop and place it behind a loose brick up there. I was saving money for the first time in my life! Boy was I proud of myself for such creative thinking. After a few weeks, a new movie was coming to the theatre and I couldn't wait to see it, and to pay for it all by myself - what a treat! I climbed up to our roof to recount my loot and as luck would have it, it was gone! (Ooh how mad I was!) Of course, my Aunt Anna found out from the butcher how I was skimming the money from the chop meat and of course that cast me another beating. I found out years later that a boy from an adjoining rooftop was watching me through his binoculars every time I hid my cash, and then he went up later and helped himself to my "gold."
Uncle Ed saw to it that I was home every Thursday when it was Aunt Anna's day for her doctor's appointment. It was on this day when he forced me to have sex with him on Aunt Anna's bed. He always had a pail of water by the bed when he reached his climax. He always said that "Once a cake is cut, a slice is never missed." It's sad to say, but he got a lot of slices out of me. This went on until I was 15 years old. I couldn't tell my aunt, as she was oblivious to everything around her and believed everything her husband told her. If he said the moon was green, in her mind the moon was green. I couldn't tell her what went on in her bedroom as she wouldn't believe me anyway, as she considered me a "low life" and that is how I felt. She always reminded me that I would turn out to be a bum just like my mother.
Uncle Ed's prediction for me was that I'd commit suicide in some furnished room. Because of how they felt about me, I felt inferior to everyone for a good part of my life. Poor mom, I couldn't tell her as I was forbidden to speak to her even on the street. I remember at one time feeling like St. Peter when he renounced Jesus Christ, saying he was not one of His disciples. This St. Peter did it three times, and happened when a young boy told me that a woman across the
street said she was my mother and I denied the fact. How could I have done that? God forgive me. I found out years later that both my dad and his brother Ed were both in love with my mother and, of course, dad won the prize. Uncle Ed was hurt and disappointed with the outcome and swore vengeance to both mom and dad. I ran away from home on several occasions, but had no place to go. In the meantime, my brother had joined the Air Force and I felt really alone. Deep down, I know I should have reported my Uncle to the proper authorities, but I lived in constant fear of him and his threats so I was always brought back, forever being reminded of how ungrateful I was for their kindness to me.
Finally in June of 1939, I graduated from the 9th grade of Public School 3 on Christopher Street in New York. I wasn't allowed to go on to high school because now it was payback time, to repay them for taking such good care of me. Mom, by this time, was getting seriously ill - her body ravaged from booze. But I would still find time to visit more than I was supposed to. This one time, one of our nosy neighbors reported my visit and another beating awaited me when my dear relatives heard about it. Fortunately, I found a job at Henry Heide's candy factory in lower Manhattan where I made a whopping $25 dollars per week, of which I was allowed to keep $5.00 of it. Mom earlier had met a young woman named Midge whom she became good friends with and the two of them became drinking buddies. Midge was allowed to stay with mom on 10th street, as she couldn't afford a place of her own. She would cook and clean for mom and of course go on binges with her.
After working about six months at the candy factory, I met a nice young girl named Katy Forrester, who also worked there. She was single and lived in a furnished apartment on 14th Street in New York. She and I became good friends and I blurted out my problems to her about my aunt and uncle and their treatment of me. She suggested I move in with her. After a few seconds of considering the
pros and cons, I decided it was time to go. As soon as I turned 17, I left for good. This of course infuriated my benefactors, but I couldn't care less at the time. Word got back to me that my neighbors were informed about how rotten and ungrateful I was to my relatives.
This one day when I went to visit mom, as usual, I knocked on the door. Only this time, a man opened the door; I was surely in the wrong apartment.
"Hello?" he said. "Oh, I'm sorry I think I have the wrong apartment," I sheepishly replied.
But behind him I heard my mother's voice running about some pre-existing conversation. My mother came out from inside and introduced me - his name was Joseph Dabonka. He was a Merchant Seaman who knew my mom and Midge as mom allowed him to stay at her home between his trips at sea. He had taken a liking to Midge, so now mom had two drinking partners. Joe always had money on him while waiting to ship out again, so having his brew around was fun and convenient for Midge and mom. There was something about him at that time that intrigued me. He wasn't tall, but he was handsome, muscular, square-jawed, with blond hair and a pair of smoldering blue eyes. Polish was his nationality and both his parents were dead, so he was more or less alone in the world. He wasn't tied to anyone and would sometimes take girls out to a bar for a drink or two. I had a liking towards him, and even though he took other girls to the bars, he would only take me to the movies and then later for an ice-cream soda; and I respected him for that.
Early March of that year, mom got sick again and her physical condition got worse along with her drinking. She was taken by ambulance to Bellevue Hospital in New York. John and I were told to go there as soon as possible because there wasn't much time left. She had so many tubes in her body and didn't seem to recognize us. When we visited her again on March 16th, she looked great, no tubes and her face had a rosy glow. She felt so good and asked John
to bring her clothes from home as she would be leaving the hospital room. It's hard to believe that the next day, on St. Patrick's Day, that God took her home. She was only 51 years old and had wasted away to 80 pounds. If she were alive today, there is nothing I wouldn't do for her - It must have been so depressing for her, losing her children one by one like that. I've forgiven her a long time ago and no one can hurt her anymore, not even herself. Even though she had such a sad life, she is at peace with the Lord now.
Joe found out about Mom's death on his next visit and came to see me at our apartment to offer his sympathy. In between trips he would see more and more of me and less and less of my competition. After about a year of dating we got married on a shoestring in the Judge's Chamber at City Hall in New York City, October 16, 1944 with Katy as our witness. We had planned on a bigger wedding but as luck would have it, when Joe got off his ship he went to a local tavern. Later that night, he got "rolled." He was followed on his way home back to his hotel where three thugs beat him up and stole his wallet with quite a bundle in it. So our honeymoon suite was a furnished room, but we didn't care - we were in love.
For the next two years, Joe kept shipping out to sea leaving me alone for weeks at a time, while I still worked at the candy factory. Watching and waiting for the mailman was my daily routine and when a letter did come, I would share my joy with Katy. I was so in love, silly me, that I would take Joe's suit out of the closet, spread it out on the bed and place a large picture of him where his head should be. After a few years of this routine, he finally quit the Merchant Marines and got a nice job on a tug boat.
Then on April 19, 1946 a little stranger moved in with us, our adorable, blue-eyed, blond-haired son whom we named John after my brother. This six-pound bundle of joy was always smiling and making people stop and talk to him when we took him out in his carriage. What a beautiful baby he was and within 15 months on
July 6, 1947 he was joined by his baby brother whom we named Joseph after his father. There was such a difference in the two of them. Whereas John was always on the cheerful side and happy, Joe was just the opposite - most of the time cranky, irritable, and never slept through the night. I always said he would be a great model for the Fletcher Castor Oil ads. He did have a beautiful smile when he did smile, which wasn't often. In the meantime, Joe gave up his job of working on the tug boat and found a job working at the same candy factory where I worked in lower Manhattan.
