The sound of the Slovak language was so much a part of my childhood and all the years that I lived with my parents, that the absence of hearing it spoken around me, like all things that quietly disappear did not become apparent to me until I got older and missed hearing the regular beat of polka music from the family radio on Sunday afternoons.
Early in the years after my parents were first starting a family, my maternal grandmother got some of us enrolled into a little insurance policy the value of which never amounted to much and either was not taken very seriously, or the finances were too tight to go on to add my sister, or any of my cousins. However, once I moved back to Ohio, I began receiving invitations to an annual dinner for all the members. I asked my cousin, Maryann to attend with me but she could not since she was not a member, but her mother, my late Aunt Elizabeth was, so I asked her if she wanted to go with me and she was happy to do so.
For the last few years of her life, it was a regular date for us every June and we enjoyed the nice pork loin with mashed potatoes and gravy and green and wax beans, salad, a slice of pie and coffee. The Polka man played so loudly we could not hear each other across the table.
In the years since then, the facility where the meals are served has expanded the dining room to a covered patio and the members were given the option to invite a guest to dinner. The menu has changed to pulled pork on a bun, with half cups each of pork + beans, green beans, sweet potatoes, salad and a slice of pie with coffee or tea. Maryann and I now go together and from the patio the music is muted a bit and the conversations around us in Slovak are pleasant to hear. With less and less opportunity to hear the language our grandparents brought from Europe a hundred years ago and our parents spoke among themselves, I cherish the sounds.