My Dad has always been there for me. He may have worked 10 hour days and commuted 2 hours each way to and from work for many years to provide the kind of life that he and my mom envisioned for their brood, but he still made time for us. I was blessed to grow up in a large family, where we were loud and fun and happy. (which lead to our house being pretty chaotic when everyone was all home) I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the way my mom wanted it (because she came from a family of 8 kids) and I know that my dad was cool with it too, because at any given moment, we would have Titas, cousins, and friends over making the most of our time spent together-usually at the dining table.
My dad listens. He’s not a man of many words, but when I would share pieces of my heart-he listened, and then he would offer his advice. As a young girl there are so many things that can seem confusing or hurtful while you are growing up. Of course, because both my parents were such smart people (even if I didn’t know it at the time) and had seen many things in THEIR lives they would always share the voice of experience for their daughter’s breaking heart. There were quite a few times in my life that I have turned to my father asking for explanations of events and circumstances I just couldn’t comprehend. These are the times he approached me with a tenderness that only a father can have for his daughter. He shared his wisdom, hugged me, and then eventually I felt a little better.
My dad is the voice of experience. When I was in high school and having problems with girl friends (as girls in high school often do) he shared a little nugget of wisdom that I have already passed onto my children as early as NOW. I was worried about fitting in and not having such a good time getting along with some of the girls who I thought were my dearest of friends. He told me, “If you can count your friends, your really GOOD friends, on one hand. Then that’s all you need. You will be just fine.” In my 16 years of living, I could not fathom or begin to comprehend that he was telling me I only needed 5 friends in this life? We all want to fit in. We all want to belong. But because my dad shared that little nugget, I have learned that as much as I want to put myself out there for people to love on….I really only NEED a handful of friends who are there when the times get rough. I call these girls my support network. These girls have seen me through thick and thin, my most high moments in my life and my darkest. They have held my hand when I have cried and picked me up when I have fallen.
This valuable nugget of wisdom comes from my dad’s own experience with friendship because my Uncle Paulie and my Uncle Joe (who is also my godfather at our wedding) have remained a constant in my life since I was just a kid with my legs swinging in my dining chair, too short to reach the floor. I turn to Uncle Paulie and Aunt Marilyn often, even now as an adult. They share in my joys and triumphs and help carry the load for me when it’s too much to bear…and they do this, because of the love that they have for my dad.
My dad has a village. I have always believed in the saying that “It takes a village to raise a child.” These men in the picture above were part of my village while I was growing up. I debated with all of them at some point during my life about various current events or topics of interest at the time, all around the dinner table, and usually after Mom served the main course. The most heated debates came with my Uncle Sonny…not because we had differing views, but because he listened to all of my liberal rantings when I would come home from college, and then he schooled me on my naive understanding of the way the world REALLY worked. I had the advice and guidance not just of my father growing up but also his best friends, and his brothers whom are near and dear to my heart.
My dad is a stand up guy. I believe that as parents we do our best to show our children the best sides of ourselves. I have rarely heard him speak ill of someone. He doesn’t gossip. He never even cursed around his daughters. (but I have heard that he curses on the golf course with the boys) Dad always conducts himself in way that’s proper. A gentleman. He does his best to continuously set the example for my brothers and for me and my sisters.
My dad pays attention. Children want to do their best to make their parents proud. I remember how my dad would work a full day and then follow the school bus up to West Point where our Friday night winter track meets would be every week. He was exhausted from a full week of work, but he made the time to come and watch me compete in my track events, when he could’ve gone home and rested. Afterwards, we would ride home together and talk about each of my events and how I could do better next time.
My dad values quality time. When we were younger my dad would take all of us across the Bear Mountain Bridge to a movie theater somewhere in Poughkeepsie. It was an OLD theater that would play OLD movies. In fact, that was something we liked to do quite often…go to the movies together. On one of these outings, we watched Ben Hur. Dad packed all of us (plus our cousins) into the big station wagon (without any yaya) for us to watch the 1959 epic. I’m not sure everyone understood the movie quite so well, but we definitely remembered the experience of being with my dad and each other, piling in and out of the station wagon and stopping to take pictures with the Hudson River Valley as our majestic back drop.
My dad builds things. If you’re Italian and you come from a big family-your dad probably built a table similar to what my dad built for when the whole clan was all together. My dad built the two saw horses made from two by fours which supported the plywood table top measured and matched perfectly to extend our dining table that would normally sit 10 people into a table for 20 people. When the big table came out from storage, you knew we were going to have a lot of people over and that meant a lot of yummy food.
My dad knows what’s best. When I was a freshman in college. I left home to dorm in a school that was three hours away from home. I was miserable. I hated the college cafeteria food, and I hated being away form my family. I had never been away from home for more than a week before I left home to go to school. (except for soccer camp) While away-I decided that I wanted to be a vegetarian because it was just easier than trying to navigate my way through cardboard tasting chicken patties and awful spaghetti and meatballs sauce that didn’t taste anything like my mom’s. I suppose it wasn’t the best decision because I definitely wasn’t getting the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals with the way I was eating. When I came home after that long semester away, Dad sat me down at the table. We talked about how my semester was, and what my plans were for the break. At the same time, he had already commissioned my mom to fry up a steak. Dad knew I wasn’t getting what I needed so he sat me down and watched me eat the whole steak. I forgot how good red meat tasted. It was one of the best steaks I had.
My dad loves me. And no matter what his misgivings are, or what flaws he has that makes him human, his love for me has always been a constant. And this…this is what Father’s Day is all about…honoring the love he has shown me all through out the years as I have grown up…and the love he now showers my children with. Happy Father’s Day Dad. I love you.