Soon I noticed he wouldn't come right home from work but would go to the local tavern and join the boys in a game of pool. He wasn't one to make friends easily and only a few would even bother with him. Making conversation was not one of his best qualities. Beer was his favorite, but on Thursday which was his payday, he would treat the guys to whatever they were slurping up and thought nothing about buying a round for the house. I gather that was his way of buying their friendship and I got whatever was left of his pay. By that time, I had already left the candy factory and found a job in a place where they made ladies' purses, on the east side of 76th street.
Luckily, we found a superintendent's job on 81st street with the help of my brother, who was also the super in the building next to ours. He had been married by this time and had two sons named Don and Tommy. He had met his wife Flo while he was still in the Army and stationed in Florida. We got along pretty well and Flo would mind my boys while I went to work. Sad it was, but just like my husband, my brother liked his beer and it seemed like the breweries just couldn't make it fast enough for them. My sister-in- law was a bit on the jealous side and it didn't help that my brother was outgoing, quite charming and loved to dance and sing. He had a winning way about him, but was harmless and would never cheat on Flo.
Never did I have to worry about Joe and I knew that no woman in her right mind would even give him a second glance. Sometimes I wish they had, as I had-to sit up and wait for him to come home after he had his fill, as he was a heavy smoker and was forever falling asleep and dropping his cigarettes on the floor. With my luck I found out I was pregnant again and things were not pleasant at home as Joe had found a drinking partner in my brother, and what a pair they made. Besides working while Flo kept an eye on the boys, I still had to take care of the building which had deteriorated quite badly as the owners very rarely came around and made very few repairs. We had an elderly woman living in the basement apartment who was homeless, she was the bag lady, bringing in all kinds of garbage including chicken guts and chicken fat from the local butcher store. It was then that we started seeing rats in the cellar, in the water drains, and with complaints from the tenants, I notified the owners who had exterminators come in, but it didn't help much. This woman had two large cats that actually ran away because they couldn't handle the rodents. Here I was four months pregnant, scared out of my wits to go down to the cellar, with rats crawling along the overhead pipes. It got so bad that the Board of Health had to come in, and turned off her water and electricity and she refused to move. Move, she finally did, but not before blaming me for reporting her and she said she would put a curse on me. This I really needed!
On March 27, 1952, my son James was born and what a joy he was, just like his brother John, always smiling, always inquisitive and just loved to be loved. He, too, was a happy baby, never giving me any trouble and seemed to have a magnet for drawing people close to him. A real charmer was he. As a child and in his teens, Jim was always athletic, usually playing stickball, baseball, handball and never to be found without a basketball in his hand. Always playing at one of the local parks around the many neighborhoods we've
lived in throughout New York and New Jersey.
All my boys were handsome, but young Joe had a smile that could melt your heart, but that smile hid a lot of pain that was going on inside of him. He was very close to John as they were only 15 months apart in age, and he followed him everywhere, looking up to him as his idol. By the time Jimmy was 4 years old, we gave up the super's job and found an apartment on the top floor of a five-story tenement house on 25 th Street and 9 th Avenue in NYC. It was there I met my wonderful neighbor Rose who lived on the 2nd floor. If ever an angel took on the form of a human being, it was her. Small and petite in stature, Italian, she was married to a big, happy-go-lucky Irishman named John who answered to the name of Bucky. Just like my husband, Bucky liked his brew, but that's where the comparison ended. While Joe was anti-social and moody, Bucky was just the opposite, fun-loving, always telling jokes and a joy to be around - an absolute joy! Rose and I would sit for hours over a cup of java and discuss our husbands, our children and our problems. As little as Rose was, and as big as Bucky was, she had control over him. Just like E.F. Hutton, he listened when she spoke and toed the line.
What a wonderful family they were and how I envied them with two wonderful daughters, Rosemary and Terry along with the oldest, a son named Bill. I was so thankful for Rosemary who looked after Jim when I found a job as a file clerk in a firm in midtown Manhattan. Years later, Rose and I would share a chuckle or two when we reminisced about those days when she only paid $23 for her four-room flat on the 2nd floor, and I paid $32 for my penthouse on the 5th floor in this building with no elevators. We found it hard then to come up with the rents each month and the landlord would be there in person on the 1st of each month to collect.
My two older boys were into playing baseball in the local
playgrounds and were pretty good at it. Of course my husband never took an interest in watching them play, as that would take him away from his drinking buddies. He never came to church when the boys made their first Holy Communion or Confirmation, but was always ready to run to the bar when the boys there needed another pool player. He was a father in name only. Fast with his hands when he thought the boys needed to be taught a lesson, especially young Joe. For some reason he seemed to pick on him more so than on John-and I could feel his pain, which he seemed to keep bottled up inside of himself. I tried to intervene on many occasions, but to no avail. He wasn't abusive to me, but had no qualms about slapping the boys, especially when he had drink in him. He was always strict with the boys, always finding faults with them, never giving them a kind word. Once in a while Joe would try to make amends by allowing me to go to a movie, but those times were few and far in between. Of course, the boys were always in bed when I got home and I always looked for the tell-tale red marks on their buttocks.
I was always so proud of my sons, as even though they had their petty little disagreements, it blew over in no time and they were the best of friends again. Sometimes in life things happen that can only be laughed upon years later. For example, I recall an incident when my teeth were going bad due to neglect when I was a child. I had to take a day off from work to go to the dentist who had made a bridge for my teeth which cost over $900 dollars, for which he accepted monthly payments. After him fitting the bridge in my mouth, I stopped at the local supermarket to do some shopping for dinner. Within a few hours it started irritating my gums which I paid little attention to until I reached my house. Disaster! One of my neighbors couldn't wait to tell me that John and Joey were fighting in the street. I blew my top and all hell broke loose. I chased the boys up the five flights of stairs and because I couldn't yell at them from the pain my bridge caused me, I yanked it out and
threw it on top of my shopping bag. When we got to my four-room railroad apartment, John flew into the bedroom and hid under the bed. While I was screaming at him, Joey thought he could calm me down by putting my groceries away. While his intentions were good, my bridge in the meantime, fell to the bottom of one of the bags - which was then used for garbage! I searched every inch of that apartment for a whole week. So much for my new teeth, as this could only happen to me.
It just wasn't part of their nature to hold grudges and, as I said before, they were more than brothers, they were the best of friends. It was at this point in time when the boys were 11 and 12 years old, respectively, that I took an interest in watching them play ball, even though I didn't understand the game. John was a left-handed pitcher while Joey played the outfield on the same team, the Legal Eagles. On different seasons, sometimes they would play on different teams and I would have to run back and forth to make sure they knew I was there. On this one particular game, it was a championship game, which only John played on, his team was winning, then losing up until the 9th inning when John struck everyone out and the crowd went bananas! The whole team was ecstatic while carrying John on their shoulders, and I was the proudest mom in this whole wide world. To this day I still have newspaper clippings of him along with pictures of him receiving the trophy.
It was in 1958 that John inspired me to write then, my very first poem, I called it "The Ball Game".
