George's parents came to America from Greece in the 1900s. His father, John, started a produce business in Chicago's South Water Market. His mother Catherine, helped raise at least four or five precocious kids on Chicago's west side.During World War II, he was a lieutenant in the navy, in the Pacific Theatre. He married a greek woman he met in South Carolina on shore leave. They had three children, Stephanie, John George, and George John, all of whom are fabulous, down to earth people. And, they're all trained as lawyers.
George grew up greek - speaking the language, eating bitter olives, eating wonderful lamb dishes and going to Greek orthodox church. When he was twelve, he started in the family produce business, moving six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunches of bananas.
His father was able to provide for his education - in 1942 George became a lawyer in Chicago. He started his career in the State Attorneys office, acting as a prosecutor. He soon moved to the other side of the courtroom, defending people in criminal trials. Everything I've read about his career reflects a man of ready wit and charm in the courtroom, a lot of personal integrity, and a storied past working in some of Chicago's biggest cases.
He raised them in the near north suburbs. When his wife passed away after a long struggle with cancer, he moved into the city.
My Mom dated George in autumn 1988, and after three months they decided to marry.
George was 55 years older than me, 69 but strong. A handsome man, with an intense gaze, a mischievious grin, and a well-honed sense of comfort and propriety. In spite of this, he's got a raunchy sense of humour, which he defends by citing his background.
It was bound to be a clash - I was in eighth grade, a headstrong adolescent type, and he was 55 years older than me, 69, set in his ways. My brother and I were hesitant to relinquish power over the household which we'd had free rein for so long. Exactly five years, since my father died.
George and I took to needling each other. I don't remember so well, just being so angry and indignent, but Mom said I would ruthlessly criticize him and tease him about his age. He expected me to respect him just because he was old, he had worked hard all his life, and he was in love with my Mother. I expected him to treat me like an adult because I was independently minded. Neither would give, Mom sat in the middle.
George didn't move into our house, and we didn't move into his apartment; for three years we maintained separate residences. Then, after my brother had gone to college, George and Mom bought an apartment together on east lake shore.
Once we had a new setting we started getting along better. Things were largely peaeable between us after that, we'd learned to stay out of each other's way. Of course when they found out I was smoking pot, he threatened to send me to military school, but by and large I kept my bizarre behaviour out of sight.
He did say I looked like "a fuckin' moonie" when I shaved my head. But he didn't make me go out and buy a wig. And I probably did look like a fuckin' moonie.
Every couple of months in high school, Mom would go out of town and he and I would go out for dinner alone. A good two thirds of each of those dinners was an extended discourse on financial responsibility. As a result of his stern fiscal foresight, both my brother and I worked and put money in IRAs for retirement. At 17! The older I get, the more glad I am for that.
George exposed me to Greek food and culture, which I enjoy wholeheartedly. Family dinners with greeks are charged with raunchy firey fun. He introduced me to one of the first authors I ever met, Harry Mark Petrakis, a dramatic chronicler of greek culture, and coincidental father of SpoonMan.
George provides my Mom with unprecendented stability and encouragement, which I appreciate. It has made her more accessable. And as I have aged and approached adulthood I can look at Geroge's life and appreciate more the work he has done, professionally, in his community, and with his family. I've started respecting some of those lessons he gave me in High School about being responsible for yourself first and then the people aroudn you.
George has a wonderful group of friends and family around him, and I'm now proud to be a part of that. The intense difficulty we had getting to know each other was perhaps inevitable, granted the fractured nature of a house left by suicide. Sometimes I'm amazed he put up with my conduct as well as he did. For his eightieth birthday, I collected letters from his friends and associaties telling stories about him. It was a thick volume of George's personal history, and I think it demonstrated that I've developed some affection and appreciation for him. I hope so!
A sample of George, my stepfather calling...(160k aiff)