The First Man in My Life

Hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend. Wimbledon closes tomorrow. Love the Slams but it’s always nice to get my life back in between.

That’s only one of the reasons I’m always behind, lol. Part of it is perceptual impairment to time. Part of it is avoidance behavior, I’m sure.

This post should have gone live on Father’s Day. (Having had it written might have helped; please forgive me for running long.) Here’s to a very belated Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful gentlemen out there honoring their call in life. Hubby is working and striving every day to be the best husband and father he can be. Kudos too, to my brother who I often feel is a better dad than I am a mom. Each of you is awesome. Never underestimate the worth of a dad.

On Father’s Day I made a trip to the cemetery. I visit several times per season, but never enough, I suppose (at least by my off-the-boat-mom’s Italian standards). Today my dad is gone eighteen years. He was a few months shy of a measly near-sixty-four when God called him, but he’d been hospitalized at least sixty percent of the last year he lived. I remember accompanying him to a dance on October 3 and taking him to the emergency room as soon as we got home. He wasn’t discharged until January 22nd and was more in than out after that until the day he passed away.

My dad with two of his (four) sisters–those closer to him on his right. The little girl next to him is one of his favorite nieces: my cousin Rosina (?) who now resides in Australia. Dad was about (?) 18 years old in this one, so this was taken circa 1948. Love vintage photos! 

I won’t get into his health issues. (He certainly had enough of them and was a lousy patient anyway.) I’d rather focus on the little things that made our relationship special.

He immigrated from Italy around 1961. I’ve always been in awe of folks who pick and take off to a country where they don’t know the language. Sure, there was some support from those who came before him, but in many ways, he and my mom were on their own. (They’d married end of 1959 but for details I don’t remember–or know(?)–she came ahead of him.) We traveled as a family to Italy ten years later. He took off to Australia from there. Italy held no fascination for him after that. My dad LOVED The Land Down Under and would have moved there if he could.)

When my mom was pregnant with me, he wound up convinced—via family and friends—that I was a boy. Back then dads didn’t enter the delivery room. He is said to have gone home and to sleep. The story goes he was awakened by my uncle calling home, and telling my dad his wife had given birth to a girl. Not only did my dad not believe my uncle, rumor had it my dad was upset.

Mom tells me once I came home though, all that changed. The man glued himself cradle-side. Guess I’ve been Daddy’s Little Girl since.

Was it always perfect? Oh no. I was lucky enough that, being an off-the-boat-man, he wasn’t the stereotypically strict type. Not that I had free rein but he gave me way more freedom than my mom would have (sorry Mom!). He also had this way of letting me know he wasn’t thrilled when I thought of doing anything of which he didn’t approve. I’d get a story about him when he was younger. From what I remember, it didn’t seem relevant to the situation at hand. (Or maybe I didn’t want to hear it?) He tended to wrap up the same way each time. “I’m not like my father. I give you liberty to do whatever you want. But I don’t like it!” That closer did its job until I hit my twenties, and guilt at not ‘listening to Daddy’ was less of a factor. Then at twenty-eight, I did the unthinkable: I moved out. First-generation American-Italian girls don’t do that, you know.

Think my move out was rough on him, but I visited often. (I lived one town over). Given his health issues we spent a lot of time together anyway. You see, that (only) daughter usually takes care of her parents—it’s a cultural thing. We’ll toss in that my parents had this weird type of commitment and I got thrown into the mix of their stuff. (I wasn’t old or wise enough to know this either, so grumping and griping, I often went off to do the expected. I wasn’t always gracious about it.)

We played cards together. He taught me the Italian games, Brisk and Sweep (a.k.a. Briscola and Scopa, respectively) before the age of eight. What always got me, was how he kept track of every major card played and always knew what was in my hand. When he could no longer drive and got weaker, I took him places. The mall. LibertyScienceCenter. Parks in our area, where we dragged along my brother’s Great Danes. (Those guys are topics for another post.)

He was a tailor by trade and taught me a few good tips to altering clothing. Guess I inherited my love of sewing and my ability to read and reread (and now revise) a beloved book too many times to count from him. I can still see my dad sitting at his spot at our kitchen table, legs resting on my seat and crossed at the ankles, that same book in his hand. He was also big on the news, and followed politics via the Italian newspaper he bought daily. Because his command of English wasn’t great and he had a hearing impairment, TV was only so entertaining for him. (He did like staged wrestling. Never did a Monday night pass without the predecessors to the WWE and RAW gracing our set. I even took him to see Hulk Hogan’s first movie, and translated as much as I could without disturbing the other patrons.)

I still remember snippets of his last hospitalization. After a nine-hour marathon surgery to save his leg, the vascular specialist had to amputate below the knee. Have a feeling my dad kind of gave up after that. He just seemed to get more and more tired during our visits at the hospital. (He was also on renal dialysis, which I’m sure didn’t help with the fatigue factor.) The night before he died, we left and he seemed to be talking to himself. I got word the next morning that he’d passed away.

Interestingly enough, Hubby is a lot like my dad. The crazy thing is he’s a lousy patient too and has similar health issues—go figure.  We started dating about a week after my dad was hospitalized that October 3rd. The two of them chatted twice. According to my husband, my dad told my hunny I was ‘special.’ I truly believe God took my dad when he did because He knew I couldn’t take care of both of them.

My dad never got to see his little girl get married (or engaged). He never got to meet his grandchildren, who I know he would have adored. It’s all okay though. I believe a spirit never dies; it lives on in all of us who came from and after him. Case in point: One of my dad’s first cousins shared his first name. They were fairly close in age and even looked a bit alike. The detail that I always noted was how his cousin walked like my dad, holding his left hand down at his side with his pinky up a bit. Guess what I’m trying to say is, if I look hard enough, I’ll still see his spirit here among us. (He shows up in my younger son too, who, as a baby, looked a bit like my dad. He’s stubborn in the same way, asking me my opinion on something then doing it his way anyway.)

I will close on that note, and thanks to all of you for indulging me. See you next week!

Joanna

 

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3 thoughts on “The First Man in My Life

  1. “Never underestimate the worth of a dad.”–Such true words, made even all the more true now that my boys are older and really need their father. Nice tribute to your father–belated or not. 🙂

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  2. Thanks, Carrie. Today or two weeks ago, remembering Dad seemed appropriate. I appreciate your comment.

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