The Ball Game
The game is now over The shouting is through I'm glad for your team, son and I'm so proud of you Yet you'll have to admit for a while it looked bad The
crowd stood there screaming
and yelling like mad But I knew you could do it I knew from the start Inside you were trying with all of your heart Which just goes to show in whatever you do Have faith in the Lord, son and He'll see you through
In June of 1954, I found a job working as a file clerk at the American Credit Indemnity Co. on 44th Street in NYC. My co-workers were a joy to work with and helped me with the details of the job, and on top of that they seemed to like me. Soon after I was promoted to the claims department and had to learn the electric typewriter. I could barely type on the manual one.
Joe and I had rented a little cottage in Staten Island to be near my friend Rose, just for the summer and we really enjoyed our time there. On this one particular hot day, Joe gave the boys money to go to a matinee movie in town. Of course he took advantage of our free time and made love to me. Whether it was the salt ocean water or the Staten Island air I soon found out I was pregnant again. Thank God for my friend Rose, she was always there for me during my pregnancy. Naturally I had to stop working and things were pretty bad financially, which was nothing new for me. My two older boys helped out by selling newspapers at night on the street corners or going into the local taverns looking for customers. In the winter they would shovel snow from homes or store fronts and with whatever money they made we'd be sure of a decent meal the next day. Joe would still go to his favorite hangout and on a few occasions would come home right from work - wow. I didn't receive much support from my husband, financially or emotionally. Happiness didn't happen naturally for me. This was my life until that wonderful day on March 10, 1961 that we were blessed with a beautiful blue-eyed, golden-hair daughter. I always dreamed of one day having a baby girl and now it happened. Not that I didn't love my boys but when they put this 7 lb., 10 oz. bundle of squirming humanity into my arms, my world was complete and compensated for all the unhappiness in my life. This inspired me to write "My Angel"
One day when I was lonely And feeling kind of blue God sent me down an angel and darling, it was you
He plucked you from His garden The fairest flower there Pure and sweet, a joy to meet A rose beyond compare
For your eyes He borrowed heavenly blue, Pure gold He splashed in you hair Then he added a smile, That makes life worthwhile And spreads sunshine everywhere
Soon he had to make a decision In His mansion up above When it came time to choose your mother He picked me for you to love
- Virginia Dabonka
I named this beautiful infant Catherine after the sister I never knew and Rose after my best friend. You can believe that Rose checked the birth certificate to make sure I had her listed officially as Catherine Rose. Mere words can't convey the joy and happiness this child brought to me, but sadly enough I didn't even have a crib to put her in. The first week of her life she was put in a bureau drawer until I got a used crib from Rose's son Billy and his wife, Dolores. Cathy's brothers adored her and doted over her, and even her father made a fuss over her more so than he ever had with the boys.
By the time Cathy was a year old, my dear friend Rose had moved across the river to 49th Street and Park Avenue in Union City, N.J. When a vacant apartment became available, Rose asked me to move into it which we did. Rose was working herself then and couldn't mind Cathy for me when I got the chance to get my old job back in New York. Luckily there lived a family in the next building who became involved in my life. They included Julia and Frank Thorburn and their daughter Maureen who was 3 years old at the time. Julia was very pleasant to me, but always hard on Frank and Maureen. As it happened Julia heard through the grapevine that I was looking for a babysitter for Cathy and offered her services. What a Godsend she was, as I could go to work with a clear mind. I found out years later that Maureen was adopted at birth from the hospital due to prior arrangements. Frank and Julia have long since died and Maureen remains friends with the family.
Life is beautiful, precious and worth living, so said my friends and neighbors. I didn't believe it at that time, but I suppose they were right. Still at that time, I couldn't appreciate the beauty of the magnificent skyline of New York City that can be seen from New Jersey. It was always there but it only got a fleeting glance from me as I was always in a rush going back and forth to work. I had no time for such silly things like that as I had a husband who drank and gambled, four children and a job to take care of. The skyline, sunrise and sunsets
would always be there along with the beautiful flowers and trees. I didn't realize it at that time that I may not be around forever.
As the boys grew older, John found a job at a paper box plant near Brooklyn and became good friends with a young man named Tommy Ingram. Thus he would travel to Brooklyn nightly as he made a lot of friends there. John also met Tom's sister Judy and fell madly in love with her! It was good to see him so happy with a good outlook towards the future. Once I recall him telling me I would never have to worry about anything except getting old as he would always be around to take care of me. John was always more responsible-minded than your average young man his age and it was nice to be around someone like him. I suppose he saw how his father was and chose to be the exact opposite and learned what not to do.
My boys were never brilliant in school, and on occasion John would get his answers from baseball cards he saved. When I went to John's school to attend a parent/teachers night, I was informed by his teacher that he would never become President of The United States. Whether true or not, I didn't care what the teacher said, because he was great in my book. How proud she would have been of him later in life. John loved baseball. His name frequented the local newspaper's high school sports section. He was a star pitcher for Union Hill High School in Union City, N.J. His name got a reputation and when the opportunity called, he was invited to fill out an application and attend open-call tryouts with the New York Yankees. It was his favorite team and I can recall him being so excited and full of pride for that accomplishment. For some reason or another he didn't get accepted, and it was their loss as he was a great pitcher.
Looking back now I recall when I used to call my boys the "Three P's" John of course was the "pitcher", Jim the "picture" as he was so handsome and Joe the "pisser" as he wet the bed until he was ten years old! They got a chuckle out of my description of my "Three P's."
As for young Joe, he was still having problems with his father who
was always berating him, making him feel unloved and unwanted which was never how I felt about him. He enlisted in the Navy when he was 17 years old. Being so young he had to get approval and signatures from his parents which his father did willingly as he was glad to get rid of Joe. Not long after that, John and his friend Tom wanted to enlist in the Navy also, but under the "buddy system" and vowed if one didn't get accepted, then the other wouldn't enlist. As luck would have it John failed the last test, so neither one joined up. In a way I was glad he failed as I didn't want two of my sons in the service at the same time. Then a few months later John received a letter from Uncle Sam inviting or rather demanding him to become a member of the U. S. Army for the next four years as he was drafted - how evil! Didn't they know I needed him at home? Even after failing the test, he was still called to duty. But because I still had another son, Jim, living at home, there was nothing I could do about it.
John got his training at Fort Dix, Camp Lejeune and later at Fort Hood in Texas while Joe was stationed in Long Beach, California. I received nice letters from both of them, sometimes two at a time. I was never at ease while they were away on leave, always somewhat worried. I was so used to having them around, even if they were sometimes a handful.
On one occasion they both came home on leave together and Joe surprised me by hiding behind the shower curtain in the bathroom. What a shock! They both looked so handsome in their uniforms making me so proud of them. That was a great time for our family. It was nice to have them both around again and my family together again. Having all of my kids at home together again was a real treat.
