Today, as I write this, is December 1, 2021. My sister, Jeanne Daly Salacinski, was born on this date, seventy-one years ago. Unfortunately I can’t celebrate her birthday with her because frkng cancer killed her twenty years ago. I frkng hate frkng cancer.
This being a (mostly) flying blog and to remain on topic, I recall taking Jeanne for a flight only once – although my memory has gotten so bad that who knows how many times Jeanne and I flew.
She was living in Middletown, not far from Red Bank, New Jersey, fairly close to the northern Jersey shore. There was an airport about 25 miles south – Allaire, I believe it was called then. I got checked out in one of their 182’s and took Jeanne and, I believe (fucking memory) her husband, Steve, for a tour around Noo Yawk City. Steve sat up front because that’s what we guys do, and Jeanne was in the back by herself.
It was a pretty summer day, we flew out to the coast, north, past Sandy Hook, and then towards Staten Island (where we all had grown up) and oer’top the Guinea Gangplank (the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn with the Isle of Staten). We may have taken a turn around Stoshoo Liberty, (the Polish monument to liberty and freedom in Noo Yawk harbor) then up the Hudson River, past the World Trade Center (yes, it was still standing so it was pre-2001) where Jeanne had worked for a goodly number of years. We were at 900 feet (I think that was the altitude the charts called for) scooted up the river, did a turn around the George Washington Bridge then headed south.
At some point Jeanne started feeling sick. I had barf bags (stolen from airliners over the years) and handed her one, “Just in case.” Good thing, too, because puke is hard to clean up and the people who rent airplanes are death on those who leave puke in their airplanes. And so, of course, Jeanne puked. She launched dead square into the bottom of the bag, contained all the barf within its confines, and sealed it. The aroma wasn’t terrible, we had all the vents open, and I cracked my window for a while until she complained about the breeze that became too strong.
I wanted to drop the bag on Staten Island (I was no longer enamored of my home) but was voted down; likewise regarding Sandy Hook or any of the beaches along the shore. We landed back at Allaire, deposited the full barf bag in a trash can, and all was well.
I’ve probably still got some photos of the flight tucked into a box in the garage – which will probably take me the better part of a week to find, so it probably ain’t gonna get done, at least, today.
Jeanne never flew with me again, not necessarily because of that experience, but probably because I had moved to San Diego for keeps in 1984 and it was rare when I visited the homeland. And then she got cancer, stage 4 adenocarcinoma, fought like hell for more years than they gave her to live, but she eventually succumbed on July 3, 2021, after it had metastasized to her brain.
My sister was one of the best people I’ve ever known. I’d say the best, but my wife, Laurel, is best – although I could be wrong … it could be Jeanne. I knew her for 50 years; I’ve known Laurel for 36. I left home at 18 to go to school at Pitt, then married and lived outside of Philly, then Pittsburgh, then divorced and on to San Diego. I didn’t see a lot of Jeanne during those years, and I’ve seen a whole lot of Laurel, in particular, in the last twenty since Jeanne died. Can they both be the best people I’ve ever known? I say, “Yes.”
Jeanne had two sons – well, three, but her third was born with a defective heart and died not long after birth. She raised her boys with love and, it seemed to me, perhaps a little less discipline than I would have liked. (As if an undisciplined firstborn son had any room to criticize.)
We had been raised in the cat’lic school system, which means that we both dumped the frkng church just as soon as we were out from under the clutches of the nuns and brothers. Once she had the boys, though, she rejoined. She became a pillar of the local parish, and the school associated with it, St Mary’s (I believe). At her funeral service, the church was packed – a tribute to my sister and the love that those parishioners had for her.
It being her birthday, Laurel and I try to celebrate. The last time I had dinner out with Jeanne was on a trip back from Philadelphia where her crack, experimental oncologist had his office and whence I had driven her. We stopped at a place near her home, called Shiki, on route 35. It was a teppanyaki steak house with a cocktail lounge that made particularly good Mai Tai’s for reasons known only to the management. (I mean, Mai Tai’s are tropical drinks, purportedly from tropical climes, and Japan isn’t known for its tropical climate.)
Nevertheless, we joined a group of six at their grill side table. We probably had steak and shrimp and, no doubt (me being me) a Mai Tai or two. It was only about a half mile to their house along side streets so I felt safe driving home, although Shiki’s Mai Tai’s were renowned for the amount of booze they contained. I don’t recall doing jail time in Jersey, so I assume that we completed the trip home safely – or at least without doing much damage.
So … tonight for dinner, I’ll honor Jeanne’s memory by picking up some Japanese takeaway and … what the hell, make us a couple of Mai Tai’s to enhance the memory. Here’s to you Jeanne. I miss my sister.