John sat me down and gave me some news I didn't want to hear. He told me he was being sent overseas to Vietnam. We were sitting in the parlor when John made the announcement that he was going to Vietnam. He tried to make light of it and said we had to stop the communism in Vietnam before it got here. Vietnam? I had never
heard of that place and now they were sending my son over there. How could they? Of course, he tried to downplay everything. I can remember that morning when we said goodbye in my kitchen. Joe had already gone back to his ship and I was ready to go to work when John asked me not to go to the station with him first, because I'd have to wait too long. So it was there in my kitchen that we hugged and kissed goodbye, and he called me later that night. Into the Mekong Delta he was sent and I spent many sleepless nights worrying.
After a few months had passed, the winter was in full swing. On this one cold night I had this awful dream where John was saying our last goodbye in my kitchen just as we really did shortly before, but in my dream, as we hugged, he turned around I saw some holes in the back of his uniform and when I questioned him about them, he said that they were "fatigue marks." I woke up as if from a nightmare! Later that day I mentioned the dream to one of my co-workers, he said it was only natural for me to dream this as I knew John was in a combat zone. I would always be worried about him.
The very next morning, February 3rd, after Joe had left for work and Jim and Cathy were still sleeping, a knock came at my door. There, stood some high-ranking, smart-looking officer with a manila envelope in his hand. Right then I knew something had happened and I hoped that John was injured and perhaps in a hospital somewhere in the states. Of course they wouldn't send an officer to tell me that at 6:30 am, how silly of me to think that. I knew before he spoke, that he was here to tell me that John was dead. Everything seemed a blur and I only caught bits and pieces of what he was trying to tell me like "killed in action of shrapnel wounds; died instantly." Did I want a doctor or a priest? This couldn't be my son they were talking about; he must have had the wrong name, but not so. He said that I would be receiving telegrams throughout the day and sure enough three came. After the officer left I called Joe at work to come home, but he went right to the bar as usual. It took two weeks for John's body to
be returned home, two weeks of hell and torment and a severe winter snowstorm. Young Joe was granted a leave from his ship and took over all the arrangements along with Rose's husband, as of course, at that time my husband was useless to me. I kept remembering the dream I had of John with the holes in the back of his uniform and I knew he had to be hit in the back, but I didn't find out till months later that he was actually killed by shrapnel wounds to the back. I was later told that Vietnam is a day behind us when considering time zones, and the dream I had of John was his way of saying goodbye to me. Until his body was brought back, I can remember going to the local supermarket and was angry with all the people doing their grocery shopping there. How dare they do this when my world was in such chaos around me and my son was dead! I wanted to shout it from the highest rooftop about the injustice of it all. Not to mention how mad I was at God, how I hated him right then! Yet that Sunday morning I walked 15 blocks to go to St. Joseph's Church in West New York, N.J., not watching as I crossed the streets and not even caring if I got hit with a car. I guess Jesus was walking beside me even then and felt my pain as I got there in one piece.
No matter how many times I got angry at the Lord I knew He forgave me as He understood my situation, and I in turn ... forgave Him. We came to an understanding. Sometimes I still question Him, especially when I come across these young drug addicts and alcoholics I see walking the streets or on the nightly news. I ask myself why they are allowed to live, while mine was taken from me at such a young age. It doesn't seem fair somehow but life still goes on and some adjustments have to be made from time to time. Never will I forget my loved ones; never as long as I live will I forsake them. I'm always on the lookout for signs of them, such as a face in the newspaper, or some passerby on the street who resembles one of them. Once in a while they pay me a visit in my dreams and when this happens I hate to wake up. They are not near nor are they far away.
Cathy was only 5 years old at the time that John died and we took her to the wake, but not the funeral. I never knew John had so many friends, especially the ones from Brooklyn, and each night Joe would stand by his coffin and salute him. How sad to see him do that and yet, it was a beautiful sight. So many different organizations made their appearances. Every night, there was this one young soldier would come to the coffin, kneel down and cry. We never found out who he was but was told he still had to go to Vietnam after that. I hope he eventually came home in one piece. John was just a Private First Class (PFC), but he was a Four Star General to me. As soon as the funeral was over Joe had to return to his ship and carry on as best he could. He sent me many letters to help boost my sprits. He was such a caring and sensitive young man but was going into a depression which we didn't know about at that time.
I recall on the day of the funeral, it had been snowing and it was so cold out. John was given a military funeral at which he received a 4 gun salute and "Taps" was played by a bugler. It was so very touching. My only outlet was to keep writing poetry and with God guiding my hand I composed "My Shining Star" which was published in The New York Times. I received a lovely letter from Prescott Bush Jr. who is the brother of then-Vice President George Bush Sr., which of course made me very proud. I still have that beautiful letter. I felt I had to keep John's memory alive and I could only do it through my poetry, which also included "My Buddy" and "Names On The Wall"
My Shining Star
There's a gold Star in my window In memory of you It lights my darkest hours and turns gray skies to blue There's a new star in the heavens
that I search for every night For it stands for faith and courage and a cause you thought was right You tried once to explain to me, my
precious brave young son Just why we have to fight this war
and help get justice done There's a gold star in my window That will guide me through the years Even though the road ahead is dark and wet with tears So sleep on, my gallant hero for even though you lost, you won the heart of a grateful nation You're second best to none
- Virginia Dabonka
I've stood shoulder to shoulder With Generals and shook the hand's
Of some prominent men But I'd pass that all up in a moment To have you back in my life once again.
The President wrote he was sorry when he learned of your death in Viet Nam but how can he feel the hurt and despair as only a mother can.
Now your name is embedded in granite on that black Wall for all to see to remind us how you and your Buddies died to keep this great nation free.
Though my future may sometimes look dreary With God's help I know I'll survive As proud memories of you I keep near me And in my heart, you're spirit's alive.
- Virginia Dabonka
Johnny recieving a trophy playing for the Legal Eagles
Johnny (L) Joey (R) and Jimmy in the middle Communion day
The Yankees surely missed out on this star player!
Johnny and I, he looked so handsome in his uniform.
Joey and I at the cemetery for Johnny.
One of the many letters I've recieved from the White House.
Joey walking with baby Edna on Boulevard East in Weehawken, N.J.
I read some poems to a few hundred people at the Vietnam Memorial in New York City (www.nyvietnamveteransmemorial.org). Adam and Edna were there to support me.
Singing while my best friend Vera plays keyboard during our time with the Garden State Harmonica Club.
Names On The Wall
From near and far we honor you
We love you one and all In dying, you have left your names Embedded on the The Wall
Some did come home, so hurt and alone Sorry they missed the Masters Call But that wasn't to be as we fail to see Their names upon The Wall
You had plans and schemes, Shared beautiful dreams Oh! The agony of it all Yet each has left his calling card With their names upon The Wall
Rest well now gallant heroes You each stand ten feet tall We salute you and we thank you for your names upon The Wall
- Virginia Dabonka
On Saturday April 15, which was a beautiful sunny day, I took my usual walk to the cemetery and took Cathy along who was 6 years old by then. John's grave is way down at the bottom of the hill in Macphelah Cemetery in North Bergen, N.J., and the gate is always open there. The gate at the top of the hill usually closes at 5 pm, but on this particular day as we approached the exit, we found out it closed early at 4 p.m. We were trapped! Thank God, there was a good 15-inch space between the bottom of the gate and the ground. Cathy crawled under the fence, ran and knocked on the office to get someone to open the gate, but no one was there. In the meantime, I thought I could get out the same way Cathy did, but I couldn't make it! I was so embarrassed with all of the cars passing by and people walking along Kennedy Boulevard in North Bergen. I then told Cathy to wait right there outside the gate and I would try and find an opening about a block away and get back to her. She must have gotten antsy after waiting about 15 minutes and I heard her crying, "Mom are you there?" Anyone within listening distance must have thought she was crazy and felt worse still when I answered, "I'm here and I'm coming for you." I can look back and laugh at it now, but it was so scary then.
About thirty years after John's death, I received a phone call from a man named Ruhlin Gregory. He explained that he had served with my son in Vietnam and tried to put the war behind him, as he couldn't cope with it. Since then, after he got in touch with me, every year he sends me a beautiful floral arrangement on my birthday. This inspired me with God's help to write this poem called "A Heavenly Gift".
A Heavenly Gift
Like a gift from Heaven These flowers came While along with your card I envisioned John's name In spirit he managed
from up above And used his buddies to convey his love Forever grateful I'll always be To John's devoted friends from Company B
- Virginia Dabonka
It's time to remember that
dark bitter day When the son you loved so was taken away So few now remember, so few even care For the ache in your heart that's buried deep there But I too am familiar with heart ache and pain In knowing I'll not see my lost son again But I know they are happy
I know this so well I know they're in Heaven they've already seen hell
- Virginia Dabonka
I've been told that God doesn't close one door until He opens another and through that door came another lady "Rose" Camelli who would be my forever-friend. She had just lost her beloved son Sal in Vietnam on Dec. 4th, 1966, just a few months before God called my son home. It was too painful for her to come to the funeral where John was. Instead, she sent me a beautiful, heartwarming sympathy card which I still have to this day, and that was over 40 years ago. I called to thank her as her phone number was on the card, and she invited me to visit her as soon as I felt up to it.
Joe in the meantime had volunteered for land duty at the Da Nang Naval Base and was at a place that he called "Marble Mountain." I couldn't stop him from going and was upset that he did this. I felt he didn't consider my feelings, as that "police action" of an undeclared war was in full swing and now came the worrying part again along with the sleepless nights. How could he do this to me? Finally his four years was up and he got an Honorable Discharge from the Navy. It was good to see him again, and he even went with his father to celebrate his return home at the local pub. It was shortly after that when he decided to go to Texas with a friend of his and was gone for a year before returning home for good. Then, I noticed a change in him as I knew John's death had left its mark on Joe. After all, he lost not only a brother, but his best friend and I knew all along he volunteered for land duty in Vietnam to avenge John's death.
By this time Joe had gotten a furnished room in Jersey City. He would come by to visit me or call me at work. His conversations were becoming erratic and he would question any phone calls I received as he started to think someone was checking up on him. When he told me that society was against him and the F.B.I was looking for him, I decided it was time to get him to a doctor. I was told by this one doctor, that Joe was schizophrenic and suggested that being he was a veteran, he should be seen out in the East
Orange VA Medical Center. Out he went to the Veterans Hospital in East Orange and I didn't see him again until he paid me a visit three weeks later. The doorbell rang and I opened the door. This was not my son Joe standing there, as this person was definitely a bum from NYC's bowery.
He was dirty, unshaven and his shirt was all buttoned wrong, but that was only the half of it. I was shocked when he told me life was not worth living for him and he tried to commit suicide by taking the tranquilizers prescribed for him at the VA, with a bottle of whiskey and this was the result. Sweet Jesus, how could you let this happen to my son? Hadn't I suffered enough? I arranged for him to move in with us, so I could keep an eye on him. Immediately, I called the VA in East Orange, explained the situation and they set up another appointment for Joe. After examining him again, they said he was emotionally disturbed and sent him to the psychiatric unit of the VA hospital in Lyons, N.J. They kept him there about a week, but sent him home severely over-medicated.
He must have slept 20 hours a day, hardly ate and was very nervous. Back again he was sent to Lyons and returned home with different medication. After another attempted suicide from overdosing on the pills they prescribed for him, they took him back. After a few weeks of him being shuffled around the system, and from what it seemed like an eternity, they were doing more harm than good. When they finally thought they had him on the right medication, they sent him to a rehabilitation center in Newark.
Joe liked to bowl at the Colombia Park Bowling Lanes in North Bergen, N.J., and met a lovely young girl named Linda who also liked to go bowling. They would go bowling about once a week. Things would be all right for a while and I noticed Joe hardly mentioned his brother, nor would he like to go to the cemetery. On this one rare occasion he went there, he couldn't cope with the sight of the grave and the flood of memories from Vietnam, and he
cut his wrist the following day. Another time, as Linda and I were driving him out to the Lyons hospital, he threw himself right out of our fast-moving car on the highway but thank God, traffic was slowing down and he didn't land under the wheels. How we got him back in the car and out to the hospital was a blur, and of course this time they put him in a locked ward. He put in claims saying he was sprayed with Agent Orange when he was in Vietnam, but was told that wasn't the reason for his problem.
He would come to visit me almost on a daily basis as he loved his coffee and I always had something for him to eat, but I found myself being depressed after his visits. Rarely was he in a happy mood and I would get upset when he'd put on the TV, and lay on his stomach on the couch and not even watch whatever was on. He was always tired, and I'm so sorry now that I wasn't more understanding. I realize now that he was truly sick and I didn't know if he was taking his medication or not. Sometimes now I feel as if I failed as a mother.
Joe had found a two-room furnished apartment only three blocks away from me, and I was so glad I could check on him and visit him, which I did often. This one particular day when I called, I kept getting a busy signal and thought he was on the phone with Linda, until she came to my house to say she couldn't reach him either. We both walked over to his place, only to find him sprawled across the bed with the phone in his hand, unconscious, and immediately called the police. He was taken to St. Mary's hospital in Hoboken but then was rushed to St. Michael's in Jersey City, or Newark, I forget which hospital. Did my husband show any concern or go to the hospital with us? Of course not! My son, daughter, and I stayed, as the doctor told us not to go as Joe would not survive the night. He had overdosed on 60 pills, of which 20 were Lithium, and so he was placed on a dialysis machine. We were told by the doctor that when a person takes poison and their blood level reaches .03, it is
usually fatal ... and Joe's went up to .06. Cathy, Jim and I spent the night sitting on chairs, listening to Joe moan while we held his hand and talked to him, praying to the Man Upstairs. He did answer our prayers and two weeks later Joe was released from the hospital.
Linda and Joe got married shortly after and soon had a beautiful daughter named Edna. Five years rolled along rather peacefully and Joe was so proud of his daughter, so proud to be seen with her. He would walk with her on Boulevard East in Weehawken, N.J., and take her to Hamilton Park, weather permitting.
On this particular summer day, June 5, 1987, Joe and Linda took Edna for a ride down the Jersey Shore to visit a good friend of Joe's from Brooklyn who had a home down there. The following morning on June 6, I was awakened by a phone call from Linda to say that Joe was still in bed and she couldn't wake him up. He wasn't moving, she said, and his face had a bluish color to it. My heart dropped as I told her to call for help right away, then I called Jimmy and Cathy. I ran from my house to see Joey but Jimmy saw me running on the sidewalk as he was speeding by in his car and picked me up.
We all met at Joe's apartment to find the ambulance and police already there. Some of the neighbors were looking out of their windows at the scene. Despite our efforts at rallying for help, we were all too late as they told us Joe had died four hours earlier of a massive heart attack in his sleep. This was all so unreal. Joe had been so happy since Edna was born and he never tried suicide again. Linda mentioned how happy he was the day before while at the shore. I just didn't understand how this could happen to another one of my sons. Things were a blur again as funeral arrangements had to be made. People offered their condolences, but I didn't hear them as I was too busy being mad at God again and at the government. Joe didn't get sick until a year after his discharge, so the government didn't grant him service-connected benefits. You have to get sick
within that time, but how can you put a time limit on emotions? All he lived on was social security disability, and that didn't go very far. I really was shocked when at his wake; his father walked up to the casket, bent over and kissed Joe on the forehead. Why couldn't he have shown that love when Joe was alive? Just a little bit of kindness would have gone a long way. Even then my husband asked to be taken home as the stress was too much for him. We buried Joe with his brother, as this is what he would have wanted. Once again I had to busy myself with my poetry as my pen took over and I believe God provided these words:
Together again they are once more, just as they were in days of yore. Best friends through life they'd always be, loving God and country eternally. When Viet Nam called,
they served us well. Each seeing his share of death and hell. In a coffin one came home alone, while his brother returned with a heart of stone. Life mattered no more so God took him home, Where through the streets of heaven they'll forever roam.
- Virginia Dabonka
What Might Have Been
When I think of things that might have been My thoughts turn back to happy times when My children were tots and their needs were small My girl had her dolls, while the boys played ball How blessed were we each live long day Viet Nam then seemed so far away Like the hands of time our lives are clocked Then fate stepped in and two young lives stopped The Lord has them now in His kingdom above They're happy I know as they bask in His love Still my eyes fill with tears every now and then When I think of the things that might have been
- Virginia Dabonka
Cathy, in the meantime grew into a lovely young lady, with golden- brown hair, gorgeous blue eyes and a smile that could melt the heart of the most cold-hearted cynic. She had just graduated from Weehawken High School and had started dating and was really enjoying life. Once again the inspiration hit me and I composed the following poem "My Babe of Yesterday" just for her.
My Babe of Yesterday
My precious gem, how lovely you've grown You take my breath away But what happened to my little girl? My babe of yesterday.
I seem to recall when you were quite small
When the world around you was new You didn't need much, just a mother's touch And a baby bottle would do.
Then along came school with its golden rule It was homework night and day, But I knew you could do it, you breezed right through it My babe of yesterday.
Soon came your teens, it was boys and blue jeans How I loved to watch you dance. Then love came along, like a fleeting song and added a touch of romance. Now you've blossomed into this beautiful "you" and I know you will marry one day But in memory, you will always be My babe of yesterday.
- Virginia Dabonka
My dearest friend Rose had moved to Florida as she couldn't handle the cold and windy days because of heart problems. I managed to pay her a visit when she turned 70 and her family gave her a birthday party. It was so good to see her again but she had aged so much and I just knew it would be the last time I saw her alive. About a year later, the good Lord called her home and I lost my best friend.
Old friend of mine, I miss you so And think of you in the twilights glow My mind wanders back, bringing into view The chats we had with our morning brew Discussing our husbands, our children and such The dances we went to that didn't cost much What young ladies wear and the style Of their hair We'd pretend not to notice and pretend not To care
Yet deep inside it really did matter And fueled the fire that triggered out chatter
Better days since then I have never known Until that sad day when God called you home Still in a way you are never gone For in my heart you still linger on.
- Virginia Dabonka
In the summer of 1972, Jim met a lovely girl named Joan Koykas, whose father Charles helped Jim get a job working with APA; a big trucking firm in North Bergen, N.J., a job Jim held for 30 years. After a very nice engagement party, held at the Elks Club in Weehawken, Jim and Joan got married in 1974. From that marriage came two wonderful boys, John and Adam who are both talented and handsome. John plays the piano very well and gives me goose-bumps when he plays "Rhapsody in Blue." Adam plays drums and hard rock music which I don't particularly care for, but one day will gear myself up and attend one of his gigs and I must remember to bring along my ear plugs. We spent many holidays together including Thanksgivings and birthdays of which I'll always have fond memories of.
It was the 1980s now. In 1981, Joe retired from his job as a building porter and never drank again; in fact he retired from the world. Some of his drinking buddies had died and a few moved away. Cathy was now working as a secretary and we lived in a four room ground floor apartment at 2 Potter Place in Weehawken. We lived there a few years and the neighborhood was great - until the building went on fire! We almost lost everything - what luck! Thanks to many people involved, especially Mayor Richard Turner, we were allowed to move into this senior citizens building here on Gregory Avenue. We couldn't take Cathy because she wasn't a senior. She found a basement apartment in North Bergen and her brother Jim and I kept a close watch on her. A few years later, Jim met another young girl named Isabel who caught his eye. A relationship ensued which also resulted in the demise of his first marriage to Joan. He has since given me two more lovely grand-daughters Chantel and Ashley. I am however still friends with Joan and we talk on the phone often.
With the morning sun shining and spring's crisp breeze against my cheeks, it was around Easter time and I had gotten a nice new
outfit to wear for the occasion. It was a beautiful Sunday morning and I decided to pay Cathy a visit. While waiting at the bus stop I heard someone whistling at me and I felt good just to know that some one noticed me in my Sunday's best. I looked around, saw no one in sight, then came the whistle again, still no one in sight. As I looked around more, I found out who the whistler was. It turned out to be a pretty parrot sitting in his cage which was placed on the window sill! How silly of me to think it came from another person.
After Joe retired as I said before he became a recluse with never even getting out of his pajamas. The only time he did get dressed is when we went to Atlantic City with the town bus on a monthly basis as Joe still loved to gamble. I was his "leg man" when he wanted to play the horses, I would have to travel three or four times a week to the O.T.B. at The Port Authority building in New York City. On a few rare occasions, I got him to go to my doctor, Dr. Jean Messihi, when he wasn't feeling well and naturally the doctor told him to quit smoking, but of course he wouldn't do that. He said all the doctors were crazy and just wanted your money. When he did go to work, he'd have a shirt with two pockets so he could place a pack of cigarettes in each one, plus a pack in his outer jacket, not to mention a cigarette behind his ear in case he had to wait for a bus to Manhattan.
It was Election Day on Nov. 8, 1988, when George Bush Sr. was running for president. Joe liked him, so he got his clothes on except his shirt, as we were going to vote around 11:00 am downstairs in our community room where the voting machines were. I made him a cup of coffee and was reading a magazine across the table from him when I noticed his hand kept falling off the table. I knew he wasn't tired as he had just gotten out of bed shortly before. It was when I heard him snoring that I looked up to see him drooling from the mouth, that I realized something was really wrong. I summoned for help and when I went to get his flannel shirt from the other
room, he had fallen to the floor and went into a coma, which was the result of a stroke. He lasted six days in the hospital - never regaining consciousness - and died on Nov. 14, 1988. I myself had always suffered from high blood pressure, and was on the heavy side most of my life. On the day when we were having Joe waked, while taking a shower in the morning I started coughing and couldn't stop. Thank God my children were there, as I knew something was wrong for I could hear water rattling in my chest. They called the ambulance and I was rushed to St. Mary's Hospital in Hoboken, where they said I had heart failure, and into the ICU they brought me. My doctor, Dr. Messihi, was there and I'm so grateful for the part he played in my life. Were it not for him, this story would not be completed. I was then transferred to another hospital in Passaic. I tried to tell the staff that I had to get to the funeral parlor, but they had other plans for me, which didn't include that. My poor children had it rough, between going to the funeral home and coming to visit me at the Passaic General Hospital in Passaic, N.J.
I do regret not going to Joe's funeral but it wasn't my decision. After a week in the hospital, I was allowed to go home for Thanksgiving, but had to return the following Monday for tests. I was placed under so many different machines and had so many needles stuck in my arms, that I felt like a pin-cushion, not to mention all the X-rays to my chest. First, they told me they were going to do angioplasty, the balloon test, and I would be home the following day, but not so. Then my doctor told me I needed surgery as four arteries were blocked, with one 95% closed. My world really fell apart then, but the doctor assured me I had an 80/20 chance of survival. I was scared and really thought it was the end of me. I had to sign different papers giving my permission, and then the long wait in the hospital for the day when they could operate. My children, relatives and friends were so supportive, but even that wasn't enough. More tests, X-rays, and needles until they
finally came up with a date, December 15th. I must say the nurses and hospital staff were so very nice, offering me encouragement, as they knew how nervous I was. I couldn't sleep the night before the operation, and I was sure it was my last day on earth, and I said goodbye to my children, my poor darlings.
Of course everything was a blur after the operation, and I was on the respirator for four days. Cathy and Jim came every night and day but I don't recall much. I couldn't talk to them and kept going to sleep on them. What a mess I must have been, as Cathy almost fainted and had to be helped by one of the nurses. Happily, I was released on Dec. 28, 1988, and was so glad to be home with my family and friends.
On my last attack in September 2003, I became out of breath, got dizzy and was rushed to the E.R. at Hackensack University Medical Center. Whatever they did to me there saved my life. I am forever grateful to them. I think God must have been guiding their hands just as He is guiding mine while writing poetry and putting this story together. No longer do I get out of breath and can walk two miles without looking for a bench to sit on. I'm enjoying life now to the fullest and I thank God that He called Joe home first as he could never have survived life without me.
Since my operation in 1988, I became involved with a group of seniors from West New York, N.J., who put on variety shows with Monsignor Father Eugene Fanelli. They had heard me sing and arranged for me to do an audition. At the audition, the director said I couldn't join the group because you had to be at least 65 years old and he insisted upon seeing proof of my age. What fun we had doing rehearsals, and when it came time for me to do my solo numbers on the stage, I felt I was doing it for my mom. My first song was "Alice Blue Gown" and my second song was "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" I'm sure she would have been proud of me. I was with the show for four years until it broke up, as some of the
members got sick and others moved away, and Father Fanelli died.
During the run of the shows, I met a lovely lady named Vera Fagley, who also sang solos and acted in some of the plays they put on. What a gal ... loaded with talent, vibrant, vivacious and just fun to be around. She also plays the organ and keyboard and loves to dance. I would enjoy listening to her talk about her husband, Frank and how they used to perform at different affairs. Vera would play on her keyboard while Frank played the harmonica. He too had a nice singing voice as Vera let me listen to tapes of them doing their thing. Sadly, Frank passed away in 1988; the same year that my husband did. Vera would drive me to Cape Cod for two weeks around Labor Day every year. We also saw many summer concerts in Ocean Grove, N.J. She would drive me to all my doctor appointments and to different malls. We are the best of friends.
She was also involved with and got me to join the Garden State Harmonica Club based in Maywood, N.J. The Garden State Harmonica Club ensemble was formed with about six men and two ladies playing their harmonicas, Vera on keyboard, and myself on vocals. What a group - with me who couldn't read any music notes! We performed many times at different locations travelling around the state of N.J., often times in front of audiences close to 100 people! We had a great time but everything came to an end. Vera developed glaucoma in both eyes and had to have surgery within a month's time which resulted with her losing some peripheral vision in her left eye. Because of this, she didn't feel safe driving anymore and donated her car to some charitable organization. We no longer go out entertaining but we're still the best of friends who talk daily on the phone and plan our trips by buses.
My daughter Cathy had taken a secretarial job at some firm in Fort Lee, N.J. Every day at lunchtime she would go to a local diner, order her lunch to take it back to the office. She was unaware she was being watched by this automobile mechanic who worked on
expensive cars. Being he knew the waitress who worked there he asked her to introduce him to Cathy. Mr. Right went by the name of Joseph De Angelo. Eventually he asked her out on a date and the rest is history. On May 4, 1996, Cathy changed her name to Catherine De Angelo with Monsignor Father Fanelli officiating. What a beautiful bride she made and after a lovely reception and a honeymoon trip to the Bahamas they moved into his mother's house on 62nd Street in West New York. Joe was very helpful to her by shopping and cooking and he still is a wonderful cook. About three years later Cathy and Joe presented me with the first of their two sons. Little Michael made his appearance on June 25, 1999 and is now 9 years old. Such a joy he is. Although we didn't know it at the time, he was born with underdeveloped nerve endings in both ears. He was 3 years old and still wasn't talking, so Cathy took him to a hearing specialist where his problem was discovered. Now he wears hearing aids and can put them in by himself. I took care of him during the first year of his life and all my friends and neighbors in my building idolized him which of course inspired me to write a poem just for him which I entitled "Anticipation."
Dedicated to my grandson, Michael De Angelo
Most of my time is spent at home Nobody calls me on the phone I'm too young to smoke and too young to date My parents forbid me to stay out late Though I'm seldom cross and never rude They tend to watch my every move
Forever checking the food I eat Plus making sure I'm clean and neat For now, I'll let them have their way You see, I wasn't born just yesterday I'm cute and cuddly or so I'm told Which isn't bad when you're six weeks old
- Virginia Dabonka
Michael is such a sweet, adorable child. When his mom takes him to the supermarket, he inspects all the cans and boxes on the shelves. Should a can be turned backwards, his little hands have to straighten it out and the same with boxes.
His brother Frankie entered the world on April 12, 2001 and what a dynamo of energy he is. For his first four years, Cathy sent him to a special woman who took young children into her home and Frankie loved every day he was there. It was like being in Kindergarten for him and he loved playing with kids his own age. Soon September came and Frankie went to school for the first time. When asked how he liked it, he said it was OK but he wouldn't be going back anymore as he said he "had it with school." His parents soon changed his mind on that issue.
Frankie now lives in Gainesville, Florida with his family and his mom has me laughing with all the funny things he says, such as two weeks ago when he told his mom that he and his friends wanted to build a scooter in the back yard. They had the wood but needed a saw to cut it with. He asked his mom for permission to use his dad's saw, but she said "No way can you go out there without supervision," To which he explained, "I already have supervision - you know, I never wear eye glasses." He really is a comedian. Hopefully Cathy is planning to return to New Jersey as even though homes are cheap there, the job situation is very bad, the pay scale is low and plans haven't worked out as she hoped they would. Michael already has all his toys packed for the move back to New Jersey. Getting back to little Frankie I composed the "Lady Killer" poem for him when he was a wee lad.
The Lady Killer- Frank De Angelo
He's a ladies man for all concerned Spreading sunshine everywhere While the only thing he seeks in return Is some tender, loving care Touch him whenever it pleases you He won't mind a bit There will be times when he teases you And makes you feel like a twit He has a smile for everyone As he listens to your woes Tell him of your aces and pains From your head down to your toes But don't expect him to answer you
As his voice is still "on hold" For what more can you expect of one Who's only three months old
- Virginia Dabonka
During a cold, windy February, I walked 10 blocks to the bus stop as I was to meet my friend Vera at the Mall in Newport Center in Jersey City. I was dressed to the nines with a lovely blouse my daughter had bought me. My hair has been thinning and I decided to wear a new wig I had just purchased. I usually get the 9:20 a.m. bus, but unbeknownst to me, some nearby streets were being fixed and my bus took a different route and never came. Thank God I had my trusty cane. When I go on long walks and because of my heart problem, I am terrified of falling. The weather turned nasty and while waiting for the phantom bus, my fingertips were white, my nose was red and I'm sure my lips were blue. It was then I decided to give up on the trip and walked back to my building, when it hit me. A gust of wind took my wig off even though I had it pinned down and there it went up in the air before coming back down and landed under a parked car. I must have looked like Mary Poppins chasing after that darn wig with my cane, but me and my cane rescued it! I was praying that none of my neighbors took in the scene, but that was not the case. There is always some spy standing by their window as I was told about it the next day and word got around.
My children and grandchildren have made this story well worth the pain I have endured. Macphelah Cemetery in North Bergen, N.J., is where I have my two sons and my husband buried. Unfortunately the grounds are usually a complete mess. It has deteriorated over the years and even though I paid $200 for perpetual care, nothing has been done and no one at the office has been of any help. There is one plot empty which is for me, but I'm not too sure I want to be buried there. My daughter and I were talking about it a few weeks ago and I told her how I feel about the situation.
After 85 years, these old bones are giving me pain in both my knees. Every year I ride in a limousine for Gold Star Mothers during the annual Memorial Day Parade in Weehawken, N.J. My beloved Dr. Messihi came to my rescue again and had me go for a bone
density test which showed I had osteoporosis of the hips. Besides living on heart medication, I'm also living on Tylenol, Ben Gay, cortisone shots and borrowed time. I thank God everyday for all the grandchildren I have, especially Adam and Edna. She is my right arm and her father would be so proud of her today. Adam is my left arm and is responsible for transcribing this story to his computer and all of the publishing details, and we have worked hard together with numerous edits and revisions. I would be lost without both of them as they take me to my doctor appointments or wherever else I have to go.
In the beginning when Cathy first moved to Florida she would have loved to have me move in with her - big mistake. I'll stay where I am right now where I have kind neighbors who care about me, plus the Mayor allows us to attend various parties during the year. What a fool I'd be to give this up. Here in the Weehawken Senior building, the neighbors call our lobby "God's Waiting Room" and I'll be ready for "His Call" when my time comes, as I have half my family and many friends ready to greet me when I reach that other side. At last I feel that with my poetry, I have somehow left my mark along the way.
I Am Your Flag
To some of you I'm just a rag While others call me "That Grand Old Flag" I'm just a piece of cloth, you say That you can burn or toss away
Spit on me if you insist but in the end, remember this Better men than you, have paid the price Who laid down their lives without thinking twice For I represent this glorious land and protect the ground on which you stand Even cowards and ingrates, such as you
Are guarded by the Red, White, and Blue So lift up your eyes, as you Pass me by Where I'll forever wave in the breeze on high!
- Virginia Dabonka
I can't imagine what life would be If God hadn't sent my Jimmy to me From the time you were born
To this very day I'm proud of you in every way Always giving, forever sharing This world is blessed because of your caring
Tall and handsome, so full of life Who loves his children and adores his wife May the road that lies before you be filled with many things a little rain, perhaps some pain yet, all the joy that happiness brings
- Virginia Dabonka, Weehawken, NJ
God Bless America (9/11/01)
Havoc and destruction were thrust upon us all, This carnage and devastation we forever will recall. Our beautiful New York landscape
is not as it used to be, Where in our hearts it represents this land of liberty.
They brought down our mighty twin towers and the Pentagon as well, To all the fiends behind it may their souls all rot in hell. This catastrophe has led us to see the heroes of this land, From near and far, they volunteered to lend a helping hand. Our country and our allies
will rectify this wrong. Then with their help and our faith in God, We're sure to come out strong!
- Virginia Dabonka, Weehawken, NJ
How Many Blue Stars will turn to gold? How many young men will never grow old? How many more battles must we still fight? How many must die to prove us right? How many mothers will shed bitter tears For the rest of her life through long lonely years? How many families have shuddered with dread When the telegram said that their loved one was dead? Dear God above, let peace be our goal So no more blue stars will turn to gold.
- Virginia Dabonka, Weehawken, NJ
My Adam - my grandson
written when Adam was just a little boy.
My little man, how proud I am to have you as my grandson Your little frame hides a brilliant brain and my, you are so handsome Yet, try as I may, to my dismay I simply cannot fathom How dull so many lives would be without my little Adam
- Virginia Dabonka, Weehawken, NJ
*Also printed in Good Old Days Magazine, issue December 2005
I'd love to travel just once more down Memory Avenue. Those bygone days, the yesterdays, would once more come in view. I'd see my mother's tender face and kiss her furrowed brow. God knows I'd give the world if she could only be here now. I'd see again those horrid days I had to spend at school, When, through no fault of mine, I had to learn the Golden Rule. To hear that school bell ring each morn meant worry, stress and strife. Too late, I realize they were the best years of my life.
- Virginia Dabonka
To My Lost Soldier
I see a soldier walking and my heart skips a beat or two. As in years I hear him talking, Dear God, he sounds like you. How straight and tall he stands, dear, like you so young in years. A lump comes in my throat, son, as my eyes fill up with tears. For I visioned it were you, dear, as you once walked by my side. As you told me of your plans when you'd one day take a bride. But such was not to be, dear, as your life for your country you gave; And I'm left with misery, dear, as I stand here by your grave.
- Virginia Dabonka
|Caption||front & back covers from PDF|
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